The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Century Plaza Hotel won’t be falling to the wrecker’s ball. Martha Groves writes that the hotel’s owner and preservationists have cut a deal to save the historic hotel-
“As of now, plans call for “sensitive rehabilitation” of the hotel to preserve 400 hotel rooms while converting those on the top floors to 45 condos. Meeting space would be reduced, and a slightly smaller ballroom would replace the existing one. The developer plans to propose other buildings on the site to the rear and/or sides of the hotel and a low-scale structure with some retail shops or restaurants to enliven the front of the hotel.” -LA Times
It’s a hopeful sign that another piece of older Los Angeles is being saved. It’s wonderful for a place to have a sense of history and tradition. Fact is, the city has a lot going for it even with the apparent ongoing push by developers to tear things down. We still have Olvera Street, Hollywood and its famous sign, Broadway and the old downtown area, LA City Hall, Pantages and the other vaudeville/movie palaces, Musso and Frank Grill, the Original Pantry, Philippe’s, Pink’s, the old Herald Examiner building, Chinatown, the old downtown post office, Union Station and now the Century Plaza. Too bad the original Schwab’s, Chasen’s and Bob Cobb’s old Brown Derby are all gone.
photo: ron olsen/workingreporter.com
Schwab’s Pharmacy, was located at 8024 Sunset Boulevard. In a case of art imitating reality, the pharmacy was used as a location for the classic film “Sunset Boulevard.” In reality, its lunch counter was a popular hangout for young actors. It is also the legendary spot where “sweater girl” Lana Turner is said to have been discovered. That may or may not be true. Another version has Turner being discovered by the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter at the Top Hat Cafe on the southeast corner of Sunset and McCadden Place. The publisher referred her to Zeppo Marx, and from there….well, she was off to the races. Or so the story goes.
As is sometimes the case in Hollywood, the truth slips through the cracks as the image becomes reality. Consequently, I’m not sure where Lana Turner was discovered. I do know it was a popular pharmacy for the movie set, many of whom lived in the hills nearby. They liked Schwab’s because the pharmacy had a delivery service which eliminated the need for the rich and famous to show up in person or send someone in to pick up their prescriptions. That’s the straight scoop from the people who worked there. I know, because I was there on October 22, 1983, the day Schwab’s closed its doors for the last time. I was doing the story for KABC-TV. I snapped the photo above just before they locked the doors and went home. Five years later, Schwab’s was demolished.
Chasen’s (Beverly Hills) was opened in 1936 by vaudevillian Dave Chasen on the advice of his friend Frank Capra and was called “Chasen’s Southern Pit.” “New Yorker” Editor Harold Ross helped finance the operation. “It was nothing more than a shack, but quickly became well known for its chili and was soon a favorite among Hollywood actors at the time. At first, Capra had to loan Chasen his silverware for the restaurant’s operation. Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Clark Gable, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were customers.” -Wikipedia
I’ve read that Alfred Hitchcock had his own booth.
As for the Derby, legend has it that Bob Cobb, a first cousin to baseball great Ty Cobb, invented the “Cobb Salad” for his diet conscious superstar clientele. LA has a lot to offer, you just have to dig a little. While the digging continues, it might be nice if our City leaders could think a little more about renovation as opposed to annihilation. Just a thought.
photo: chalmers butterfield
(Trivia note: Brown Derby founder Bob Cobb, should not be confused with the maestro by the same name of “Seinfeld” fame. Also, I realize there are other noteworthy spots in the city and surrounding area. Feel free to add to the list by clicking on “leave a comment.”)