LOSANGELES-Davis and Dean Factor are the great-grandsons of cosmetics tycoon Max, and far more crisp and bustling than those ingrate, dissolute heirs and heiresses whining their way through the HBO documentary Born Rich . They own and operate SmashBox Studios, a 40,000-square-foot venue for photography and parties in Culver City, Calif., that last week held a sort of “off-piste” Fashion Week: over two dozen shows held a sooty 20-minute drive from the 7th on Sixth spectacle in downtown Los Angeles.
Dean, 39, is the “business” mind of the partnership. Davis, 43, is the “creative,” scruffy one, a photographer and scout for emerging talent.
“I know so many people, people like Jack Nicholson,” he said, sitting in Dean’s royal-blue-carpeted office across from his brother and a big glass vase of calla lilies. “I’ve known Jack forever.” The previous night, Mr. Nicholson’s daughter, Jennifer, had shown her line-a coup for the brothers. “You should’ve seen me handling the press with Jack,” Davis said.
The SmashBox complex, conceptually modeled after Industria in the West Village, is across the street from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and near the backlot where Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind were filmed. Like many places in L.A., the facility is hard to find, and-unlike New York, where one sees a thousand dioramas of human life just taking a cab crosstown-is essentially dead and opaque-looking from the street. Dean said that’s on purpose.
“There’s very sensitive material photographed here-big celebrities,” he said, a large Rolex glinting on his left wrist. “We want it to be a refuge.” The facility is undecorated, save for an inspirational poster from the movie Blowup . “It’s just … white,” Dean said. “We don’t want to worry about any outside influences. Your creative energy is not encumbered by anything.” He was grazing on a selection from the in-house snack bar: panini, vegetable chips ….
“Anything you need is here,” he said. “If someone pops a button on their shirt, we have buttons that we keep-all different colors. If someone asks for something, we get it. And then we get more of it, in case someone asks again.”
“We never say no to people,” said Davis. Instead of a Rolex, he had on a leather cuff. There was a mysterious crackling sound emanating from his crotch-a walkie-talkie (phew).
A blond woman in a red fluttery top burst into the room. “I think I’ve had an interview with you before!” she said to the other intruder. “Angelique?” It was unclear whether she was introducing herself or hazarding a guess at the stranger’s name. “You look really familiar. Anyway,” she said, turning to the Factor brothers, “this is such an inappropriate time for me to ask you this, but when I D.J.’d here for you last time, I was supposed to get some gifts ? And I never did ? And suddenly I was like, ‘I need lip gloss really bad!’”
“Why don’t you give us a minute to do this interview and then we’ll take care of you,” Dean Factor said.
“Look at how nice they are,” Fluttery Top squealed, flitting out.
Dean rolled his eyes almost imperceptibly. “We’re both very nice people,” he said.
The New York Post ‘s Page Six had been trumpeting a “feud” between SmashBox and IMG’s 7th on Sixth, but the fabulous Factor boys shrugged it off.
“The press wants to make a competition out of it,” Davis said. “They’re doing the same thing that they’re doing to Shaq and Kobe! The reporters are just starting trouble …. I think it’s a jealousy thing from people. Andy Warhol was knocked forever. At the same time, he’s one of the most renowned artists in the history of the planet. So that’s what happens. I think people are just upset that they didn’t think of it first.”
They were born and raised in Beverly Hills with another brother and sister; there is also a half-sister and a stepbrother. “We were a crazy, weird family,” Dean said. “Everyone has their issues. But you know what? Everyone’s doing pretty good.” (There seemed no tactful way to bring up their cousin, the recently convicted rapist Andrew Luster.) They still live a few minutes from one another in, “like, Bel Air–ish,” said Dean Factor. Briefly engaged to Shannen Doherty in the early 1990′s-she notoriously threatened to run him over-he is now married to a different, civilian Shannon, who just graduated from law school and is writing a script; they have a baby daughter.
Davis Factor, a former aspiring ski racer, is still a bachelor. “I never got there,” he said. “Everybody’s saying to me, ‘God, you could find a girlfriend here; you could meet your next wife here.’ It’s like, ‘I can’t sit and talk to someone for a second-I’ve got 50 people around me!’ I’m working, you know? All kinds of women here-I’m too wacked out of my mind to even make sense of what I’m talking.”
He whipped out a white tube-SmashBox also owns a cosmetics company-and swiped it across his lower lip.
“That’s mine,” Dean said.
“No, it’s mine-I’ve been using it all day,” Davis said.
What was the week’s biggest drama?
“The biggest drama is that a couple of people got upset at the valet parking guy one night, because they were rude,” Davis said. “You know? You get all these amped-out designers, production and stylist people, and they just walk in and they’re rude to security and they’re rude to the valet parking. The valet parker’s gonna snap. The valet parker’s gonna be like, ‘I don’t want to park your car-because you’re rude. You’re so rude!’ And I can’t blame them, to tell you the truth.”
According to the SmashBox fellows, Angelenos just have better manners.
“In Los Angeles, you’ll notice, they never knock anyone,” said Dean.
“Never,” said Davis.
“But New Yorkers, they all really knock Los Angeles.”
“They all want to live here.”
“You know what? All the unhappy people can go to an unhappy place and do unhappy things,” Davis said. “All the happy people can come here. You have a choice. And, I mean, I do love New York. I go to New York all the time. It’s so exciting; I have so much fun there.”
“I love New York,” Dean said. “I have happy friends there, too.”
At about the same time The New York Times reported that the average “two-bedroom” apartment in Manhattan now sells for more than $1 million (shudders; tremors), the house across the street in Silver Lake went on the market for just that amount. The street is called Neutra Place (formerly, presciently, Argent Place), because the house is one in a colony of Neutra houses designed by the late, renowned mid-century modernist architect Richard Neutra. Neutra had this whole theory about the integration of outdoor and indoor space, which has enabled many felicitous sightings of the former neighbors’ very picturesque Dalmatian dog and aquamarine Arne Jacobsen egg chair.
Almost immediately after the shingle was hung, the driveway began filling up with BMW convertibles and Range Rovers, their occupants clomping up past a 12-by-17-foot reflecting pool to inspect the premises, which include a magnasite front deck, three modestly sized bedrooms, a rear patio with fire pit and pond (koi optional), carport, walk-in closets, deck, terrace and a Sub-Zero refrigerator retrofitted into the kitchen cabinetry. The house, built in 1959, has been photographed for several glossy coffee-table books, and the owners hope-inexplicably-to move to Pasadena once the sale is final. Richard Stanley at Coldwell Banker is handling the sale: 323-906-2417.
It’s the coolest house ever, but there’s one problem: That view of the sparkling reservoir and the Hollywood sign? Partially obscured by our crummy rental.