The Daughter of Showbiz Couple Zalman King and Patricia Knop Shares Their World-class Art Collection

A treasure love story.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  • Written by
    Chloe King
  • King home photographed by
    Ace Misiunas
  • Portraits photographed by
    Michael Becker

My parents’ first meeting was as unique as the future they would eventually share. It happened when their wanderlust drew them from completely disparate backgrounds to a chartered three-masted schooner sailing the Caribbean. My mother was hired as a deckhand, my father a deep-sea diver. On her first day, my mother found herself feeding fish to sea lions. In awe of it all, she spotted a particularly large mammal, which, rising from the water’s depths, revealed a man in black diving gear. As he removed his mask, she recalls herself whispering, “This is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.” That night, she wrote to her mother declaring that she had met the man she would marry.

Above: “This is a very large room in the Santa Monica house that my parents added on after purchasing the property. My mother called it the pavilion. She needed a space big enough to house her carousel animals, walls of stained glass and many of her sculptures.” Chloe’s mother made the sculpture of the woman on the left; it portrays the late Hollywood costume designer Theadora Van Runkle.

•••

Patricia Knop and Zalman King were 19. The year was 1963.

Three years later, I was born. My sister, Gillian, entered our world two years after that. By that time, my parents had already migrated west to Los Angeles. Their first accommodation was, quite literally, a broom closet in Santa Monica. Soon they were renting a bungalow next door to Jim Morrison before eventually purchasing our family home in Venice. It was in this house, the house of my childhood, where dreams came to life and the person I would become was formed.

As for dreams, my parents had no shortage. My mother rose from abject poverty to become a talented sculptor and poet. She longed to create monumentally, both with her works in clay and her writing. My father, born into privilege, dreamed of becoming an actor and filmmaker. Like their fairy-tale beginning, all these dreams and so many more would come to be.

Above: A family photo from 1970s

•••

As rich and wonderful as their world was, it was their passion for collecting that would be their legacy, and would ultimately touch me the most.

It was during my parents’ early-’60s trek west at the height of their love affair that they fell in love all over again—with collecting. Naturally there was art, but it went far beyond that. Their taste leaned toward the unlikely, the misunderstood, the discarded, the forgotten. This was a time when it wasn’t yet cool to frequent flea markets, thrift shops and dusty old antique stores. Even less cool, dumpster diving. Yet my parents did it all.

Above: The guest house at Chloe’s parents’ house while they were living in Santa Monica. The painting in the back was painted by her mother, Patricia Knop, from a photograph of her parents.

•••

There’s that old saying: “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” No truer words when it came to the bounty my parents amassed: from 17th-century angels to ship’s heads, folk art to stained-glass windows unceremoniously tossed into church dumpsters, to a plethora of salvaged architectural pieces. Once they bought an entire carousel from the Kiddieland Amusement Park that stood on what is now the Beverly Center. My childhood backdrop was lions, tigers, giant sea horses and chariots.

Ultimately, the treasures my parents had either salvaged or bought for pennies would be worth millions. Meanwhile their careers in Hollywood blossomed as they collaborated on screenplays, most of which my father would go on to direct. Anyone who was anyone would turn up at our Venice house, entertained against a canvas of angels, wooden menageries and much more.

Above: Chloe King and her sister, Gillian Lefkowitz

•••

In time, the collection, along with my mother’s imposing sculptures, grew to a point where our home in Venice could no longer accommodate it all. It was time to move, and my mother and father relocated to their “forever house” on a wide street in Santa Monica, just off Ocean Avenue.

It was there that my parents would live happily ever after.

I was grown by then, yet still the parties, the collecting and the creating never ceased. It ultimately slowed after my father’s passing in 2012 and came to an end as my mother slipped away in 2019. Their love story, spanning close to six decades—truly a modern fairy tale. Their collection—a reflection of them. Magical, whimsical and unique in every way.

Above: Zalman King and Patricia Knop with some of Patricia’s sculptures, including one she made of her husband, which now is at Chloe’s home (see photo below).

•••

It took my sister and me almost two years to dismantle their estate. It was a painful time to be sure, but one of magical discovery. So many never-before-seen treasures stuffed into drawers and closets and boxes hidden under other boxes.

Much of my mother’s work can now be found in homes and gardens across the city and beyond. Some of their collection was sold at auction. The most sentimental pieces, though, stayed with my sister and me.

Thus begins another journey and their legacy as it translates to my home and my dreams.

Like my parents, I too am a screenwriter, and I inherited their passion for collecting. It has become a centerpiece of my life. Just like them, I wouldn’t be caught dead in an auction house or buying from a gallery. The satisfaction is often less about the possession, but rather the hunt for it. I haunt estate sales now. Never tiring of the worlds I enter, no matter how shambolic or decrepit. Some say picking through a stranger’s life, especially when they have passed, can be depressing; scavenging among their possessions bordering on sacrilege. I disagree. I see myself as carrying on the torch, preserving what another found beautiful, and incorporating it into my endlessly eclectic world, where it will be cherished and admired until I too move on.

Above: Chloe and Gillian with the sculpture of Patricia’s husband

•••

Here I sit in my new house in the San Fernando Valley. Geographically and aesthetically so different from my childhood home, yet inextricably and permanently connected, almost poetically, through all the beautiful things I was blessed to inherit.

As I write these words, I look out my window to see two of my mother’s sculptures gracing my backyard. Call me crazy, but I know they are happy here. Watching over me, perhaps, like the human-size angels that my mother so adored. They graced their kitchen then; they grace mine today. Then there are the classical oil paintings now juxtaposed against the more contemporary art I’ve acquired. Or the whimsical folk art set against the simplicity of my mid-century pieces. It’s eclectic to be sure, but somehow it all feels so seamless. Meant to be.

Losing my parents was devastating. The loss immeasurable. Hardest of all, perhaps, is not being able to share the joy of the hunt with them. After all, that thrill and joy connected us for so, so long.

Now, almost three years from my mother’s passing, the sting of loss remains. Yet here, in my forever house, alive with dinner parties and gatherings in the vein of those from my childhood, a new generation of friends, old and new, come to enjoy the fruits of my parents’ labor, set against those of my own. The magic of their collection grounds and adorns the space, yes. But more specifically, it graces it. As their lives did mine. And I could not be more proud.

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