Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Brown Derby Days

Pat already did an excellent write up at this past Saturday's Southern California Restaurant Historical Society meeting, but I wanted to write a brief blurb as well.

I arrived in time to hear Rebecca Goldman give a thorough recount of the Save the Derby group's successful journey to save the last remaining one-time Derby home, at Los Feliz and Hillhurst (now home to the Derby nightclub and Louise's).

The event, which attracted a crowd of at least 50, probably more, was held at the now-saved Derby. Also giving speeches were former Ambassador Hotel publicist Margaret Burk, who recounted the famed Derby-shaped Brown Derby across from the hotel (now home to a strip mall, with remnants of the derby building on the second floor); Mark Willems, who wrote the book "The Brown Derby Restaurant; LA Observed's Kevin Roderick, who provided more historical background (including details of the phantom Brown Derby that lasted a year at the site that would become Perino's); and DJ and voice over artist extraordinaire Gary Owens, a class act who dined so frequently with fellow celebs at the Brown Derby that he had plenty of stories to tell.

Then there was Brown Derby caricaturist Jack Lane -- who's still a bundle of energy even in what must be his 80s -- sharing stories about the celeb faces he once sketched for the walls. In one story, he told of a hard roll food fight that Lucille Ball started in the dining room. He also said that he'd sketch each celeb on pad with a grease pencil; he'd then go back and re-do the drawing in ink. He saved every single one of those grease pencil sketches, and still has files full of drawings that would likely be worth a fortune.

Organizers also put together a video of film, TV and even animated works featuring the Brown Derby (both shot at the restaurant and re-created on soundstage); and passed out the original Cobb Salad recipe, as well as slices of the restaurant's famous grapefruit cake. Alas, I had to leave before grabbing a bite of the cake. Thanks to LA Time Machines for inviting me to the event; check their site for future meetings.

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