I’m currently house-sitting for some friends, and there are so many interesting things here! My friends are both designers–one a graphic designer and photographer (specializing in architecture), the other a theater costume designer. The more I’ve taken in their home with all its curios, the more postcards have popped out! If you don’t know of this legendary establishment, allow me to fill you in. The film industry’s original clubhouse, nothing changes at Musso’s. Have a martini at the mahogany bar just like Bogart, Bacall and Dashielle Hammett. Go for a breakfast of flannel cakes and coffee like Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper. The only thing you can’t do anymore is Charlie Chaplin’s usual: He’d challenge Douglas Fairbanks to a horse race down Hollywood Boulevard, and whoever lost had to buy lunch at Musso’s for the both of them, and probably Mary Pickford and Rudolf Valentino too. (Chaplin would win and order roast lamb kidneys.) John Barrymore, Groucho Marx, Rita Hayworth, and Jimmy Stewart were regulars as well.
Business deals went down over the first pay phone installed in Hollywood there, and in 1934, Musso’s opened a back room to give famous customers some privacy. With the Screen Writers Guild across the street, Raymond Chandler wrote part of The Big Sleepin the Back Room, while William Faulkner got so chummy with the bartenders there, they’d let him mix his own mint juleps. It’s also where Faulkner met his lover, Meta Carpenter Wilde. F. Scott Fitzgerald would sit in a booth proofreading his literary works, while T.S. Elliot, William Sorayan, Aldous Huxley, Max Brand, John Steinbeck, John O’Hara and Dorothy Parker made their home at the bar. Later, the Back Room was in heavy use by Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Elizabeth Taylor, and Steve McQueen. After the Back Room closed and the New Room opened in 1955, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski became the new artists in residence, so to speak.
With its long history, Musso and Frank’s was a favorite spot of Grandma Snail’s. In recent years, she and “the girls”–her friends from L.A.’s Le Conte Junior High in the 1930s–would go out for their birthdays, the rule being that the restaurant they chose had to be older than they were! Musso’s was a natural.
Order the pork chops like Grandma Snail in order to win an approving nod from the frowning waiter in the red blazer that matches the leather booth. Order a salad to share with the dressing on the side–is that mayonnaise based?–like my paternal grandparents, and watch the old waiter roll his eyes. The first time I ordered Grandpa Snail’s favorite, the wizened waiter played dumb, asking, “Just macaroni?” You have to be proper and say “and cheese.”
Doesn’t this look like a painting? Beautiful!
A renowned fashion photographer, you may not know Demarchelier’s name or face, but you know his work.Unless it’s a different one, The Collins School of Cosmetology is still doing do-s in Middlesboro, Kentucky.Over the next few days, I’ll be exploring my friends’ collection of postcard books, so be sure and check back soon!