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LAistory: The Brown Derby

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Los Angeles drifts and crumbles under the feet of progress. Gone are the streetcars, the original Schawb's, such hangouts at the Coconut Grove and Chasen's. The Brown Derby was once one of the crown jewels in the LA restaurant scene. There were a number of locations, but there are three that stand out. One was located across the street from the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard (this was the shape of an actual hat), the Los Feliz location and the one located at Hollywood and Vine, known as The Hollywood Brown Derby.

The latter was not the first Brown Derby Restaurant, though it was arguably the most well known. Like Sardi's in New York, it was decorated with caricatures of actors, done by an artist, who will still do one for you, if you pay him. This was the one so well attended by celebrities, where Clarke Gable proposed to Carole Lombard and she accepted, where Louella Parsons and Hedda Harper had their unofficial headquarters, the first place Lucy ate out when they moved the show to Los Angeles. In 1945, the Derby was featured in the film Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford tended its bar, famously claiming, "People have to drink somewhere. Why not here?"