Zemeckis has her prized burlesque artifacts on display in the guest bedroom, including a trunk owned by Gypsy Rose Lee
Playful color gives the period pieces in the foyer, such as a hooded chair covered in bottle green and ornately carved console table, a witty and lively update
Designer Jessica Lagrange paired the couple’s prized dining pieces with contemporary updates of Louis XVI chairs
The library was developed around green lacquer walls and handsome Deco club chairs from Italy, refurbished with sumptuous loden mohair
The guest room channels famed interior designer Dorothy Draper, known for her exuberant use of pattern and color
“Staar” is a leggy showgirl who struts her stuff in a burlesque-inspired cabaret revue in LA’s Conga Room and other venues around town. But she’s also a Montecito, California mom who ferries her three kids, ages four to eight, from karate lessons to art classes daily. And last but not least, she’s a Gold Coaster, with a spectacular vintage co-op overlooking Lake Michigan.
In these last two roles, she sheds the evocative stage moniker for her real name: Leslie Zemeckis—actress, writer, and wife of Robert Zemeckis, the Chicago-born, Oscar-winning director of blockbusters including Forrest Gump, The Polar Express, and the Back to the Future films.
And most recently, she’s also a filmmaker in her own right, completing her first documentary on the burlesque industry, Behind The Burly Q. It has played to rave reviews on Showtime and at independent cinemas, and will be shown at the Chicago History Museum on February 12, followed by a Q & A with Zemeckis.
Behind The Burly Q was a journey for Zemeckis, who met the ageing burlesque performers when she started to do research for her cabaret act around 2000. “They’re an important part of our nation’s entertainment industry and have compelling stories to tell,” she says. “But they’re literally a dying resource. Someone needed to [document] them.” By 2006, she was doing just that.
Beyond serving as the inspiration for her documentary, the performers Zemeckis interviewed also informed the décor of the Gold Coast co-op she and her husband bought in 2007, since Bob, who grew up in Roseland on the city’s South Side, still has family here. “We wanted our children to know our relatives and have an urban experience,” says Zemeckis.
It also turns out that Bob, like most kids from the city’s far-flung workingclass neighborhoods, spent his boyhood hankering for a house with a grand lake view. The urge was so powerful that “we knew this was the one the minute we walked in,” says Zemeckis of their co-op. “None of the other [apartments] we saw had views like this.”
Zemeckis knew exactly what she wanted décor-wise, too, and pegged Chicago interior designer Jessica Lagrange for the job after seeing a magazine spread of an Art Deco-inspired, black and white master bathroom she’d decorated. “We have a very sleek, modern house in California, and I wanted this place to be over-the-top glamorous, like a little jewel box,” says Zemeckis, who already had a significant stash of furnishings and accessories to use in the co-op thanks to her growing fascination with burlesque. Her documentary subjects had given her things they’d worn or used as props in their acts, and her husband surprised her with burlesque-inspired artifacts like Gypsy Rose Lee’s trunk.
But once the couple bought the co-op, Zemeckis started collecting period treasures in earnest. During a stay in Tuscany, she uncovered a stash of Art Deco chandeliers, a few pairs of sleek club chairs, and a monumental dining room table and buffet, both mirrored and embellished with bronze and rose gold, and trimmed with copper leaf.
Floors of the co-op were covered with exquisite rugs: an Art Deco Chinese number in the dining room and ones with kicky graphic patterns in the bedrooms; walls were sheathed in elegant finishes (Venetian plaster with a lavender tint in the foyer and shimmering silver leaf in the dining room); and upholstered pieces were lavished in plush silk, velvets, and brocades.
Lagrange came full circle with the project in the master bathroom, which looks very similar to the black and white beauty that caught Zemeckis’s eye in the first place.
“She got that bathroom after all,” says Lagrange.
photography by katrina wittkamp
December 4, 2018
November 27, 2018