Friday, April 10, 2009

Hollywood Brown Derby

1628 North Vine Street, Hollywood Brown Derby

Probably the most famous Hollywood restaurant, past or present, would have to be the Brown Derby. There were a chain of Brown Derby restaurants, the first and most iconic being the restaurant that opened on Wilshire Blvd in 1926 in the shape of a brown derby hat; but it was the Vine Street Brown Derby that would become the most famous.

Do to its proximity to the movie and radio studios nearby the Vine street Brown Derby became a place to see and be seen. Humphrey Bogart, Groucho Marx, Cecille B. Demille and other Hollywood legends could be seen eating here. Gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper would frequently conduct interviews in the restaurant. Leading man Clark Gable even proposed to actress Carole Lombard in booth 54. In the 1950s the Brown Derby on Vine was even featured in an episode of I Love Lucy. It was here that Lucy Ricardo accidentally covers William Holden in food after gawking at the actor from an adjacent booth.

Lucy Ricardo & William Holden @ Brown Derby from I Love Lucy

Unfortunately, all that remains of the Hollywood Brown Derby building can be seen in the photos above and below. Hollywood has seen many new businesses moving in and transforming the community. One of these new businesses is a W hotel which is currently under construction in that area just behind the last remnant of the Brown Derby building.

Last remnant of the Hollywood Brown Derby building.

Looking North on Vine Street Hollywood 1950s

Looking North on Vine Street, Hollywood 2009
Above is a picture looking north on Vine Street in Hollywood during the 1950s. On the right you can see the Brown Derby restaurant. Just below that is a picture I took recently looking north on Vine Street showing the same location as it appears today. You can see the large W hotel complex going up where the Brown Derby used to be. Right across the street from the Brown Derby restaurant was the Plaza Hotel/It Cafe site. Read more about that historic location in one of my earlier posts here.


Abe Lucas said...

Seeing what the Derby's location looks like now reminds me of so many old-time landmarks in my neck of the woods that have gone bye-bye. I guess that's what we get for loving this stuff--our hearts get broken.

On a related note, does the Century House Restaurant still exist? I believe it's part of the Century City Shopping Center. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. It's seen in the 1967 film Guide for the Married Man. The plcae looked like a pyramid, or a spaceship, depending on how many drinks one's had.

Robby Cress said...

Yeah, it's terrible to see such legendary places become nothing but rubble. Preservation in Los Angeles seems to be getting better but it has a long way to go.

As for the Century House Restaurant I'm not sure if that's around or not but I think you just gave me something new to check up on! It's been while since I've seen A Guide for the Married Man. I remember liking all the cameos.

I know the Century City Shopping Center did a major makeover around a year ago so I'm not sure what would look familiar. I'll add A Guide for the Married Man to my Netflix, then go to the plaza and report back ;)

brave girl said...

I enjoy your blog! Thanks for taking the time to share the history and updates on these wonderful memories and sites. Your posts are so descriptive it makes me feel as though I was there. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Terrrrrrific post. Always enjoyable, but this one especially hit the 'ahhh, i needed that' spot. (it's also my considered opinion that episode of Lucy with William Holden is THE FUNNIEST EVER.)

Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl said...

I love reading about the Brown Derby. I have a whole book about it. Sad it was destroyed. Such historic places need to be saved! Thanks for posting, Robby

Ted Otis said...

Your photo (above) with the caption "Last remnant of the Hollywood Brown Derby building.".. is incorrect and is actually a photo of a building about 30 yards north of the the Hollywood Brown Derby. That 'Derby' was entirely demolished after the '94 Northridge quake. The building you point out has a similar roofline and was involved in a long (and successful) battle to prevent it's demolition for the W Hotel complex. Instead it's now been incorporated into the complex.

Gregory in San Diego said...

Looks like they altered the original building quite a bit, comparing the old picture with the new...

shigoy said...

Hello.. does anyone know what happened to the original Nicholas Volpe collection that was at this Brown Derby.. thanks


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