By Michael Yockel (Baltimore City Paper, 11/14/1980)
The Place looks like the former residence of George and June Jetson before they packed Elroy up and moved to a high-rise, or something left over from the set of Earth Versus The Flying Saucers. In fact, that’s what Lou Simmons, the structure’s owner, says everyone calls it—the flying saucer. It stands approximately two stories high, supported by spider-like appendages, and houses a one bedroom apartment that Simmons rents out.
“I first saw the thing advertised in Playboy,” Simmons begins. But it was a friend of his, Wayne “Froggy” Glover, who eventually bought the flying saucer from the New Jersey-based Futura Company in 1971. Glover intended to use the saucer to help promote a hang-over remedy he was marketing, Simmons says, but that never came off; so Simmons bought the thing off his buddy for $12,000 in ’72 with an eye toward turning it into a space-age playhouse for his then 10-year-old daughter, Carol Lynn.
According to Simmons, the Futura Co. “was run by a bunch of odd people.” (Odd people, not pod people.) “30 of those things were ordered by Puerto Rico—they were going to turn them into motels.” That didn’t come off, either, and the Futura Co. packed it in.
The flying saucer, or module as Simmons sometimes calls it, first touched down in Essex at the intersection of North Point Rd. and Eastern Ave. right after Glover purchased it, but Simmons had it moved to a spot behind his home on Graceland Ave., not far from the Cross & Blackwell factory on Eastern Ave. For the record, the saucer’s address is 6831 Fait St.
Oddly, enough, the module rests entirely in the city, while Simmons’ house, only 20 yards away, is half in the city, half in Baltimore County. This caused him some headaches when he tried to land the thing on Fait St., but Simmons finally straightened out the bureaucratic snafus and obtained a permanent permit to use the saucer as a residence. There is another Futura saucer in Ocean City, says Simmons, but its owners only have a temporary permit, whatever that means.
Dressed in jeans, thermal under-shirt, short-sleeved red sweat shirt, and work boots (he was pouring cement for a huge pool he’s building directly in back of his house), Simmons doesn’t look like the kind of man who’d be interested in sophisticated kitsch. After the novelty of the saucer wore off for his daughter, he and his wife, Mary (“It’s alright but I don’t want to live in it”), decided to rent the place. Since 1974, the flying saucer has been home for several people, including a Pennsylvania schoolteacher and his wife, and now Lou Edwards, formerly part-owner of the infamous Bedroom Lounge in Essex.
Edwards has lived there the three years. “It’s comfortable for a bachelor,” he says, “and it gives you a little privacy. I enjoy the solitude.”
Except for the time three years ago when someone crashed into the module’s base in the middle of the night, Edwards is only bothered by occasional curiosity seekers, who are given a quick tour of the craft if he’s in the mood.
The interior is rather small, but includes electric heat and central air conditioning. There’s also a fireplace that burns fake chemical logs, and it is bathed in ceiling-affixed multi-colored lights, not unlike the kind that bathed the go-go dancers at the Bedroom Lounge. Some of their pictures are propped up against the inside wall. But the saucer’s most prominent piece of furniture is a long sofa which is contoured to the curve of the inner wall–10 guests could occupy it comfortably.
“There’s also a fireplace that burns fake chemical logs.”
Originally, electric stairs descended from the module when a key was placed in an outside electronic lock. After climbing the five steps and getting inside, one pressed a button and the stairs ascended into the saucer again (“like the space ships in Buck Rogers movies,” says Simmons). But the owner decided that the set-up was too dangerous for his children and has kept the stairs in a permanent down position for a couple of years. Entry is presently gained through a shed-like structure with a conventional front door, spoiling the overall cosmic effect.
After eight years of exposure to the elements; the Futura home is showing signs of external wear and tear. Two long cracks developed in the module and have since been filled in with fiberglass by Simmons. And the original gleaming color has now faded to an institutional blue-green, that shade that was so popular in Baltimore County schools during the 1960s. The numerous oval-shaped windows are grimy, and the curtains that hang in them give the impression of futuristic domesticity.
But the Saucer is a one-of-a-kind item in Baltimore, and Lou Edwards swears that there can’t be more than seven or eight of them left in this country. Outside the mother ship are two small red versions of the saucer built by Froggy Glover as playthings for children; they resemble nothing so much as complicated barbeque pits. Simmons adds that Glover also built a small mother ship as a dog house, but it was stolen. The total nuclear family.
Although he’s turned down several offers for the saucer, Simmons doesn’t seem sincere when he says that he’ll probably sell it one day for more than $12,000. His son, Lou Jr., now 12, says that he wants to live there when he turns 16, but for the time being, Lou Edwards calls the flying saucer home. –Michael Yockel