Konjoyan preserves Carpenters' legacy

In the 1970s, Jon Konjoyan idolized the Carpenters, but never dreamed that 30 years later he would lead a campaign to save the pop duo's iconic home.After moving to Downey in 1963, Karen and Richard Carpenter garnered worldwide success with such hits as "We've Only Just Begun" and "Close to You," many written inside their Downey home. "There's no one like them," said Konjoyan, a radio promoter who worked at A&M Records in the 1980s. "It's interesting that they still have relevancy - 26 years after Karen's death." In 1973, the Carpenters featured their Newville Ave. home on the front of the best-selling album, "Now and Then," driving fans to visit the two-story home ever since. "To someone who's not a fan, that house has no meaning," said Konjoyan, 52. "But to the fans, it has significance." Once current owners, Manuel and Blanca Melendez Parra, made plans to raze the Carpenter home, fans rallied the Parra family to save the building. Konjoyan learned of the demolition while attending an estate sale hosted by the Parra family in 2007. "They were selling a lot of things said to be owned by the Carpenters," said Konjoyan. "I heard there were plans to raze the house and build something new there." After sending the news out to everyone on his e-mail distribution list, Konjoyan was contacted by the Los Angeles Times. In 2008, the Times published an article, featuring a photograph of Konjoyan standing in front of the house holding a copy of the Carpenters' "Now and Then" record album. "I thought the story would appear on the back page of the Calendar section," he said. "I never thought it would be on the front page of the paper." Konjoyan said he was contacted by the Downey Historical Society, who expressed concern, citing that no city ordinance existed to protect such buildings. The campaign sought to have the house purchased or declared a landmark to save it from demolition, however, the Parras continued with their plans and half of the house, which occupied two lots, was tore down. The main portion of the home, where Karen Carpenter died in 1983, is still intact. "Richard Carpenter is not interested in saving the house," said Konjoyan. "But what should be remembered is the music - The Parra family owns the house and I respect that." Richard Carpenter sold the house in 1997. Konjoyan assures that he will continue to preserve the history of the Carpenters. "Tourist from all over the world still come to see that house," said Konjoyan. "It's 2009, but the Carpenters still had a number one album in Japan this year. A lot of people still care. They were longtime Downey residents - Downey should be proud of that."

********** Published: December 25, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 35

FeaturesEric Pierce