April 19, 2019

Chester “Chet” Reid Allen: 1928 – 2011



Chester “Chet” Reid Allen: 1928 – 2011

Long-time Old Topanga resident, Chet Allen, died on April 19, 2011.

Chester Reid Allen (“Chet”) died on April 19, 2011, of lung cancer surrounded by his family at “The Ranch,” his beloved eight-acre spread in Old Topanga, California. He was 82.

Chet was born on August 17, 1928 in Chickasha, Oklahoma to Chester and Nellie Allen. His father died in a fall a few months before he was born, leaving his mother, who was a schoolteacher in Oklahoma during The Great Depression, to raise Chet alone.

Chet was artistically inclined from an early age and after high school, he enrolled at Oklahoma University to study architecture.

His architecture designs at OU impressed a visiting Frank Lloyd Wright, who invited him to apprentice at Wright's Arizona workshop, Taliesin West.

Due to financial issues, Chet could not accept the offer, but Wright remained his main influence in his design aesthetic, and Chet had a photo of Wright on his living room wall most of his life.

After college, Chet took a job as an art director for The Calvin Company, a well-regarded film studio based in Kansas City, MO that specialized in educational shorts and commercials.

It was at The Calvin Company that Chet learned the fundamentals of producing films and also befriended a very pivotal person in his life, the then-unknown director Robert Altman.

Chet became close friends with Altman and along with editor Lou Lombardo, formed a personal and professional trio that worked hard producing films during the day.

In fact, “The Delinquent’s,” Robert Altman's notable story of ‘50s teenage rebellion, was shot partly in Chet's house and even featured his convertible in many scenes.

Chet also spent time during this era of his life in New York City with his brother Mearl, who was the Maître d’ at the famous Stork Club.

During this time, Chet found himself sleeping off a hangover on the couch of his date’s apartment that she shared with several TWA stewardesses.

He awoke in the morning to meet one of the stewardesses, a glamorous and charming brunette from England named Maureen Tooze. They quickly became inseparable, and when Chet relocated with Altman and Lombardo to Los Angeles in the late 1950s to further their film careers, Maureen quit her job with TWA and joined him.

They were married in 1959 in The Little Brown Church in North Hollywood. Robert Altman was his best man.

Settling into a rented house in Woodland Hills, Chet soon found himself cast in an unexpected role that of construction worker “Slats” in the NBC series, “The Troubleshooters,” a dramatic series based around the construction industry. The series was short-lived and to Chet’s lasting dismay no episodes were preserved.

However, being around the construction industry rekindled Chet’s life-long interest in building and architecture, and that inspired him to start a new chapter in his life as a building contractor. Starting a company called Polynesian Pools, he quickly found success designing and building swimming pools for the likes of Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, Julie Andrews, Walter Matthau and many other celebrities.

As Chet developed his business, he and Maureen also started what would become a large family: Erin was born in 1960, Chester in 1961, Daniel in 1963, Chereen in 1967, Casey in 1968, and Cassidy in 1970. In the early ‘60s, Chet and Maureen purchased a home in Canoga Park.

Chet balanced his time between growing his business, improving the house, and spending time with his children. Favorite family pastimes were going for drives, fishing and camping in motorhomes.

The 1970s brought further prosperity for Chet’s business, but also great turmoil. His marriage to Maureen failed. But Chet found a new vision for his life when he purchased a hunting shack on eight acres in rural Topanga Canyon in 1977.

Christened “The Ranch,” it quickly became the focus of Allen’s family life, especially after Maureen died in 1984 and Chet found himself living with all his children again. Chet loved nothing more than to improve his new home, often working nonstop for days rebuilding the main structure or improving the grounds. The Ranch was truly his castle and kingdom.

It was during this time that he met Joanne Finazzo (‘Jo’), who was a single mom of three children — Michael, Tara and Tamaryn. In Jo, Chet finally met his equal — a woman who loved him through thick and thin, who would roll up her sleeves and lay tile or hang drywall with him and who became a mother to his children.

Chet and Jo formed a lasting and loving partnership at The Ranch and it was Jo who stood by his side caring tenderly and tirelessly for him up until his final moments.

Chet was preceded in death by his brother Mearl; his son Daniel; his stepdaughter Tara; his granddaughter Tessalynn and his grandson Reid (“Ri-Ri”).

Chet is survived by his partner, Joanne Finazzo; his children, Erin, Chester, Chereen, Casey and Cassidy; his stepchildren, Michael and Tamaryn; and by his grandchildren, Courtney, Casey Leigh, Kayla, Westley, Tyler, Brittan, Kendall, Keira and Ava.

Chet wished that donations be made in his name to AutismSpeaks (www.autismspeaks.org).

(Editor’s Note: Even though he had lived peacefully on his property in harmony with nature and the community since the ‘70s, at the time of Chester Allen’s death, he was part of an ongoing code enforcement action by the City of Calabasas under its recently adopted onsite waste treatment system ordinance and cited for numerous building code violations alleged by Calabasas Building Official Sparky Cohen. Allen was in the process of selling his beloved eight-acre ranch to pay his mounting legal bills incurred in his fight against the city.)