Clockwise from top left: Amy Fairchild, Bill Janovitz, Lex Lianos, and, in the Caddyshack scene that made swimming pools as dangerous as the ocean, John Barmon.
There’s an old Saturday Night Live sketch — not, truth be told, one of the show’s funniest moments — called “Rock & Roll Real-estate Agent.” In it, Jay Mohr plays a realtor, spiffy in a gold Century 21–style jacket. And slinky leather pants. Greeting a couple of potential clients, he leaps from his desk with a lead singer’s abandon. “Well, all riiiiight!! Nice ta MEETCHA!! How ya doin’ out there toniiiiiiight? Wow!”
His character was the erstwhile frontman for a band called Sidewinder, and since their hit, “Lick It,” had fallen off the charts, he’s found steady pay in a somewhat more staid industry. Still, his passions run deep. “I got central air, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, at $179,900, with an assumable mortgage. Yooooooowwww!!! Tell the bank you want a fixed rate at 7.35 percent, all riiiiiight?!! Owwwwwwwww!!!”
As it happens, this scenario is not as ridiculous as it may appear. The real-estate industry, with its genteel open houses and love for crunching numbers, may seem to be one of the least “rock-and-roll” careers one could pursue. But it actually agrees with the rock-and-roll lifestyle quite well.
Realtors make their own schedules, allowing them to follow their artistic pursuits as much as they desire. That means not having to worry about your dumb day-job’s “synergy” meeting at 9 am while you’re shredding away at 4 am. And it’s a profession custom-suited to performers: after all, the very act of selling a house to a stranger requires a performance of sorts.
So it is that more and more musicians and other creative types are heeding the siren call of escrow accounts and adjustable-rate mortgages.
Bill Janovitz just released an album, Three Easy Pieces, with his band, Buffalo Tom, but by day he works among the manicured lawns of Lexington, closing millions of dollars in sales each year. He declined to be interviewed for this piece, but on his Web site, Janovitz allays one imaginary prospective buyer’s fears in a fake Q&A:
I was at a nightclub last night and I saw my realtor rocking out with Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. Should I worry?
Oh, no, no. You see, local real estate has long needed a dose of rock & roll. . . . And when I am staging your home at an open house, I don’t sweat as much as I do when I am on a rock & roll stage.
And it’s not just rock musicians. Although he made his name in Roxbury with the early-’80s boy-band sensation New Edition, and later, with New Jack Swingers Bell Biv DeVoe, Ronald Boyd DeVoe Jr. has moved to the South and is now a king of Atlanta real estate, dealing in “prestigious and elite properties.”
DeVoe still performs and records occasionally with New Edition, but real estate is clearly his calling. As one blogger wrote upon seeing DeVoe’s gray-suited visage on a RE/MAX billboard in Atlanta, “A lot of people would see this picture and think, ‘Wow. That sucks for him.’ Not me. I bet he’s much happier being a successful businessman than he would be performing ‘Poison’ for the one billionth time in front of a few hundred drunk horse-racing fans at Hollywood Park.”
Through an open bay window
Lex Lianos is another guy who’s traded the stage for the winding-brick walkway. You might remember him as the drummer for early ’90s Boston alt-rockers the Cliffs of Dooneen, who scored a minor MTV hit with “Through an Open Window.”
Nowadays, Lianos talks up the merits of bay windows and bow windows, double-hung and casements. The real-estate bug first bit years ago. Following in his father’s footsteps, Lianos had gotten his real-estate license in New Hampshire in an off year between high school and college. Later, between his junior and senior years at BU, he saw an opportunity.
“I was trying to get into the music scene in Boston, and wanted to stay here for the summertime to play,” he recalls. “I didn’t have a job. But one of the guys who was in the band managed a small rental office in Allston. So it was very easy for me to get my license [in Massachusetts].”
Really easy. “Hairstylists have to do something like 100 hours of supervised study before they can get licensed,” adds Lianos incredulously. “As opposed to real-estate brokers, who deal with very large transactions — probably the largest transactions of their customers’ lives — [for whom] it’s basically 24 hours of course time. Which you can jam into a whole weekend if you want. It’s like 120 questions, a multiple-choice test. Pass/fail only, and you can take it as many times as you want.”
Lianos fondly remembers his first day on the job. “I rented [to] the first customer that I had. I spent about half an hour with him, drove him down the street, and drove back, and made $1000. I was like, ‘I love this job.’ ”