Tom Gregory's Hollywood Vault radio clips, as featured on Leeza Gibbons' national radio program Hollywood Confidential!
The Brown Derby
Below is a transcript of the review on the audio file playable above.By 1935 if I’d’ve said “Meet me at the Derby”, you knew where to go and that you were gonna have a good time.
You’d dusey down Wilshire, park your 12 pack in the back, enter the infamous hat-shaped building, be escorted to our booth, order a martini or two, a shrimp cocktail, and the famous Cobb Salad, invented by the Derby’s owner, Bob Cobb.
Yessir if you needed to make a call we could do that too. No cell phones. Bob was the first restaurateur in the world to have telephone lines at each table, the number of times we were paged was a sign of our power and importance. We could conduct business with the outside world while dining in our derby cocoon. Yep if you were khaki wacky or doll dizzy the Derby’s low booths encouraged table-hopping and deal making.
Located across the street from the swank Ambassador Hotel, the original Brown Derby was built in 1926 as a coffee shop by the ex-husband of Gloria Swanson. He said he could make food so good people would eat it out of a hat.
Success bred the opening of four other satellites Derbies, but only the original Wilshire building sported the famed hat design.
Caricatures of Hollywood stars adorned the walls. They were continuously rearranged to indicate a star’s rise or fall in status, and placed to suggest current romantic relations as well.
The only Derby remaining today is the Los Feliz Property. Before the property became Derbized it was a chicken restaurant, you could pick your own chicken steak out of a cage, yes folks that’s what I said, a chicken steak. Through much hard work by the “save the Derby” contingency the Los Feliz property was afforded landmark status by the LA city council in May 2006.