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Hollywood can still gossip, but not at Patrick's

Hollywood can still gossip, but not at Patrick's


As of Friday, Patrick's Roadhouse was still closed. Plates and pitchers were stacked inside. The old-fashioned coffee maker looked ready to go, and there were even bright green lights shining along the roof. But the place looked like a radioactive version of Spanish cuisine, frozen in time, with dinosaurs, leprechauns and the Statue of Liberty on top.

Either way, the eviction notice plastered among the bumper stickers and shamrocks tells the story: Another stop on Hollywood's schmooze circuit has been missing since late April, and will remain so unless the landlord can find back rent and renegotiate the lease on a restaurant that has been a landmark on the seaside end of the Santa Monica Canyon since 1973. (There's a GoFundMe campaign to help.)

Maybe this is just part of the general Restaurant Apocalypse. Within a hundred yards of Patrick's, Tallula's, Mason, and The Hungry Cat are all closed and empty. Covid, food price inflation, rising labor costs and changing tastes have killed restaurants, high and low.

On a morning walk around Santa Monica and the Wild West of Los Angeles, I counted 20 recent casualties, including Ingo's, Lotus, Margo's (trying to come back), Dagwood, Bagelworks Café, Casa Escobar, Pacific Dining Car (now a pet health center). spot), 800 Degrees Pizza, Saviola Seafood Bar and Izzy's (which kept promising to relaunch after lockdown, but never did). Sweet Lady Jane on Montana Ave. closed abruptly, but reopened under new owners. Marmalade, after 17 years, left Montana for a less vibrant neighborhood. Kalaveras on Wilshire Blvd. seems to have lasted about a year; but they were painting the store front mural this week.

Of course, mortality in restaurants is nothing new. My wife, while an editor for Los Angeles Magazine, created a clever memorial called “They Also Served.” It lists dozens of fondly remembered gathering places like Chasen's, Jack's at the Beach and The Broken Drum (“You Can't Beat It.”) And new places are opening, although more often than not they seem be the ones who hold your hand. a certain number, suggest a tip starting at 20 percent and direct you to a stool where you can eat in semi-communal discomfort.

Here in the land of cinema, what remains of it, however, the current closures cut a little deeper. They mark the end, I think, of a gossipy culture that, more than anything else, defined Hollywood.

It's a funny word, “schmooze.” It comes from Yiddish, the multiplierand before that from Hebrew, approximately shemuothaccording to my Webster.

Léo Rosten, in The joys of Yiddish, says it’s a “friendly, chatty, prolonged, heart-to-heart conversation.” No other word, he asserts, “translates a heart-to-heart conversation with so much warmth.”

Make no mistake, this is a Jewish thing, brought here from shtetls which no longer exists. Maybe they explain it at the Academy Museum, in this new exhibition, Hollywoodland: Jewish founders and the creation of a cinematic capital. I'll have to check.

Regardless, to survive in Hollywood Village, we had to learn the art of small talk. And it's not as simple as it seems.

For starters, chatting is tactile. You can joke on the phone all day, but you won't really chat unless you do it in person, almost always in a restaurant, and usually not in a Michelin-starred restaurant. You can dinner at Citrine. But if you want to chat with Peter Chernin, for example, it's best to do it over a bowl of cabbage soup at Factor's Famous Deli.

Most importantly, chatting is not transactional. It is, as Rosten wrote, “friendly and chatty” talk, intended to form connections but not commitments. Harvey Weinstein, in my experience, has never been a big talker; he was always trying to buy or sell something, never wanting to let the conversation drift into the idle alleys of village life. In the heyday of the 80s and 90s, the talk was mostly about schools, doctors, renovations, vacation spots, traffic and, of course, golf. Castle Rock's finest chatterboxes have mentioned checkout appointments with 'Dr.' Green.'

Yes, there have been discussions in the industry. Inevitably, someone would ask, “Have you seen something you like?” »And sometimes you shared little confidences. “I can't read the exchanges,” admitted Mike White.

“Why not?”

“Because they make me starve,” he said. Reading about the (often exaggerated) success of other writers made his job difficult.

Gossip? Of course, but it was better not to force it; everything you said was bound to get around. There was a time when I found myself chatting with Irving Azoff, a master of the form, in a restaurant in New York. A music industry lawyer stopped by the table for a friendly hello. Somehow David Geffen was mentioned. The next morning, at my hotel, I received a cold call from Geffen. “You are Never to say my name in the presence of Irving Azoff,” he said.

Hardcore schmoozers were usually at their best at home, and you were expected to know the house rules. Patrick's doormen tried to evict me from an unmarked table which, they whispered, was Jim Wiatt's favorite. “But I am meeting Jim Wiatt,” I groaned. I guess I didn't look like a customer. Ned Tanen and Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up. Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson too, or so they say.

The best asshole I've ever met is producer Larry Mark. He leaves you laughing, makes you feel smart and walks away from the commissioner's table after cleaning your brain and you never felt a thing.

The funniest one was Ray Stark, in an old man way. Ray particularly enjoyed the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset Blvd. (gone, of course). I remember him watching someone there, two tables away, just before surgery restored his vision. “My God, she’s beautiful,” he kept saying. No one wanted to embarrass her by pointing out that “she” was either a man or was about to become one. “She's beautiful,” Stark finally sighed. “But it needs to be shaved.”


Even with changing habits, working from home, Zoom meetings, and less favorable tax laws, you can still find places, here and there, for the kind of idle chatter that once held the movie village together.

Fittingly, one of the coziest is Fanny's, at the Academy Museum, right next to this exhibit on Hollywood and the Jews. The food is good. The prices are not bad. And it's named after Ray Stark's stepmother, Fanny Brice.

You can still hang out there, exchange unnecessary conversations, and they won't rush you.

But not on Tuesday. Because the chatter circuit is tighter than before. On Tuesday they are closed. And certainly not at Patrick's, because, for the moment at least, not counting the workers who were cleaning the ruined woodwork of the building Friday afternoon, it's gone.




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