Washington’s real Alpha House sits in the middle of a tree-lined street, a nondescript Capitol Hill row house with mismatched curtains on the front windows.
But the frat-like appearance is deceiving: The humble abode is already part of congressional history. “Of course it’s famous,” Rep. George Miller told us. “How could it not be famous?”
Indeed: The crash pad — with roommates Miller, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dick Durbin — was the subject of a 2007 New York Times profile for housing some of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. That article inspired Garry Trudeau’s “Alpha House” — the political satire that just debuted on Amazon.
The hook: A-list powerbrokers squeezed into a ratty group pied-a-terre. It’s not unusual for members to live together near Capitol Hill, but this one has lasted more than 35 years — and, who knows, may be poised for a stop on D.C. tour-bus fame.
Miller bought the place — just a short walk to the Capitol — in 1977 for $90,000 or so. His family fled back to sunny California five years later, so he started renting out rooms to his colleagues and Schumer moved in. “He won’t leave,” Miller joked. “We invited him to stay overnight and he never left.”
Other members have come and gone: Durbin moved in 20 years ago; Leon Panetta was part of the gang until Bill Clinton appointed him to head the Office of Management and Budget, when ethics rules prevented him from paying rent to a congressman. Current monthly rent? $700 or so.
The three current housemates spend about two or three nights a week there, but barely see each other there. Miller and Durbin have little TVs in their bedrooms; Schumer reads the newspapers. They used to buy groceries but ended up throwing out too much after the “use by” date. Now, they just buy a lot of cereal.
Housekeeping is less collegial: “It’s now been more than 7,000 days that Chuck hasn’t made his bed,” said Miller. “Leon Panetta had military corners on his bed! On Chuck’s, you can lose a human being.”
None of the real-life inspirations have seen the pilot for Amazon’s new web series, where Trudeau changed the four roommates to Republicans, played by John Goodman, Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson and Mark Malloy. But it’s still a comedy, Miller said with a laugh: “You absolutely have to have a sense of humor to live here.”
Related: Amazon greenlights Trudeau political satire ‘Alpha House’ into full TV series, 5/29/13
‘Doonesbury’ to go on sabbatical as Amazon Studios officially picks up Trudeau’s Capitol Hill comedy, ‘Alpha House’, 5/29/13
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