(Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
LOS ANGELES — It was a No. 1 hit for the Knack — and a career-maker for Sharona Alperin.
The hormonally charged single “My Sharona” struck it big for the Los Angeles band more than three decades ago. Pictured on the single’s cover was the song’s 17-year-old real-life inspiration in a near-transparent tank top, her left arm holding the album cover featuring lead singer Doug Fieger’s head shot.
The Knack is long gone — and Fieger died on Valentine’s Day — but Alperin is still working her connection to the infectiously raunchy rock anthem as she sells high-end West L.A. real estate to Hollywood types.
Alperin and Fieger dated for four years and Alperin lived the full rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, donning sunglasses, a leather jacket and Levis 501s while touring the world signing autographs and hanging out with celebrities. Though Alperin eventually split with Fieger, the two remained close friends and she spent some time with him during his final days, she said.
“There are so many people who come on the planet who want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star and how many make it? You know, how many get their dream realized?” Alperin said. “And the fact that he gets to have written an iconic song, I am so happy for him.”
To say that the song has marked Alperin’s life is an understatement. Knack fans still mail her copies of the “My Sharona” single for her to autograph. The name prompts strangers to break into laughter or song. But in the world of luxury real estate, the cachet of having a hit song written for her has served as a unique marketing edge in a city filled with thousands of agents.
“You need to have a niche and anything like that that will help people remember you is certainly an asset; she actually has that intro music on her Web site,” said Marc Giroux, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty who has worked with Alperin.
But “that has not made her business. She is professional and works hard and knows what she is doing,” he said. “It is an extra type of branding that very few if anyone has. It makes her very unique.”
Alperin met Fieger through a mutual friend when she was still a student at Fairfax High School. She initially resisted his overtures but he ultimately convinced her to break up with a steady boyfriend and join the Knack on a national tour.
“It was a magical time,” she said. “Sometimes sleeping in the day, I was going on tour, I was going to sound checks every day, at radio stations I was signing autographs, people recognized me from the single cover so almost every show that I went to someone had brought a single for me to sign.”
They had met at a crucial juncture in Fieger’s life. He had just formed the band and was rehearsing in a modest warehouse. As Alperin tells it, he was immediately taken by her and co-wrote and sang the song, which hit No. 1 for six weeks during the summer of 1979.
The band added the term “power pop” to the musical lexicon and tried to market itself as another coming of the Beatles. While the Knack made the charts a few more times, “My Sharona” was its most enduring track and experienced a brief revival in 1994 when it was featured in the film “Reality Bites.”
“This was one of the tunes that almost kind of had a punk-pop crossover appeal, but I think getting straight to the lyric with a name as specific as ‘My Sharona,’ that is an intriguing concept for a lyric because immediately you wonder who this person is,” said Christopher Sampson, associate dean of the popular music program at USC’s Thornton School of Music. “From a sonic perspective, the two words together — my Sharona — it is very, very singable. It just has this wonderful auditory sound to it and so it just makes for a good hook.”
The relationship between the two wouldn’t last, though, as Fieger’s feelings proved to be too intense, she said.
“In the English language there is really a not more possessive or obsessive word than ‘my,’” she said. “He really did believe I was his alter person, his soul mate, and it worked for a while but then it was time for me to be my Sharona, too. It was over by the time I was 21.”
Alperin said she first found an inclination for real estate while searching for a home for Fieger. After splitting with him, she took her real estate license exam and began selling.
Alperin dated a professional in the entertainment industry and soon began building a Hollywood clientele. She declined to drop any names, but The Times’ Hot Property column has mentioned clients including actor Don Johnson and David Litt, co-creator of “The King of Queens” television show. She currently works for Sotheby’s International Realty, Sunset Boulevard.
Alperin has settled down considerably. She lives in a spacious home a short walk from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with her husband, Jason Aizenberg, an electrical contractor. They live with their two children, Adam, 6, and Eden, 10.
Selling real estate has been her way to keep that early celebrity life alive.
“From the paparazzi-friendly house to the hip, loft-like condos to the cool spreads ... It is like match-making,” Alperin said. “It is such a sensitive thing that I sell. It’s not a diamond ring, it’s not a watch, it’s not a car, it is their home. They don’t feel safe anywhere but their home.”