A bit glamour, a lot bordello, plus Lillian’s lamps, make actor Charles Busch’s home sweet home

BY BOB KRASNER | When asked what he would like to be remembered for, Charles Busch — the director/playwright/actor/painter/chanteuse — mused for a moment, then answered.

“I think that I gave my audience a sense of something bigger than life, with a bit of glamour,” he said.

He could easily have been talking about his apartment, which looks exactly like what you would expect from the man behind “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” and “Die, Mommy Die.”

Busch  grew up in Manhattan’s Murray Hill and has resided in the Village since 1980.

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Charles Busch at work in his office, formerly a kitchen, with framed posters of his shows on the wall. Photos by Bob Krasner

His current living situation began when he moved from what he called a “horrible railroad flat tenement” into a large studio on Bank St. in 1995.

Later, finding himself with some money in the bank thanks to the success of his play “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” (“Thank God for Linda Lavin,” he said), he managed to buy the studio above his own, as well.

Plans to combine the two apartments took two years to get approved by the co-op board, but it was, remarkably, smooth sailing after that.

Busch, a self-described “amateur interior decorator,” found the perfect collaborator in architect August Ventura. The two set about adding molding, creating furniture, designing a staircase to combine the two spaces and finding colors that would create the decor that Busch sums up as “an elegant 19th-century whorehouse.”

Notably — and somewhat unbelievably — John Priber of the Faro  Building Corporation managed to complete the renovation on time and on budget.

“He said it would take three-and-a-half months and it took three-and-a-half months,” Busch said.

The dark, rich tones of the walls were chosen so that the furniture would “pop out.” The deep-red living room is a nod to Diana Vreeland, who famously favored the color. Some of the furnishings came from the home of Busch’s late Aunt Lillian, who raised the artist.

“She was the most influential person in my life,” he said.

Lamps and a candelabra that were part of Lillian’s “wacky sense of decor” now illuminate the living room. The small round tables covered with photos are also a reminder of the woman who “made all the right choices for me,” Bush said.

 

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Charles Busch in his bedroom.

Nearby, in his beloved Abingdon Square, is a bench that he funded to honor her.

Besides the renovated square, Busch loves what he calls “one of the great neighborhoods.”

“The Village is still very beautiful,” he said. “But I miss the wonderful little stores” that have been displaced by corporate retailers.

“I moved here at the tail end of the working-class and bohemian era,” he said. “I lived in a building [on 12th St.] full of old eccentrics. I wish I had appreciated them more at the time.”

He wistfully recalled the “weird antique stores” and the shops that sold strange curios, as well as the generally funky atmosphere.

“In my youth, I did rather enjoy walking on the wild side,” he admitted. “But I guess there’s been some improvement.”

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The actor’s living room, featuring a rare Sarah Bernhardt poster at left, and a portrait of Charles Busch painted by Don Bachardy, writer Christopher Isherwood’s lover.

 

One improvement has been in his eating habits, as he has been teaching himself to cook. After immersing himself in the Cooking Channel for the past two years, he is bringing a bit of theater into the kitchen as he “plates” his dinner and judges it, as if it were a competition. He doesn’t always win, he quipped, but frequently ends up “in the top three.”

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The middle two paintings are by Busch. The one on the right is by Jean Cocteau.

He also spends a lot of time in the other kitchen, which was converted into his office. The writer can be found at his computer nearly every day, working on the next project in front of a wall full of framed posters from his shows.

“I just wish I had another wall for all the new posters,” he lamented.

But that’s his only complaint.

“I love having a great apartment,” he said. “When I get a bad review, I think, ‘Well, I’ve probably got a better apartment than that critic.’ ”

Charles Busch will be performing “The Ultimate Playlist” at Feinstein’s / 54 Below, at 254 W. 54th St., on Fri., June 10, and Sat., June 11. For more information and tickets, visit https://54below.com/events/charles-busch/ .

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