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I've always said that London and New York are cities of monuments, but LA is a city of ghosts. There are few plaques or statues to note the important places of the cities past, even while it is rapturously studied by fans the world over. The destruction of the Brown Derby inspired me to join Hollywood Heritage and the LA Conservancy to try and stop, or at least slow down the egregious despoiling of Los Angeles' few remaining historical sites.

Back in 1982, when Eric Goldberg and I were working in downtown Hollywood on an ABC special called Ziggy's Gift, we sometimes had lunch at a broken down old bar on Cherokee off Hollywood Blvd called BOARDNERS'. The food was passable but cheap, and it exuded a seedy Charles Bukowski ambiance. (it turned out the great barfly poet did drink there.) We noticed there were even posters and artwork up from old animation studios.

This week Jason Tucker, an editor friend of mine I met whilst working for the venerable Brothers Warner, sent me this interesting article about this last of the old Hollywood Watering Holes. It is by Mike Mikulan for the LA Weekly, and portions are reprinted here with their kind permission.

You can get the full article with much more info about Boardners and neighboring Italian restaurant Miceli's by going to

Seven blocks west of Vine, the embers of Hollywood nightlife still glow at Boardner's, a snug little bar that has survived nearly every act of man and nature to become one of the town's unsung monuments to endurance.

It's been claimed, for example, that this was the last bar where Elizabeth Short drank before she stepped into the night and became the Black Dahlia; that an owner bailed out longtime customer Robert Mitchum after his famous 1947 pot bust; that a bartender once nailed the men's room door shut on an inebriated friend; that a ghost has been seen in the tiny women's room.

These and a thousand other tales, verifiable and fabulous alike, make up the Boardner's mythos. What's undisputed are the spare engineering details of its 1927 birth, noted in the hurried longhand of city building inspectors. The bar lies at the Cherokee Avenue foot of a two-story, 122-by-76-foot L-shaped structure that hinges the avenue with Hollywood Boulevard. Designed by Norman Alpaugh, the architect responsible for L.A.'s Sheraton Townhouse and Santa Monica's Elmiro Theater, the building bears some appealing Moorish flourishes carved above a series of narrow shops with deep-set show windows; the Moroccan theme continues on the back patio, with a cruciform, tiled fountain upon which William Powell once posed with some showgirls for a clothing-store promotion.

In 1948 Steve Boardner bought the property and opened his named bar.
It became a golden age for Boardner, a time when former Tommy Dorsey singer Jack Leonard (Scotch and water) would regularly drop in, as would Errol Flynn (beer), and members of Xavier Cugat's band after playing at their boss' club. Another big presence was Boardner's longtime friend, the singer and bandleader Phil Harris (coffee and anisette), whose routine was to say goodbye to his wife, Alice Faye, after the two dined at Musso & Frank, then head over to Boardner's for a rendezvous with his mistress. One day in 1946, regulars W.C. Fields and Wallace Beery were seated in a booth and ordered Coca-Colas. "Coke?" Steve joked. "Why, that stuff'll kill you." Within the year Fields would be dead. (Mikulan proceeds in the article to interview Boardner, now retired in Palm Springs).

STEVE BOARDNER TICKS OFF A roster of long-vanished boulevard bars as though they were still open: "Pickwick Books used to be a bar and restaurant called the Circle, where Lena Horne got started," he says, unaware that even the famed bookstore is now a distant memory. "Bob Perry's Brass Rail, on Vine and Hollywood, had singing waiters and sawdust on the floor. There was a place on Las Palmas called the Swing Club. You'd rap on the door and they'd let you in. It got changed to the 1710 Club and was only open after-hours. The Iron Horse in the Valley was where Gene Autry used to go to get his martini before breakfast. Yes, he was a pretty good rounder."

No-budget director Ed Wood (Scotch and water) was a Boardner's regular, as was Gilligan's Island's Alan Hale Jr. (double Jack Daniels). And athletes, great and obscure, retired and active, still made pilgrimages. Mickey Mantle (bourbon and ginger ale) once dropped in, as did Joe DiMaggio. But eventually the bar, like Hollywood itself, began to lose its luster.

Depending on who you speak to, Hollywood's nightlife was killed by "hippies" and panhandlers who scared away foot traffic, or by the proliferation of topless bars and porn shops, as well as by the presence of more desirable restaurants in Beverly Hills and La Cienega Boulevard's Restaurant Row. Steve began closing the bar down earlier and earlier, until it never stayed open past 10 o'clock.
He sold Boardners and retired in 1980.

1652 Cherokee is continually rediscovered, and it has become a favorite place to hold wrap parties and to shoot films. (Ed Wood, L.A. Confidential and Beverly Hills, 90210 are among many movies and shows filmed here.) Ed Wood’s original home was down the street on the corner of Cherokee & Selma. Boardners now has it's own website.

The animation connection is the artists of Hanna & Barbera used to come there in 1959-61 when H&B was still a little Hollywood storefront. When Eric and I were therein 82 the walls in the back were covered with production charts and posters from past animation houses like Quartet (Charlie Tuna) Playhouse( Tony the Tiger), UPA (Mr Magoo),and Snowball (Beany & Cecil). And the aforementioned Phil Harris of course was the voice for Walt Disney's Baloo, O'Malley and Little John.

Future owners interested in the place pledge to restore it to it's former glory, but I kinda hope it stays the way it is, gritty, a bit seedy, but steeped in the atmosphere of Old Hollywood. Like a James Ellroy or Dashell Hammett mystery come to life.

Quiz: Why is a nickname for someone’s face a mug? Like you ugly mug?

Answer to yesterday’s Quiz below: Why are white people called Caucasian?
HISTORY FOR 11/24/2007
Birthdays: Benedict Spinoza, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Scott Joplin, President Zachary Taylor “Old Rough & Ready”, William F. Buckley, John Lindsay, Dale Carnegie- author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carrie Nation, Dick Powell, Garson Kanin, Cass Gilbert-the architect of the first skyscraper, Steve Yeager, Denise Crosby, Billy Connolly is 65

800 AD- Charlemagne or Charles the Great, the King of the Franks ( France), arrived in Rome to spend the Christmas season with his old pal Pope Leo III. At the Christmas service Leo would crown Charles Emperor of the Romans.The name Romans was symbolic, since the Roman Empire had long since disappeared.

1221- The Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan destroy the army of Persian Shah Mohammed II in the Indus Valley in present northwestern Pakistan.

1859- Charles Darwin published the Origin of the Species.

1904- Alfred Steiglitz and William Steichen opened 291, the first art gallery dedicated exclusively to the art of photography.

1909- THE UPRISING OF THE TWENTY THOUSAND. Mary 'Mother' Jones led three fifths of the immigrant garment workers of New York out on strike to demand better conditions and recognition of their union, the ILGWU. Several Golden 400 socialites would meet the strikers at the old Water Tower in Greenwich Village to dispense food and day care. One of them was Betsy Morgan the youngest daughter of J.P. Morgan who was also involved in a lesbian love affair with designer Elzie DeWolfe….that must have helped her old man's blood pressure.!

1922- Irish writer Robert Erskine Childers was put up against the wall and shot by firing squad. Erskine Childers was the writer of the Riddle of the Sands, one of the first true spy novels, but he was also a leader of the IRA and after Irelands Treaty with Britain he sided with Eamon de Valera and the anti-treaty rebels in the Irish Civil War. Erskine Childers was executed by an Irish Army firing squad. His son became President of Ireland in 1973.

1933- The RKO movie Flying Down to Rio, the first pairing of the famous dance team Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

1937- The Andrew Sisters record their Boogie-Woogie version of the German song “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”.

1938- LENI DOES TINSELTOWN -Hitler's top filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl arrived in Hollywood to meet the film community and show off her new film 'Olympia". Nazis charges de’ affaires in L.A. Gerhard Gyssling had bragged to the press that all Hollywood was dying to meet Germany’s top film artist. But Hollywood had different ideas. Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, Fox and Goldwyn refused to speak to her and picketers hounded her every step. Well known Conservatives like Louis B. Mayer and Gary Cooper were polite but begged off the bad publicity. The only studio heads who would meet Leni Reifenstahl were Hal Roach and Walt Disney. Uncle Walt gave her a tour of the studio but begged off running her film, saying the IATSE union projectionist would make trouble. ( uh-huh....) Years later Disney said he didn't really know who she was. ( uh-huh..)

I recently talked to LA Historian Robert Nudelman who interviewed Reifenstahl shortly before she died at age 101. She told him that the reason Walt wanted to meet her was not about politics, but that he was still annoyed that his film Snow White lost out to her at the Venice Film Festival. He wanted to see it to know why.

1941- After suffering a strike and declining revenue because of the war in Europe Walt Disney’s studio was in trouble. Disney animator Ward Kimball noted in his diary for this day: “ 100 layoffs announced. Studio personnel from 1600 down to a Hyperion level of 300. Geez, It this the writing on the wall?” Disney saved itself with doing Defense films for the Army. After limping through the 1940’s with the release of Cinderella in 1949 Walt Disney was back on top..

1947-SIXTY YEARS AGO- THE WALDORF DECLARATION, THE START OF THE HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST- 50 Hollywood moguls like Harry Cohn, Jack Warner and Dori Charey meet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to formulate a group response to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee anti-commie hearings that were targeting Hollywood. Besides the heat from the feds their stockholders were clamoring for them to get the Reds out! They agreed to enforce an industry-wide blacklisting of anyone refusing to cooperate with the HUAC Committee. Nothing was ever officially written down or published, if you were blacklisted you suddenly were unable to find any work.
Eric Johnston, spokesman for the Motion Pictures Assoc. said on this day: "As long as I live, I will never be party ot anything as unAmerican as a blacklist!”.
Two days later on Nov. 26th he said: " We will forthwith discharge and never again knowingly employ a Communist. Loyalty oaths for the Entertainment Industry are now compulsory." Many Hollywood artists signed Communist Party cards in the 1930's when it was chic' to be lefty and the Communists were the only open opponents of segregation and Hitler. One screenwriters’ excuse was CP parties had the prettiest girls. Out of an estimated 15,000 entertainment workers only around 300 were ever actually proven to be Communists. Famous blacklist victims included Zero Mostel, Lillian Hellman, Lloyd Bridges, Dashell Hammett, Gale Sondergaard, Edward G. Robinson, Sterling Hayden & Dalton Trumbo. Sidney Poitier was blacklisted for no other reason than he was friends with black activist-actor Canada Lee; 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' composer Yip Harburg was blacklisted for writing a song: 'You Gotta Friend Named Joe" which the committee took to mean Russian dictator Josef Stalin.

1948- Hib Johnson, the President of Johnson's Wax had just moved into a home designed for him by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Called Wingspread, it was considered the culmination of Wrights prairie style. But there was a problem. Johnson called Frank Lloyd Wright to complain that the roof was leaking rainwater onto his Thanksgiving dinner! The water was leaking right on Hib's head as he sat at the head of the table. He refused to budge, had the phone cord stretched so he could make the
call, and spoke to Wright with the drops splashing off his bald tome. What was Wright’s response? " So move the table..."

1950- The musical Guys & Dolls opened. “ I got da horse right here, his name is Paul Revere, I know a jock who tells me Never Fear, Can Do- Can Do..The Jock sez da horse can –do ”

1958- The musical film Gigi opened, music by Lerner & Lowe. Based on the writings of French author Collette, Collette herself had insisted young unknown Dutch actress Audrey Hepburn play the lead.

1963- To complete the surreal drama that shocked America into the Sixties, JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is shot on nationwide T.V. by smalltime gangster Jack Ruby. He is taken to the same hospital and has the same doctors as Kennedy but still dies. Ruby, real name Jacob Rubenstein, always hung around the Dallas police station so no one thought it was unusual to see him around.

1968- Hey Jude by the Beatles topped the pop charts while Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man headed the Country & Western listing.

1976- The Band announced at the Winterland in San Francisco that this was their last concert.

Yesterday’s Question: Why are white people called Caucasian?

Answer: In the slave markets of ancient Greece and Rome, the slaves from the Caucasus Mountains on the eastern coast of the Black Sea were valued for their physical condition. The men were exceptionally handsome and the women renowned for their beauty. When shopping for slaves a typical order would be :” Give men two Germans, a Nubian, a Greek tutor, and a few Caucasians…”