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Issue: Issue Summer 2001

The Stars Return to Hollywood


As trendsetters revitalize Hollywood, celebrities and locals alike head to dozens of venues sprouting up in the district. But not all of these hot spots are recent additions to the neighborhood. In fact, some of the newest places to be in Hollywood are also the oldest.

When they head to Hollywood Boulevard for a night on the town, the patrons of local clubs and restaurants are often re-enacting moments from decades before. However, instead of spotting Carol Lombard or Humphrey Bogart, visitors can now rub elbows with the likes of Brad Pitt, Drew Barrymore, or Russell Crowe.

The Year of the Pig

Designed by the same architects responsible for the El Capitan and Wiltern Theatres, when it opened its doors next to the Egyptian Theatre in 1927, the Pig ‘n Whistle became the first family restaurant in Hollywood. It featured pipe organ music. Celebrity regulars then included Loretta Young, Barbara Stanwyck, Spencer Tracy, Howard Hughes, and Shirley Temple.

The restaurant remained vacant for decades. “For years on Hollywood Boulevard, there was a pizza joint where the Pig ‘n Whistle was, and one could see the little pigs under the paint because they were part of the masonry. I always wondered what it must have been like 50 years ago, and this year I wondered no more. Someone with a dream restored it,” explains Kevin Notre, Hollywood resident.

That person with a dream was Chris Breed, creator of the successful L.A. clubs, the Roxbury and Sunset Room. He purchased the building and spent two years restoring it. After extensive work based on historic photos, the restaurant re-opened in March 2001.

But more had changed than the pipe organ and the guest list. The Blue Room in the back of the restaurant is part of a new trend where patrons can eat and drink on one of a handful of beds. Those who have sampled the restaurant’s traditional American fare include Tobey McGuire, Bill Pullman, and Kevin Costner.

“Walking through its doors is like entering Hollywood’s past and present in one step because the place looks like it never left — or did it? I couldn’t help but notice that the menu stated, ‘Established 1927,’” observes Notre.

Some see this renovation as the beginning of a new golden age for Hollywood nightlife. “Upscale nightclub and restaurant owners here are attracted to Hollywood because of its authentic urban environment,” notes Marlene Sharp, local actor/producer.

“Hollywood is different from most trendy places in L.A. because it is a more inclusive mix of different ethnic and economic groups, locals and tourists, young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor. This neighborhood might be considered Times Square's younger sibling,” explains Don Korotsky, Hollywood resident.

Old School Charm

Across the street from the Pig ‘n Whistle, Hollywood visitors will see Musso & Frank’s Grill, the grandfather of Hollywood hangouts. Open since 1919, Musso & Frank’s continues to serve its famed martinis and hearty fare. Its proximity to the studios has made it a Hollywood institution. Columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons conducted interviews here. Through the years, celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, C.B. DeMille, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Merv Griffin and Raymond Burr have all walked through the doors.

“Here, grey-haired waiters in white shirts and ties take you back to a Hollywood long gone. If you like martinis, this is a required stop,” advises Velvet Pearson, area resident.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Only steps away from Musso & Frank’s, Boardner’s opened its doors to the public in 1942. It has been a part of Hollywood — both the place and the myth — ever since. Described as “one of the town’s unsung monuments to endurance” and “a neighborhood bar in a town without neighborhoods” by journalist Steven Mikulan.

Through the years, customers have included Errol Flynn, W.C. Fields, Robert Mitchum, and Ed Wood. The bar has also been featured in films such as L.A. Confidential, Ed Wood, and Leaving Las Vegas.

Yet, Boardner’s offers trendiness as well as tradition; menu items range from meatloaf to brie quesadillas. On any given night, celebrities hiding in dark corners with their friends might include Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, Slash, Courtney Love, Keifer Sutherland, and Bela Lugosi, Jr.

Owner Tricia La Belle explains, “Boardner’s is a place for the who’s who and the who cares, but we all know your name!”

A Palace By Any Other Name

Just north of Hollywood and Vine, visitors will find the Palace. Since 1927, this club has served as a venue for popular entertainment throughout every era in Hollywood. Born as the Hollywood Playhouse, it featured live theatre in the 30s. As the El Capitan Theatre in the 40s, it housed the CBS Radio Network. In the 50s, it hosted television shows , such as “This is Your Life,’ “The Bob Hope Chesterfield Specials,” “Queen for a Day,” and “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”

In the 60s, it was renamed the Jerry Lewis Theatre and featured the comedian’s weekly ABC weekly show nd Judy Garland’s legendary specials. It then became The Hollywood Palace and housed the ABC variety show of the same name. In the 70s, it featured other shows, including the Merv Griffith Show. Renamed the Palace, it opened its doors in 1982 and welcomed Duran Duran, Culture Club, Eurythmics, Madness, as well as established performers like Tina Turner, Prince and the Rolling Stones. In the 90s, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Beastie Boys played here.

“For years, the Palace has been one of Southern California’s most important music venues, attracting some of the best acts in the world. Many of my favorite concerts have been at the Palace, and I can’t imagine Hollywood without it,” says Hollywood musician Stone Grether.

Still Swinging

The club honoring a grand Hollywood tradition, was opened in 1993 and has become a favorite of dancers throught the L.A. area. Made famous by the 1996 film, Swingers, the Derby offers free dance lessons (mambo, swing, and the Lindy Hop) on alternating nights. Celebrity regulars include George Clooney and Ed Norton.

Travel east for another great club, the Derby. The history of the Derby is complicated by the fact that there was more than one – sources cannot agree whether there were two, four, or five of them. Various accounts also credit C. B. DeMille and/or the husband of Gloria Swanson with starting the establishment in 1926. But we do know that Hollywood favorites gathered at the Derby in Los Feliz from 1940 to 1960. For the next 32 years, the building was home to the restaurant Michael’s Los Feliz.

The Derby also features an ornate oval bar that was used in Mildred Pierce, the 1945 film known for Joan Crawford’s immortal line: "People have to drink somewhere. Why not here?"

Historical Appeal

While many urban areas throughout the country are being revitalized, the restoration of Hollywood marks a return to a very distinct and very famous past. Its club and restaurant scene is flourishing with a new generation of hot spots springing up along Cahuenga Blvd.

Although the city’s image may be built on the newest and latest in popular culture, this return to Hollywood’s past appeals to both visitors and residents. “I think the feel of something classic, an actual ‘piece’ of Hollywood is not only what tourists want, but also what the locals want, too,” states LaBelle.

According to Charlie Brown, resident and freelance writer, “There is so little permanence to Los Angeles that hanging in Hollywood feels like being part of a tradition. Most of the historic spots connect the old glamour of Hollywood to the current hipness. And when you walk around and see the names of your heroes embossed on the sidewalk, it just highlights the whole reason to live in Hollywood.”