The Spider Pool – (Warning: Boobs)
The iconic Spider Pool mural is the largest remnant of screenplay writer and director John W. “Jack” McDermott’s (1892-1946) estate – the house itself was torn down in 1962 but the mural remains. The handmade tile mural and signature sculpted pool would become a popular backdrop for tons of cheesecake and nude photography from the 30’s to the 60’s. Jack would hold parties as well as camera club events (silent star Harold Lloyd being a popular face at the pool) making his property a go-to place for the hollywood crowd.
The house itself was a collection of film sets and construction pieces that Jack had appropriated from the studio back lots. As a writer for Famous Players-Lasky and Universal, he was used to seeing exquisitely-built movie sets discarded after only hours of use and decided to build his home from these discarded sets and pieces. The earliest mention of The House was in 1923 when McDermott purchased “six Algerian rooms used in Norma Talmadge’s recently completed picture, ‘The Song of Love’” and reassembled on his property. Other set pieces included palace girders from The Thief of Baghdad, tombstones from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, roofing from The Phantom of the Opera, a plaster goddess from Nazimova’s Salome, and a table from Robin Hood. It also featured pricey tile imported from places such as Italy and France due to McDermott, posing as a tile dealer, contacting tile companies for samples. In this manner, he was able to acquire thousands of dollars worth of free tile.
The house was partially destroyed by fire in 1947, demolished piecemeal by Darrell Gregory in response to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety’s demands, and eventually razed in 1962. Only the spider mural, parts of the pool, the remnants of a structure that predates McDermott’s estate constructed no later than 1900, and other scattered remnants remain.