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'Person of interest' in Beverly Hills case died on Hollywood's dark side

By Alan Duke, CNN
The Harvey Apartments, a four-story former hotel, draws a diverse group because of its cheap rent.
The Harvey Apartments, a four-story former hotel, draws a diverse group because of its cheap rent.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Harvey Apartments are "rough," but roach-free, residents say
  • The low rent draws a diverse crowd
  • The former hotel is near Paramount Studios

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Aspiring and retiring actors, struggling producers, hopeful musicians, low-income and disabled people fill the aging Hollywood apartment building where a "person of interest" in the Beverly Hills shooting death of celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen killed himself Wednesday.

The Harvey Apartments, a four-story former hotel, draws a diverse group because of its cheap rent, no deposit requirement, proximity to major film studios and a reputation for being roach-free, residents said.

"There's a lot of screaming goes on and hollering and the kind of ruckus you wouldn't find in the traditional apartment complex," said Eddie Burke, who moved in just two weeks ago.

Burke, who was the Tea Party candidate in Alaska's lieutenant governor's race this year, found the Harvey Apartments on the internet while looking for a place to stay while his son trains at a Hollywood gym to be a pro boxer.

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If he had known about the neighborhood, he would not have rented here, Burke said.

"It's rough," he said. "The people here are diverse. It's really different from back home in Alaska."

But for $600 a month and with no deposit required, it was a tempting deal.

It also became a profitable arrangement for Burke, who made several thousand dollars Thursday selling a blurry photo of the lobby he took with his cell phone while investigators were still there.

The Santa Monica Boulevard location is just a block from Hollywood Forever cemetery, the final resting place for Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille and many other show business icons.

Three blocks away is Paramount Studios, where major movies and television shows are produced.

While the iconic Hollywood sign is visible from the sidewalk, the neighborhood is better known for the darker side of Hollywood where tour buses don't go.

Musician Tommy Zazen moved in three months ago, leaving a $2,500 a month apartment in Venice Beach.

"I've been around the block," Zazen said. He moved to Los Angeles from Chicago nine years ago to pursue his recording career.

He has played his guitar with the Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers, he said, but lately his day job as a handy man has paid his bills.

He likes the Harvey Apartment management for keeping the building clean and roach-free, but Wednesday's shooting left him "a little bit scared."

"Time for me to pack my bags," Zazen said.

He did not know many of his neighbors or the man who killed himself in the lobby, he said.

"I'm a hermit," he said. "I stay to myself, in my apartment listening to music, writing my songs."

Terri Gilpin, who claims to be a cousin to "Frasier" actress Peri Gilpin, said she moved into Harvey Apartments because "the rent's pretty cheap and reasonable."

She does make it a point to know her neighbors, who she said include "retired actors and a few producers who are trying to get back on their feet."

Journalists covering the shooting have also gotten to know the residents. Dozens of them were stranded in a strip mall parking lot for several hours as police closed their apartment building for five hours after the shooting.

One man told reporters that the building had a problem with drug users and dealers who come back even after being evicted.

"They make keys to the lock so they can come in and out," he said.

He said the man who shot himself was "really moody all the time" and had been recently evicted, said the man, who was in a wheelchair. He then explained how he knew this.

"I found all this out," he said. "I'm the son of a war hero, my dad was in the CIA, for Air America, in Saigon, for 10 years and I'm, like, kind of smart."

The Harvey Apartments is the kind of place that could keep a journalist covering a mysterious murder busy chasing down stories.