Up Among the Stars

Hollywood Brown Derby

Hollywood Brown Derby

He was the only sci-fi writer with his caricature on the walls of the Hollywood Brown Derby. Name him.

The answer follows the jump.

Brown Derby at Wilshire & Alexandria.

Brown Derby at Wilshire & Alexandria.

Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant is the place William Holden got hit with a pie in an I Love Lucy episode — and may be better remembered today for that than as a tourist magnet, having been torn down to make room for a minimall decades ago.

Out-of-towners went there hoping to see a star in person – an expectation heightened by walls full of caricatures of celebrity customers drawn by Jack Lane.

Young Ray Bradbury liked to loaf at the famous Brown Derby restaurant, though bought his meals at Hugo’s Hot Dog Stand across the street.

When he became a successful screen, tv and fiction writer, however, Jack Lane added his image to the collection.

Ray Bradbury by Jack Lane.

Ray Bradbury by Jack Lane.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

13 thoughts on “Up Among the Stars

  1. The Brown Derby picture is that one the original one on Wilshire Blvd.

  2. The concrete “hat”, with jagged pieces of wall still attached underneath, sat on the grass across Wilshire Blvd. from the Ambassador Hotel for several years. Two important landmarks gone with no concern for their importance in the history of Los Angeles social, architectural, film — or even fannish — history.

  3. Come on you guys, give me some credit for fact-checking my post (well, at least looking up the Wikipedia article about the Brown Derby.) As John is aware, there were THREE Brown Derby restaurants in LA at one time — Hollywood, Wilshire and Los Feliz. The photo above is the Hollywood Brown Derby. The hat on Wilshire Blvd. that David talks about was from the Brown Derby’s Wilshire location and still exists, having been incorporated into the shopping development on the old Wilshire site.

    And for extra credit — The Derby is an unrelated restaurant in Arcadia founded by jockey George Woolf. It’s still in business.

  4. They may be gone, but we can still revisit the memory in “Cats Don’t Dance.”

  5. Perhaps Wikipedia is confused, or perhaps I am. Neither would be unusual. The Wikipedia article appears to say that only the Wilshire location was shaped like a hat, yet the photo that Mike reprints, which Wikipedia labels as the Hollywood location, also has a hat shape. But another photo of the Hollywood location on Wikipedia has no visible hat.

  6. I found some more photographs that seem to answer the question — Here. It looks like only the Wilshire location had a dome and only the Wilshire one also had an architectural piece at ground level mimicking the hatbrim. The Hollywood had a sign shaped like a derby, but otherwise looked like a regular building. Why the Wikipedia photo of the Hollywood location has a dome requires further research — but it’s obviously not the same place as the Wilshire location. A mystery.

  7. Geoff: Well, that was less than genius on my part… *blush* Of course, the answer of Bradbury probably didn’t take too many readers of this blog by surprise because we’ve run a lot of items about him and his Hollywood history.

  8. It’s official. The color photo was the original on Wilshire. After studying it enlarged I realized a bit of the brim is visible. The Hollywood edition of the Brown Derby was housed in a normal building.

    As if the Wikipedia didn’t make this tricky enough, Disneyworld has a Brown Derby reproduction and it’s easy to find lots of beautiful color pics of that which look like they were made with the help of a technicolor time machine.

  9. I didn’t know there were three Brown Derbys — and I confess I had presumed the Derby across from the Ambassador Hotel site was gone since it’s been 28 years since I was last in Los Angeles. That’s what I get for talking through my /d/e/r/b/y/ hat. I’m glad that piece of Weird Los Angeles Architecture still exists.

  10. There’s the Gervis Brown Derby chain in the Cleveland region, where I grew up, but I have no idea if there’s any relation to the California restaurants or if Gervis simply borrowed the name.

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