I Was a Dear Friend of the Woman "Sons of Anarchy" Star is Suspected of Murdering

Hollywood legend Catherine Davis rented me -- and many other actors -- rooms in her home throughout her life. Johnny Lewis isn't accused of murdering an 81-year-old woman. He is accused of murdering a saint.

Sep 28, 2012 at 6:20pm | Leave a comment

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An early '80s headshot of Taylor Negron at 24, the age when he first moved in as a young actor into the "Writers Villa" run by Catherine Davis.

If you look at initial reports of the death of Johnny Lewis -- the "Sons of Anarchy" actor and, as all the media outlets have made sure to note, the ex of Katy Perry -- the name of the woman he is accused of brutally and horrifically murdering is not even mentioned at all.

Her name is Catherine Davis. And she is a Hollywood legend. A near saint.

And a kind and loving mother to so many, including me.

A writer, artist and entrepreneur, the media later explained her as an “elderly 81-year-old woman." This could maybe be used to describe her bones.

Cathy Davis was a woman of astounding energy and clear-minded self-creation. The house she rented to accused killer Johnny Lewis -- and to me, Parker Posey, Thomas Jane, Chris Parnell, Paula Poundstone, and so many others -- was known to us as the "Writer's Villa." It is located in an affluent part of Los Feliz and was built in 1927 to resemble a Villa in Spain or Italy. The original bathrooms of Malibu tile still exist, reflected by the beveled mirrors in the medicine cabinet. Hand-painted pink. Turquoise and lemon yellow ceramic tiles are inlaid in the sunny staircase that is at the center of the house leading to a carved door that is always open.

Born into humble roots in Texas, Cathy made sure she got into UCLA and there flourished in that atmosphere of 1950s Los Angeles where endless possibilities and vacant lots and a lot of handiwork led to a dream fulfilled.

Marrying and having a baby, Catherine moved into what clearly was a dream house on that gentle hill. The marriage dissolved and the feminist movement took hold and Cathy became what I always called a "Sesame Street feminist." Bold and colorful, simple, direct. Easy. She understood how to flatter men, but was never taken hostage. These were the women who raised my generation -- equal pay for equal work. Independent with the smarts on their sleeves. This quintessentially modern California lady living life on her own terms, armed with only a stack of Sunset Magazines and 100-watt smile.

The ad I answered in The LA Times when I was in my early twenties, read “rooms to rent in Villa." I went there to see. At this point I was making money from acting in movies and needed to settle down and start thinking about buying my own home.

"Well,” Cathy said in her pert Texas twinch, "you're in the right place. I am a real estate agent, and we will find you something you will love.”

I liked that she used the royal "we.” Hollywood is usually more about “me” than “we.” I knew nothing about mortgages or equity.

“Your job is to be an artist, to tell jokes," she told me.

I made Cathy laugh intensely. That is the greatest gift of all that I treasure.

When we make others laugh, the tension grinds away, and the moment is balanced. The “me” becomes a “we.”

Those of us, that fraternity that lived at the Villa, understoond that. They were the sum of our parts.

I took the room on the right upstairs with a large rounded fireplace and a view of succulents hemmed by aromatic sumac bushes. These native plants give off a slight aroma like gasoline. Clean and startling. Over time, I would move in and out of the Villa while Cathy looked around for my first home. She was quick to tell me I was home and that it was “my room … always.”

The door was always open, and soon I found that my boyhood friend Val Kilmer was living in one of the rooms, and there we had parties with serious actors like George Clooney and his then wife Talia Balsam. Paula Poundstone lived there.

Over time, I stayed in every room in the house and became a part of that household, made up of equally eccentric types that came to Lowey Road to stay while in artistic transit or retreat. Cathy was always catering meals for us from local restaurants and long after I moved out, I would attend these long dinners on her flagstone terrace where you would meet Dutch movie stars or violin soloists from Japan. Actors and writers put their best face forward as Cathy demonstrated to them that their dreams were not far from reach.

Her daughter Margaret Davis began writing award-winning books, biographies of prominent Los Angeles figures and families. Proud and pleased, we all were included in Margaret's publishing events. This was her talent. Making you interesting and a specialist in your field.

Cathy, always the writer and reader, began writing her own historical biography on the "Life of Phoebe Apperson Hearst," mother of William Randolph Hearst. She was working on the book in her room when she was murdered.

The screams echoing in the canyon. I play it over in my head now. Why was she screaming? No one will ever know, because now the players are gone. Was it because this creature tenant that had rented a room from her came in carrying her now dismembered beloved cat? The rhythm of murder is always different. It’s like the pre-death rattle.

The creature -- Johnny Lewis -- was one of the actors that Cathy rented to. She rented him my old room with metal casement windows that cranked open with perfect symmetry. That room was always dry, and when it did not smell of sumac it smelt of dirt -- dusty grass-fed dirt.

The text I received the day she was murdered was chilling and all-caps: "TEXT ME ASAP."

I did.

“What is it?" I was standing in that back garden of my apartment on West 82nd Street.

“Our sweet Miss Cathy has been murdered."

The breath, the support system of all life is the first thing that changes when the utterance of death is heard. The breath increases. Rising in failed attempts to bring air to the brain to rectify the mistake that has been made in the hearing. Murder?

My ears “heard” that Cathy Davis was murdered by someone who was in her house. This was a few hours after the crime and no one was sure of what the motive for the crime was.

I scanned the Web and saw that the actor from "Sons of Anarchy" was dead. I did not read the article, as I no longer consider these people actors. Knowing full well that they came to Hollywood to be famous and party. To get DUIs and pay their anorexia-enabling stylists to mask the ravages of their marionette chains. They are boring people who say lines.

But this was the creature that is suspected of murdering my 81-year-old friend, and he lived in my old room.

The screams may have come from when Cathy saw her cat brutalized and torn apart. The screaming stopped when she was reportedly hit from above on the back of the head with a two-by-four.

She died with the freshly edited Chapter 6 spread out on the bed. Her coffee and cereal bowl untouched by the violence.

The monster with the cute face is suspected of then beating up the workers next door, pulling one painter off a ladder and hurting him.

The monster then allegedly destroyed all of Cathy’s art. Her hand-painted folkloric sculptures and Mexican Wedding candelabras that were used in the annual Christmas Decoration parties that we had at the Villa on the holidays.

The monster then allegedly destroyed all the mirrors in the house, and believing he could fly, jumped off the terrace and landed headfirst on the cement driveway where we all parked when we unloaded our luggage or drinks for parties.

Cathy loved parties more than anything. Not loud. I don’t remember music. Only talk and stories of people from other places describing new things and new places.

Then the monster's head shattered. Like, I imagine, a rotten melon. 

The monster was allegedly on a synthetic drug and was released early from a sentence for armed robbery with a weapon.

He called Cathy and asked if he could come home.

I know what she said.

“Your room is waiting.

"I will leave the front door open for you."