©Chasen’s Restaurant and Good Memories
By BR Chitwood
I saw Ronald Reagan one time some years ago in West Hollywood as a friend and I walked some thirty feet away. Not President at the time but thick into politics. He glanced at my friend and me, and I lifted an arm and waved a hello to him. He gave us that patented smile, tip of the head, and raised his right arm in a return wave.
Not monumental, of course, but I was a young man at the time, having dinner with the stars at glittery Chasen’s Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard and at other West Hollywood haunts.
That one incident, a wave to a future US President, gave me the unique, simple pleasure to write about it these many years later and to open my aging mind to all the wonderful memories from those days in the ‘fast lane’ and neon lights of Los Angeles.
There are no earth-shattering declarations in this post, just some fond memories shared with my few blog friends and anyone else who might find these nosy tidbits of interest.
Well, maybe one declaration needs to be made, and, that is, the author of this post did live in Marina del Rey, CA, for some years, a short distance to the Pacific and Santa Monica, and I did have contact with some of the awesome people mentioned herein, but the bulk of my acting, film, stage, television commercials, modeling, took place in Phoenix, and I was represented by Bobby Ball Talent Agency who also had offices in Los Angeles.
One tidbit: Nick Nolte, a star who has so many Oscar-worthy films to date, was a Phoenix talent represented by Bobby Ball Talent Agency in Phoenix at the time, shortly before the “Rich Man Poor Man” TV series vaulted him to fame as a premier leading actor in Hollywood…
Nick was living in Phoenix at the time and enjoyed being on either side of the camera. Nick did the photo shots for my Bobby Ball ‘composite’ (the pics and acting credits given to potential seekers of talent for TV commercials, film productions, still modeling, magazine cover shots, et al). Nick was also involved, as was I, in the Phoenix Little Theater live stage productions. Along with Nick and other talents, I was privileged to do some Greyhound Dog Racing Tracks film work. I was chosen for some Shell Oil training films on location in Northern California and Chicago, Cigna Insurance commercials, magazine covers, corporation business reports…plus, many TV commercials, local in the Phoenix area, also regional, and national.
Nick and I had coffee at the apartment he shared at the time with a lovely lady, and it lodged in my mind that this guy was going to make it all the way. Soon after, I moved to California. Some few years later, I learned that Nick was to make his dreams become reality. Nick earned many awards along his way to stardom…
Along my way, I was invited by Screen Actors Guild president at the time, Patty Duke, to become a member of SAG. I declined the invitation as I was full-time employed with a major ElHi textbook publishing company.
Back to Chasen’s Restaurant and the fringe benefits of an erstwhile interloper…
Chasen’s Restaurant was open some sixty-odd years before closing in April 1995. Not long after its opening, Chasen’s quickly became the lunch and dinner choice for the mega-stars of Hollywood. Think of your favorite star in that period Hollywood panoply of stars, and he/she was most likely a regular at Chasen’s. Autographed pictures of Hollywood stars covered the walls.
Chasen’s was famous for its Chili and Hobo Steaks and a ‘Flame of Love’ cocktail. It was documented that Elizabeth Taylor ordered Chasen’s Chili flown to Rome while she was shooting the film, Cleopatra. It was doubtful that Chasen’s diners were there specifically for the food – I do not remember its popularity being about the food…some would say the food was not all that good. It was most definitely a restaurant of fun and frivolity, and the stars, I can believe, loved every moment they spent in that beautiful edifice. Chasen’s was the place to be.
At my first dinner at Chasen’s , I chatted for some moments with Janet Leigh, an aging but still beautiful lady of screen…she was the star of Psycho, an Alfred Hitchcock film. While talking to Ms. Leigh on my exit, Gregory Peck stopped to chat with someone in a booth at the other end of the room…I could not see well enough to determine with whom he was talking.
I am still unsure why my lady friend and I were seated in the room where the stars sat – non-stars were normally seated in the back room. I will easily go with the idea that they considered me a up and coming star.
(Ah, let me bask in that ray for a few moments…did not happen, but in another life? Who knows?)
It was Booth #2 in Chasen’s, his favorite restaurant, where Ronald Reagan proposed to Nancy Davis. Some decades later, Reagan would bring Margaret Thatcher to the illustrious Restaurant for dinner. That Booth #2, along with the booths that seated on a regular basis Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock would be sent to the new Ronald Reagan Library.
Jimmy Stewart had his Bachelor Party at Chasen’s in 1945.
I happily ate up the tales of the old Chasen’s historic period…
One tale was that Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre got drunk one night at Chasen’s Bar, rolled the restaurant’s large safe out the door and abandoned it on Beverly Boulevard.
Another tale, for fans of Orson Welles, Chasen’s was designated by fate to become the restaurant where Mr. Welles would fire John Houseman in a rather angry manner and threw a can of Sterno at his target…the Sterno was aflame when tossed.
The old Chasen’s closed its doors in April of 1995 and the new Chasen’s, only opened for a few years, closed in 2000. Milton Berle booked the new Chasen’s Restaurant for his ninety-years birthday party. At its beginning, the new Chasen’s began with a boom, new and old stars showing up in their Rolls Royces and Limos, but the initial charge was blunted by new and flashy restaurants opening and getting much of the Star-Business.
Perhaps it is what old men do, maybe, even, old women: reminisce and ponder the lives they have lived, not that this in any way declares a forfeit for the time I have left. I have much more to share with the twenty-one books I have on Amazon, and I would like to report are selling in the tens of thousands…the two key words in that sentence – sure, you knew all along, would like.
Remember, with the Covid-19 isolation order still in place, my time for ‘chasing ladies’ and carousing, well, it would not be a realistic scenario, I mean, where would I go? No bars, restaurants, cocktail lounges, none would be open. Brothels are no fun. Maybe a short trip to Wyoming or South Dakota or Florida would be in order – guess those states are doing some carousing and chasing… My glibness does not become me, nor does it belong in this short sweet memory post.
Chasen’s bar would be a good choice but they are no longer part of anyone’s itinerary.
Plus, I can no longer afford a Chasen’s.
Maybe I will write a Chasen fantasy story…
I just remembered, Chasen’s had at one time a Sauna and a Barber Shop, but, in those days, I could afford the tab.
Gee Whiz, I have had a great life
Okay, enough reminiscing… I will take an Alleve and write some more tomorrow.
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©Chasen’s Restaurant and Good Memories
By BR Chitwood
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THE MAN WHO ENDED ‘THE COLD WAR’
President Ronald Reagan
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