At Home with Joyce Linehan: The PR Maven reveals her living room’s rock-star past

Photo: MELISSA OSTROW

You think your place has hosted interesting houseguests? Behold publicist Joyce Linehan’s living room. Today much of Linehan’s time is dedicated to running her PR company, Ashmont Media, which represents arts entities like the ICA and ArtsEmerson. But the Ashmont Hill resident has had a storied career in the music industry; she’s managed many bands and once worked in promotions and A&R for influential grunge label Sub Pop. (Know anyone else with a gold record of Nirvana’s Incesticide hanging in her bathroom? We thought not.)

Linehan didn’t just work alongside rock stars. When they swung through town, her home became the center of their orbit: a spot to write music, kick back with other artists, and spend the night (or longer). Here, you might have reached for morning coffee with the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, shared couch space with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, or clinked bottles with Courtney Love. (The Hole singer wrote her anthemic “Doll Parts” at Linehan’s home.)

“There was a place like this in every city,” says Linehan of her rock-star crash pad. As she prepares to sell her home — she’s currently renovating a Lower Mills house with its own recording studio and ballroom — we stopped by for a look around and a look back.

 

A. Even before Linehan bought it in ’92, the house was already a hospitable hangout to many. (Local lore has it that a small stage area in the basement once hosted neighborhood puppet shows.) It was a gathering spot for Dorchester’s vibrant Lithuanian community, of which its former homeowner was a member. “When I first moved in, many of the colors were those of the Lithuanian flag,” says Linehan. Though she repainted the rooms, we pointed out that her living area’s color scheme — with its yellow walls, red curtains, and green-flecked couch — still nods to the flag’s hues. “Totally unintentional!” she chuckles.

B. The former homeowner has since been nicknamed the “Marble Lady” after the colorful marbles she embedded in the ceiling around various light fixtures. (Creative? Sure. Curious? Definitely.) Linehan’s living-room fixture is extra bright, thanks to a half dozen Christmas bulbs that encircle the main lights. They’ll illuminate any dark corner, and maybe that’s a good thing: though she’s not a believer in the supernatural herself, Linehan has heard plenty of tales of Marble Lady hauntings from overnight guests, including Calexico front man Joey Burns.

C. To complement the overhead fixture, Linehan added dozens of marbles to the ornate teakwood coffee table directly below. (The red plastic monkeys? Those are Barrel of Monkeys game pieces, lovingly strewn by the guys of seminal synth-rock band Six Finger Satellite.) But the table itself also boasts plenty of personal — and political — history. It was given to Linehan by her great-uncle, a merchant marine who brought it back from Hong Kong in the early 1960s. And tucked within the elaborately carved inset scene is an actual piece of the Berlin Wall. The wall fell on Linehan’s birthday — November 9, 1989 — and she retrieved the rock while touring Germany with the rockers of Giant Sand shortly thereafter.

D. Linehan’s visitors leave behind more than cool memories: they also sign her guest book, filled with autographs from friends, entertainers (like Saturday Night Live actor Fred Armisen, who once drummed in the punk band Trenchmouth), and even some politicians. Linehan is a die-hard Democrat, and her living room recently hosted the first Listening Tour stop for Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. We love that Linehan knows how to rock the house — and the vote.