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The Brown Derby's Neon Sign Shines Once Again

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Before there was Spago or Nobu, The Brown Derby was the restaurant to go to if you wanted to run into a celebrity. That's what Lucy had in mind for the episode of I Love Lucy when she dropped in on the restaurant; she subsequently spotted (and stalked) Willam Holden.

Aside from the presence of movie stars, the restaurant was also known for the framed caricatures of its famous patrons, the Cobb salad (which was invented by the restaurant's owners), and for their derby-themed designs. The original location on Wilshire (there were several Brown Derbies in L.A.) is perhaps the best remembered, as the building was molded into the shape of a giant derby.

The other restaurants, while less ostentatious, also had their hat-inspired decor. The Brown Derby on Hollywood and Vine had a derby-shaped neon sign that stood on its rooftop. The restaurant closed in 1985, but the sign—which was made in the early 1930s—was preserved and passed along to two private collections before it landed at the Museum of Neon Art.

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The museum, which moved to its new Glendale location this February, considers the sign as as a "jewel" in their collection. As such, the museum wanted to restore the Derby sign to its former glory. The prop went through a bit of refurbishing, and this weekend it was unveiled at the museum as part of a larger exhibit. Handlers plugged it in and, viola, the sign was back in action.

Here's the sign as it's getting a touch-up. Looks a little bare right now:


Looks like we're getting there:


And now, what we've all been waiting for:


It's very reaffirming to see that a piece of L.A. history has been resurrected. May we never forget the charms of old Hollywood:

I Love Lucy - William Holden by cbs