Chasen's

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Chasen's entrance from Beverly Blvd. October 1997

Chasen's was a restaurant in West Hollywood, California that was a hangout for entertainment luminaries. Located at 9039 Beverly Boulevard near Beverly Hills, it was the site of the Academy Awards party for many years and was also known for its chili. In 1962 Liz Taylor had several orders of Chasen’s chili flown, packed in dry ice, to the set of Cleopatra while filming in Rome. Many of its regular customers had booths named in their honor. The Ronald Reagan booth, now on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library museum, was where Reagan proposed to Nancy Reagan (neė Davis). Other well-known people who had a booth were Frank Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, and Groucho Marx. Chasen's, upon a steep decline in business, closed permanently in 1995. The restaurant, which opened its doors in 1936, was in service for nearly 60 years. [1]

History[edit]

Comedian Dave Chasen, Joe Cook's performing partner, opened the restaurant in December 1936 [2] at the advice of his former director, Frank Capra.
It was initially called "Chasen's Southern Pit". The New Yorker's editor, Harold Ross, along with business associate Daniel Silberberg, grubstaked the operation.[2]
It was nothing more than a shack, but quickly became well known for its chili and was soon a favorite among Hollywood actors at the time. At first, Capra had to loan Chasen his silverware for the restaurant's operation.[2] Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Clark Gable, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were customers.

As newer generations took the reins of Hollywood, trendier restaurants like Spago drew the ‘in’ crowd and stole some of Chasen’s clientele, but its A-list, many until their death, stayed faithful to the end. Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Richard Nixon, James Stewart, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Kirk Douglas and Ronald Reagan were still regulars, along with newer celebrities such as John Travolta, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Mel Gibson. Ed McMahon was a frequent guest.

Chasen's was well known to not accept credit cards. Instead, established or recognized customers simply signed for their charges and had a bill mailed to them.[3][4]

In the Columbo episode "Publish or Perish", Columbo eats in Chasen's and orders chilie and iced tea.[5]

A documentary was filmed in the restaurant's final weeks, entitled Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's.

The restaurant closed on April 1, 1995. The site was used for private parties and as a filming location (The Opposite of Sex). In 1997 its illustrious contents – pictures, bars, booths, even paneling – were auctioned off. Many original photos and artwork (including a piece by LeRoy Neiman of Tommy The Maitre'D) from Chasen's walls, ten of the booths and the venerable Chasen's barstools are now found in Santa Paula, California in the Mupu Grill on Main street. The Frank Sinatra booth, the bar, the front awning and many other items were purchased by comedian Brian Haley.

The original building, save the Beverly Blvd. facing wall, was demolished and a Bristol Farms grocery store was built in its place.

In the cafe of this grocery store are several booths from the original Chasen's and some of the original paneling. As of 2013, the building is still occupied by the Bristol Farms grocery store. A much smaller Chasen’s was opened in 1997 about a mile away in Beverly Hills by the grandson of Dave and Maude Chasen, and had much success at first, but closed in 2000.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, David (February 20, 1995). "Chasen's Fadeout". In Brown, Tina. The New Yorker (New York City). ISSN 0028-792X. OCLC 320541675. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Kunkel, Thomas (1995). Genius in Disguise. New York: Random House. p. 237. ISBN 0-679-41837-7. 
  3. ^ http://cruiselinehistory.com/chasens-dave-chasens-legendary-hollywood-restaurant-to-the-stars-didnt-allow-credit-cards-or-celebrity-chefs/ CHASEN’S – Dave Chasen’s legendary Hollywood restaurant to the stars didn’t allow credit cards or “celebrity chefs”!
  4. ^ http://www.vintageallies.com/1930s/chasens-and-chilie.html
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071349/

Coordinates: 34°04′39″N 118°23′21″W / 34.0774°N 118.3892°W / 34.0774; -118.3892