Debi Mazar, Star of ‘Younger,’ at Home in Brooklyn


It’s true that the demands of work sent the Queens-born actress Debi Mazar to Los Angeles for several years. It is also true that once out there, settled in and gainfully employed on the TV series “Entourage,” she unexpectedly fell for the whole Lotusland lifestyle. The light. The space. The car culture.

Never mind all that.

Ms. Mazar, 51, wants to be very clear on the matter: She is a New Yorker. Really, with that accent, with that attitude, what else could she be? And since moving back to town in the summer of 2012 she’s had the address — a townhouse rental in Brooklyn — to make it official.

“I did my time in L.A.,” said the charmingly brash Ms. Mazar, a star of the TV Land series “Younger,” and a host of the new Cooking Channel show “Extra Virgin Americana” with her husband, Gabriele Corcos, 43, a chef who is from Tuscany. A twist on the couple’s original series, “Extra Virgin,” which was just nominated for a James Beard Award, “Americana” debuted earlier this month. “My roots are here, and I just wanted to show my kids a little of where Mom came from,” she added, referring to her daughters, Evelina, 13, and Giulia, 10.

“I wanted them to have eyes in the back of their head like me. I wanted them to speak fluent Spanish and Italian and to be able to navigate the streets,” Ms. Mazar continued. “Everything in L.A. is mellow, and that’s great. But New Yorkers have a certain quickness, and I wanted my daughters to have it, too.”

Initially, Ms. Mazar set her sights on Park Slope, where she had lived in the 1980s, and she made a hurried trip from Los Angeles to scout possibilities.

At one particular and seemingly desirable place, “the landlord was grilling me and kind of giving me the once-over, but she finally said, ‘Great,’ ” recalled Ms. Mazar, who, when the deal was done, headed to the airport to get back to the West Coast. “I happened to be on my computer and I saw a place farther out in Brooklyn that was like a little jewel box, and I was like, ‘That’s the house for me.’ ”

Her broker advocated for sticking with the Park Slope property, and Ms. Mazar reluctantly agreed. “So I land in L.A., and I find out the landlord decided to go with someone who had a better portfolio. And I was like: ‘A better portfolio? I could buy her house. What is she talking about?’ ” she recalled. “And then I was told the woman wanted someone who was ‘better for the neighborhood.’ And I was like: ‘I am the neighborhood. I grew up in that neighborhood.’ ”

The unaccountable real estate diss freed Ms. Mazar to secure the “little jewel box” in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. “It’s the perfect place for me,” she said. “It’s the perfect place for our family to come and get used to New York.”

Photo

Debi Mazar, left, and Molly Bernard in the TV Land series “Younger.”

Credit
TV Land

Ms. Mazar was taken with what she described as the house’s “old school charm”: the stained-glass skylights, the wood trim, the pocket doors, the built-in cabinet fronted by leaded glass, the star-embossed brass dust corners on the broad staircase. “That sent me over the moon,” Ms. Mazar said dreamily. “Jewelry on every step.” There’s also a yard so the family can barbecue and their dog, Lampo, can take some sun.

But Ms. Mazar knows that life in the city is all about trade-offs and sacrifices. If you insist on having lots of books — she and Mr. Corcos have quantities, on shelves and on handcarts, with some tucked into vintage breadboxes — you may not have room for a sofa. She and Mr. Corcos do not have room for a sofa.

That’s O.K. Ms. Mazar is clear about her priorities. “I love tchotchkes. You know what I mean,” she said of her collection of vases, pitchers, vintage knives, Roseville Raymor plates, ceramic wig heads, Lady Schick razors, stuffed pheasants and the lava lamp that was a wedding present from her close friend Paul Reubens, a.k.a Pee-wee Herman. The sights and sounds of the city are another passion. Photographs by Diane Arbus, Weegee, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Berenice Abbott line the walls.

Three congas sit in the front hall. “I’ve always loved Latin music,” Ms. Mazar said. “I’ve been to Cuba, and my husband also has a love for Cuban music. We met in Italy, and at the time he was a musician who played percussion. When I went to his house, he was playing very obscure Afro-Cuban records that I knew all the words to in Spanish. And Gabriele was like: ‘Who are you? How do you know this stuff?’ ”

She continued: “And I was like: ‘He’s Italian and he plays Latin percussion. Oh, my God! And he cooks.’ ”

Fourteen years into the marriage, Mr. Corcos, the owner of a neighborhood cafe, the Tuscan Gun, still does most of the cooking and bakes bread daily. A fresh loaf, cookbook cover-ready, had recently come out of the oven. Olive oil for dipping was on the French Deco table in a corner of the kitchen. “This is the mother dough,” Ms. Mazar said, indicating a container holding sourdough starter. “If Gabriele goes away, I have to take care of it so it stays alive. It’s like watching an infant. I ruined it a couple of times.”

Ms. Mazar is considerably more vigilant about the house — though she has risked the disapproval of the owner in painting her dressing room a vivid shade of red, and the master bedroom bright blue. “I get things done for the landlady,” she said. “If the plumbing breaks, I get it fixed. I redo the garden every year. I take care of the property as if it were mine.”

Managing clutter is an ongoing struggle. If something new comes through the door, something else must go. But it’s an easy matter; Ms. Mazar simply puts castoffs out on the stoop. “Plates go out, books go out. They’re gone the next morning,” she said.

It’s just one reason among many for loving the neighborhood. There’s always a place to park the car, and Ms. Mazar knows everyone up and down the block. “It’s cops and firemen and first responders,” she said. “Very blue-collar. It’s very happy. It’s a happy part of Brooklyn.

“We’re part of a community and we help each other out. It’s: ‘Debi, how ya doin’?’ It’s almost like a little piece of Mayberry for me. Mayberry, but New York style.”

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