The recent closing of the coffee shop affectionately known as Big Gay Starbucks has inspired numerous comments, both from those who lamented the loss of a favorite gathering place and others who saw the Santa Monica Blvd. business as just another place to drink overpriced coffee.
While I never patronized this particular establishment, I sympathize with those who mourn the loss of another beloved neighborhood hangout. Over the years, there have been several places in the WeHo area that became known as comfortable, welcoming spots to spend time with old friends and meet new ones.
When I first moved to West Hollywood in the early 70s, a group of underemployed actors were regular fixtures at the end of Schwab’s lunch counter, where they drank endless cups of coffee and read the showbiz trades without paying for them. These were actors who never got famous but could be seen in a wide variety of small parts. In later years I would see an actor doing a few lines on TV or in a movie and think, “That’s Mario from Schwab’s!”
Schwab’s had a long history as a gathering place for aspiring movie types. In the classic 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard” writer Joe Gillis called the pharmacy a “combination office, Kaffeeklatsch and waiting room” years before we ever heard of Starbucks.
Another popular hang for young actors and writers was Coffee Dan’s on Hollywood Blvd. at Highland. Open 24 hours, this diner was especially popular with hard-drinking actors trying to sober up after the bars closed. In the 50s, young stars like James Dean, Dennis Hopper and Steve McQueen made Googie’s on Sunset next to Schwab’s their home away from home.
Ben Frank’s on Sunset was popular with the music crowd in the 60s, to the point that the Hollywood Reporter ad recruiting the TV group the Monkees specified “want spirited Ben Frank’s types.” This diner was conveniently located close to recording studios and also open 24/7. Another longtime favorite for grabbing an early breakfast after the clubs on the Strip are closed is Canter’s on Fairfax, whose most regular regular is unofficial Mayor of the Sunset Strip Rodney Bingenheimer, who can be found holding court there almost every night.
After Schwab’s closed in the 80s the acting crowd migrated to the nearby Theodore coffee shop on Santa Monica Blvd. where the mostly male coterie was joined by female actors like Shelley Winters and Sally Kirkland. Theodore later became the Silver Spoon, an even more famous hangout for thespians. Alas, the Silver Spoon closed on New Year’s Eve of 2011 and was replaced by the more upscale restaurant Connie and Ted’s.
While some non-creative types may dismiss hanging out with your friends as a waste of time, I have to wonder how many scripts, collaborations and star-making roles got their genesis at Schwab’s, Coffee Dan’s or the Silver Spoon. Creative minds need a place to congregate with other creative minds so I hope there are still places where the current generation of actors, writers and musicians can meet over a cup of coffee.
So what was your favorite hangout? Has social media replaced the corner coffee shop? Where are WeHo’s best hangs today?
I miss the Yukon Mining Company
Everything West Hollywood was about and stood for was sold off by corrupt city council. Once affordable and charming place to live is now overly expensive and riddled with crime. Common sense tell you that the more clubs and bars, the more crime, and you want to reduce the sheriff department staff? Good luck with that. Everything that made Weho awesome has been replaced.
You’re fault for staying there. That frog’s pot boiled over long ago. Your denial simply resulted in you’re not noticing it. The saying “this is not the world you were born into” is apt here. Ya’ll keep pining for the old days now long dust in the wind. WeHo died a long, painful death over the years. Many years. Ago. Only to be replaced by the morass that can only be referred to as “SHE-HO”. Look around you. All you have is your memories. Everything else (as usual) is tantamount to hallucinations of days long (so long) ago gone by.… Read more »
There used to be this awesome tea house with a beautiful back garden that was a favorite hangout of mine. Does anybody remember its name? It was on Melrose–I think in roughly the spot where Restoration Hardward or DWR is today.
Yes, elixir. I loved that place. absolutely loved it.
Linda, I absolutely love your stories.
A dying town with more than enough hotels and strataspheric condos but no “there” there.
I miss the French Market…and the Silver Spoon…and more recently, bemoan the loss of Greenblatt’s.
I just want the Coffee Bean at Beverly & Robertson back.
The books Sunset & Vine: Loose Lips by Per Hampton is a fun fictional take on Schwabs with the lead character, waitress Dotty Henderson at the heart of it all. A book series that morphs into serious stuff by the second book, Force of Destiny.
Let’s not forget Numbers on Sunset, La Fabula, Marix, and The Greenery!!
Instead of trying to be fabulous, we chose to have fun! We met people, hooked up and had fun. All without a cell phone to constantly look at rather than interacting.
The French Market was a huge hang-out, particularly during the City’s incorporation campaign where different factions would be seated at different tables. Shelly Winters held court at the Silver Spoon where Gloria was my favorite waitress. Dukes was another classic cafe, located in the Ramada. Ed’s Cafe on Robertson was a great place to get chirizo con hueavos. But the greatest loss was the closure of 24 Hour Fitness; I still feel socially adrift.
I remember the original Duke’s, back in the 70s. They delivered and had dozens of egg dishes, probably aimed at the musicians staying at the Tropicana who stayed up all night.
How ’bout some back stories at 24 Hour, Steve? Who hung out there? I seem to remember it being Sports Connection at one time and they had a nude sundeck.
The French Market is at the top of my list, along with Circus of Books and Gold Coast. Unfortunately, this kind of camp and fun is fading away from our lives. Everything needs to be polished, and “luxe” (can’t stand that bourgeois word). In general, everyone takes themselves too seriously these days. I’d also like a moment of silence for all of the bathhouses, adult bookstores and arcades that have closed. I was probably in the last generation that was able to enjoy these. It wasn’t always about the sex, sometimes it was about conversation and meeting people without handing… Read more »
I agree with you on the current plague of “luxe”. It’s like we’ve been invaded by the stuck-up snobs we didn’t like in HS.