Officially, the high-rise at 185 East 85th Street has a name: Park Lane Towers.
“But nobody calls it that,” said Rod Behren, who has lived there for more than a decade. “The de facto name of the building is ‘the Jeffersons’ building.’ You meet people. They say, ‘Where do you live?’ You say, ‘85th and Third.’ They say, ‘Oh, the Jeffersons’ building.’ ”
The world remembered the building, seen week after week in the opening sequence of the long-running CBS sitcom, as it remembered Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played the excitable George Jefferson. Mr. Hemsley died on Tuesday at age 74. And on Wednesday, Matt Hamme stood in the lobby and remembered what it was like to live there when “The Jeffersons,” which ran from 1975 to 1985, was a highly watched show.
Mr. Hamme, now 32, grew up in the building. He said he used to run to the window and wave when “The Jeffersons” came on. Even when he was only 3 or 4 years old, he said, he could recognize the show’s theme song, with its lyric about “moving on up to the East Side.”
“I thought it was live,” said Mr. Hamme, a former assistant football coach at Columbia University who still lives in the building. “I thought I would be on TV” — because, week after week, the camera tilted up, showing his window, along with the distinctive semicircular balconies at the corners of the building.
It did not occur to him that the opening sequence had been filmed and that nobody out there in television land could see him. He said he did not figure that out until later, “probably after I realized there was no Santa Claus.”
People still believe that Archie Bunker’s next-door neighbor on left Queens for Manhattan — and moved into the building, said Leo Torres, a doorman at the building. “People come in from the street looking for George Jefferson,” he said. “I tell them he doesn’t live here; they just filmed the scene where he enters the building here.”
Except that they didn’t. “That is not the building,” said Damon Evans, one of the actors who played Lionel on the show.
After the external shots of 185 East 85th Street, he said, Mr. Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, who played his wife, Louise, or Weezy, are actually shown walking into a building in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Sherman and Isabel would say to me, ‘Everyone thinks we shot that in New York, but we shot it in Santa Monica,” Mr. Evans said. “I just took it for granted that the building was in Santa Monica, too. I didn’t realize there was a 185 East 85th Street until she told me. I thought, ‘Oh, they found a high-rise building in Santa Monica that looked like New York.’ ”
Apparently not. An assistant to Norman Lear, who developed “The Jeffersons,” said on Wednesday that it was “likely” that the two stars had been filmed in Santa Monica. Footage shot in New York — of the building, of a moving van going from Queens to Manhattan trailed by a taxi — would have been interspersed with close-ups of Mr. Hemsley and Ms. Sanford.
But apparently, they were in a California cab pulling up to a California doorway. The close-ups were so tight that most viewers never noticed.
And, on the subject of details, some Web sites list the East Side building as Park Lane Tower, not Park Lane Towers, with an “s” on the end, as Mr. Torres spelled it.
Either way, 185 East 85th Street made an impression. “That building inspired me,” said Georgette Blau, who started a sightseeing service that specializes in taking tourists to places they have seen on television or in movies. She said she got the idea for her business in 1998, a couple of years after she graduated from college.
Ms. Blau, who was working at a publishing house at the time, was walking along East 86th Street when she recognized the building from the back. “I said, ‘I can’t believe it’s the building from ‘The Jeffersons,’ ” she said. “I had a book at home that had TV locations around the country. It mentioned that one and other ones like the ‘Friends’ one.”
One thing led to another, and now she has 50 employees.
Mr. Torres said he had had to deal with a police officer and even former cast members. The officer was answering a call from a tenant. “First thing he said was, ‘I want to speak to Weezy,’ ” Mr. Torres said. “I looked at him like he was crazy.”
“And I’ve thrown Mr. Bentley out personally,” Mr. Torres said, referring to the actor Paul Benedict, who played the Jeffersons’ next-door neighbor. “Three times he showed up with E! Entertainment. I told him, ‘Mr. Bentley, you’ve got to keep moving.’ ”