Boardner's--on Cherokee, near Hollywood Blvd--has been in business since 1942. The picture at right is recent though. Boardner's was used in the movie Gangster Squad (starring Ryan Gosling) and that's why Cherokee was lined with vintage cars and men in fedoras.
The tilted neon sign is exactly the same, but the painted brick and posters, as well as the red awning, were added for the movie.
Below is a picture of the sign at night--taken in 2012, same as Gangster Squad: the year that Boardner's turned 70. Not sure who to credit these pictures to--they are posted on several sites.
Before it was Boardner's though, it was a speakeasy upstairs, and a beauty shop called Morressy's Hair Salon downstairs. And before that, when it was founded in 1927, it was called My Blue Heaven, after the song. The owner was none other than the songwriter, Gene Austin.
Steve Boardner came along in 1942, when he lost his lease at the Cross Roads of the World (at Sunset and Las Palmas) and was looking for a new place for his bar and restaurant. Steve established the Boardner's we know today--upstairs and down. Out with the beauty salon, in with the bar.
Here's a short list of the movies Boardner's has been in:
- Ed Wood
- LA Confidential
- Hollywood Homicide,
- Wag the Dog
- Leaving Las Vegas
TV shows include NCIS-LA, Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23, Numbers, Angel, and Cold Case. That is not a complete list at all.
Boardner's biggest claim to fame may be that it's believed to be the last place where Black Dahlia victim Elizabeth Short was seen alive. Other stories are mentioned at Boardner's website.
That picture of W.C.Fields was over the booth I sat at. It's real. He signed it back in the 1940s.
Through the main bar is a patio with stage, and the floor out there is authentically old but not conducive to spiky heels. Here's a shot of it from above through a window, and another of some of the detail. Only a true history geek would take pictures like these (thanks, Flo!)
Back in the early days, this patio was for customers who parked behind--the building was the first in LA to have a drive-in business.
The entire building that encloses Boardner's is called the Cherokee building, and was designed by Norman Alpaugh--including the patio.
The upstairs room, which used to be the speakeasy, has been goth-ed up with an antique bar that once was at the Biltmore Hotel, and murals that replicate stained glass from the Pere la Chaise Cemetery of France. So what's not original, in other words, evokes a sense of "divine decadence." Although you do need to give your eyes time to get used to the darkness.
I'd just like to add that they serve great macaroni and cheese. And other stuff, too--fabulous nachos--but good mac & cheese is a big weakness of mine.
If you ask really nicely they'll probably give you a copy of their 5-page history, which includes a list of the celebrity regulars that have stopped by over the years. Some of the names have their regular drinks listed--W. C. Fields, it turns out, drank Coke there. Ed Wood liked scotch and water; Mickey Mantle came in for bourbon & ginger ale. Phil Harris ordered coffee and anisette.