HOLLYWOOD—Go into Mel’s Diner, look at the breakfast menu. Let your jaundiced eye wander to the egg section, under three-egg omelets, eyeball “Herb Caen’s Favorite Ham and Cheese.” If that ain’t a lasting homage to a columnist of a certain vintage who was the bee’s knees, the prototype for a certain kind of bon vivant and community ears, a daily purveyor of criminal puns, snappy one-liners, and purple-prose valentines to the city he loved, who broke bread with the hoity-toity and the hoi polloi, a rare combination of corniness and reverence that only comes from a provincial lad who comes to the big bad beautiful city…if it’s not all that, well, at least it’s an omelet.
Much of what Caen wrote was absolutely undecipherable to anybody but a San Franciscan, but daily drivel often separated by three dots was as necessary as the morning cup of joe. This week’s Miller Time pays homage to this forgotten master of the craft in a narcissistic small town that fancies itself a metropolis. If Herb Caen had reached the 21st century and roved Hollywood and the 7000 block of Fountain Avenue, it would go something like this…
Bev Hills Kids say the Darnedest Things: I told my daughter, “I’m going to be a kid today.” My daughter said, “Da-ad, if you’re a kid why’re you drinking coffee? Kids drink hot chocolate or chai.”
Overheard: (At noon in Studio City, Trader Joe’s): “I like working this time of day. You see more normal people. The weirdos haven’t woken up yet.” How can you tell?
Bristol Farms on Beverly Boulevard: Upon surveying bins of albino-pale fairytale pumpkins, “Hey, those pumpkins need to go to a tanning salon.” (This gem is unattributed but I’ll sell it to you for a quarter.)
If you want to bug the billionaire Eli Broad, pronounce his last name broad, as in dame. And then you get to hear him say, “It’s not broad, but Broad as in road.”
Johnny Zander, the nightlife impresario who brought us Teddy’s and Green Door, has now gone highbrow. Hemingway’s, on the Boulevard at Ivar, is a new bar and is shaping up as the city’s next great loitering spot. Disguised as a library—where you’d find Ernest Hemingway if he were still alive, his cranium intact, and socializing with TV actresses (Zander’s partner is film-producer Donald Kushner). For the bibulous bibliophile: a “Moveable Feast” (rye whiskey, sage, lemon, honey and berries) or the “Old Man and the Sea,” which is a mojito.
Toluca Lake: Funnyman Rip Taylor seen in Paty’s in Studio City, walking with the aid of a cane, quipped to a waitress, “The cane isn’t old age, honey, it’s knee surgery.” That brings back a 24-karat, smog-drenched day when yours truly, a gawky star-struck kid from Palookaville first stepped off the bus in Hollywood and stumbled onto an AIDS Charity event with Alan “Gilligan’s Island” Hale and Rip Taylor was auctioning off a toupee. Angelynewas there, too, if memory serves. That was the glamor: the footprints in the cement, the vintage ’80s smog tingling in my nostrils. This kid wasn’t going back to Palookaville.
And when I wander down the boulevard after a night of carousing and encounter the still, shaded streets, still wet from the morning hosing as the city wakes up and the birds chirp, it’s a new chapter of a never-ending love story all over again.
Diamond in the Rough: Rock Guitarist [fill in name of anybody who pays me five dollars—bold-face type extra] confesses that seeing the Neil Diamond remake of “The Jazz Singer” inspired him to come out west from New Jersey and remake himself. The blonds on the beach and the palm trees exerted their irresistible lure.
Kvetcher in the Wry: What’s with the shrinking business hours of a sweet little cafÃ© in West Hollywood, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and now 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.?! Are they trying to keep the evening weirdos at bay? … Dear Mister Mayor, the dips on Crescent Heights and Beverly Boulevard elicit groans as they scrape the front of suspension-challenged cars. “Didn’t you see the sign dip?” said one back-seat driver. “Yes. I’m still waiting for the chips.” …