Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sometimes Vintage Bars Really ARE Vintage

Marbella, JazzMatazz, Bar Chloe, The Kress. . . these and other retro bars were featured in a Friday the 13th article in the Los Angeles Times about . . . well, retro bars. Specifically, pre-WWII retro bars, as well as bars that have theme nights--like the upcoming December 5th Repeal Day. Lots of lounges will celebrate the 76th anniversary of the end of Prohibition on that day with costumes and vintage drinks.

Some of these retro venues, though, have a legitimate claim to history. One that caught my attention--mainly because of the Times' gorgeous photographs--is the Marbella, which was once the Montmartre Cafe on Hollywood Blvd. between Highland and McCadden. The picture to the right is not dated, but the one below, showing the interior, was taken in 1930. (both were found at the LA Library's online collection).

Eddie Brandstatter opened the Montmartre Cafe in early 1923, and a year later celebrated its first anniversary with a gala event and over 150 film and stage stars. Vince Rose led the Montmartre Band in those days (Mel Pedesky filled in when Vince and the band toured), and every Wednesday was Bohemian night--all the artistes, musicians, and actors visited to see vaudeville dance acts. "Flapper Night" on Fridays brought the tourists in--later, Friday nights were dedicated to screenwriters. Brandstatter even printed in his ads: "SEE--colorful Hollywood nite life with the movie stars at play."

Here's a July 25 list of the films stars who'd made reservations for the cafe that night (yes, they announced them in advance): Dorothy Devore, Vola Vale, Shannon Day, June Marlowe, Lois Wilson, Helen Lynch, Viola Dana, Lefty Flynn, Rex Lease, Alice Day, Edna Mae Cooper, Cocille Evans, William Eugene and Tom Moore. Alice Calhoun was to give away the dance trophy to the contest winners.

Only a few weeks later, though, the police raided the Montmartre and other watering holes of the film set--remember, this was during Prohibition. The police found no liquor and only two people were arrested. Pola Negri and Ernst Lubitsch were honored guests a few nights later.

It really was the hot spot of the day, but by 1932, Eddie Brandstetter hit hard times. The Montmartre Cafe was auctioned off to pay his bills, and he stood trial for grand theft--accused of making off with the drapes, artwork, and even a marble nude statue that had once adorned his cafe. He was found guilty on some (not all) counts of theft and was given two years' probation. He ended his own life a few years later (1940) and his obituary credits him as being the owner of Sardi's in New York at one point!

His beautiful and storied club became the "New Montmartre Cafe." A November 28, 1935 article in the Times announces the OPENING of the new, new Montmartre Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant soon. Don't know what happened then, but the Montmartre has resurfaced as the Marbella, restored to glory and available for events.

No comments: