The fabled Sunset Strip is about to undergo a major make-over, the first serious improvement project since the Depression era. The Strip has had a dotted existence where numerous clubs and restaurants opened with hoopla, and failing in months or thriving for decades like the lamented Cock’n Bull where reigning stars from Clark Gable to Rock Hudson sipped and supped on rare roast beef. Even a star could not get past the tie and jacket code at Ken Hanson’s exclusive Scandia.
The popular ‘neck’ of the Strip harbored celebrity clubs like Zeppo Marx’ Brass Rail and The Trocadero, succeeded by Chuck Morrison’s elaborate Mocambo; Ciro’s; Shelley’s Crescendo and, more recently, the final L.A. location of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club.
My first solid meal in the mid ‘50s on the Strip was at the Saratoga, across the boulevard from Schwab’s drug store when filmmaker David Selznick’s talent huckster Henry Willson promoted the late ‘30s notion that photogenic 16-year-old Judy (soon to be re-named Lana) Turner was discovered while sipping a soda. The future pin-up queen was actually spotted by lecherous The Hollywood Reporter publisher and Club Troc owner Billy Wilkerson at the Top Hat malt shop, kitty-cornered from Hollywood High School where the full-bodied ‘sweater girl’ was a student with few movie aspirations and no discernable acting talent. Ah, Hollywood!
The “flower child” hippie invasion all but choked out the Strip’s prestige places like Frascati’s where I’d glimpsed bandleader Ray Anthony fondling sex siren Mamie Van Doren and gazed at timeless beauty Hedy Lamarr gesturing grandly for boozy gossip columnist Louella Parsons on the outdoor dining patio. Restaurant LaRue also lost its well-heeled clientele and, viva Las Vegas, the once star-studded nitery scene has never recovered. The latest multi-million dollar funded game plan is to repair walks, smooth out time-worn street pavement and to plant greenery—all to make the Strip more inviting. Well, better late than never but glamour gulch sequels are seldom equals and the new Strip will face a monumental task to eclipse, let alone surpass, the boulevard’s remarkable past. Let’s face the music—it‘s been a long, dry spell since the hip crowd whistled and hummed the theme from “77 Sunset Strip.”
Best Foodie Footnotes Of ‘09
The sand dabs at Frank’s on W. Olive in Burbank… The tender, tasty (Thursday only) rabbit dinner at Taix on Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park… The 4-egg ham omelette and hash browns at Astro on Fletcher Drive in Silver Lake… The superb Wiener Snitzel at Maximilian’s on Weddington Street in the NoHo Arts District… the juicy Prime Ribs at Tam O’Shanter Inn on Los Feliz Blvd. in L.A.… The deluxe burger at Granville on San Fernando Rd. in Burbank… The classic Café Sierra’s seafood and prime rib buffet at the Hilton Hotel in Universal City… The breast of chicken sandwich with heaps of fried zucchini strips at Gold Star on So. Brand Blvd. in Glendale… The really complete New York steak dinner value at Gary Bric’s Ramp on Hollywood Way in Burbank… The ultimate kosher hot dog at Pink’s on La Brea Ave. in Hollywood… The Philly cheese steak on a French roll with crispy golden onion rings at IHOP (of all unlikely places). Enough bon mots of the old year, which we’re well rid of.
Bon appétit in the promising new decade!