Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Temple Tuesday: Leading Men and the Couch

In this publicity shot from 1939, Shirley is shown in her 20th Century-Fox bungalow with her future costar, Martin Good Rider. From the accompanying blurb:

HOLLYWOOD, JAN. 26 — SHIRLEY GETS HER FIRST LEADING MAN - Shirley Temple gets her first leading man in her screen career in her new picture (Susannah of the Mounties). He’s 13-year-old Martin Goodrider, full-blooded Blackfoot Indian boy. Shirley and Martin are shown after their first meeting at Miss Temple’s dressing room in a studio here.

As so often happens with publicity stories, this one is not entirely true. Just a year before, Shirley had her first on-screen romantic pairing with Bennie Bartlett in “Just Around the Corner.” Shirley’s character uses her womanly wiles to get the young boy to cut off his curls and adopt a more sophisticated hairdo. Ah, young love. No, I don’t count the “Baby Burlesks” as far as a “leading man” for Shirley goes. At the tender age of four, that ventures into “ick” territory.

Always looking at the details, I noticed the fabric on the couch that Shirley and Martin are sitting in. I immediately contacted Melissa, aka “The Colonel” for the 411. She filled in the deets on the decor for Shirley’s Fox Bungalow, where the young girl held court for a plethora of celebrities, dignitaries, and politicians. “The wallpaper in the living/reception room was originally ivory with a conventional tree design in jade green,” Melissa told me. “The couch was described as a ‘small davenport upholstered in linen printed in bright colors with a kindergarten design.’” The couch print looks like it was inspired by the buildings in Colonial Williamsburg, which had finished restoration in the late 1920s.

Of course “The Colonel” had more! “At some point between April and September 1936, the kindergarten print couch was reupholstered in a striped velvet fabric - the wallpaper remained the same.” The striped couch is visible in the corner of the photo below:

“Both the living/reception room and schoolroom were updated some time in 1937, possibly when the Temples were vacationing in Hawaii. The living room wallpaper was changed to the leaf pattern seen below in the image with J. Edgar Hoover, as well as the first image with Good Rider. The couch was redone a third time (flowers and bow pattern). The curtains in that room were changed as was the lamp.”

And there you have it; yet another Shirley rabbit hole to enjoy! See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Marmont Monday: Dominick Dunne and Room 38

Dominick Dunne first hit my radar with the 1987 TV movie, “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.” The Claudette Colbert/Ann-Margret movie was based on Dunne’s best-selling novel which heavily borrowed from a true-crime event that occurred in 1955. Dunne was famous for covering many high-profile celebrity crime cases for Vanity Fair. His obsession with these court cases began after the verdict for his daughter’s murder resulted in an acquittal for the second-degree murder charge, but resulted in a guilty verdict for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. This changed the writer’s life forever and gave him a new purpose.

In the 2008 documentary, “Dominick Dunne: After the Party,” Dunne gave interviews from his room at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and his Central Park apartment. At the beginning of the documentary, Dunne calls attention to the helicopters that have been flying overhead since 5am because of the Paris Hilton trial that was going on at the time for violating her probation from an alcohol-related reckless driving case. “This is a great story,” the writer tells the cameras. “She’s one of the most famous women in the world for going to parties. It’s a great story.…I only cover the trials of the rich, powerful, and famous because it is different for them than for other people, because they’ve got the bucks to spend on the million dollar lawyers, and they’ve got the bucks to bring in the expert witnesses. Jurors fall for those expert witnesses every time. I call them the whores of the court, because they can be bought by either side.…I started out at Vanity Fair magazine with the trial of the man with the Hollywood murder trial, the man who killed my daughter, and I think I’m going to end it with the Phil Spector trial.” The opening shots of Dunne in his bedroom watching television revealed to me that he was staying in Room 38.

I stayed in the same room in September 2022, approximately fifteen years after Dunne did. Obviously, the headboard has changed, but many of the other furnishings (and the drapes which I love!) remained the same.

Dunne stayed at the Chateau frequently. “The nice thing about the Chateau Marmont is that it’s not just a room,” he stated as giving a tour of his room. “…and it’s not like a suite, it’s like a little apartment here, which I really like. And I don’t know how to cook, but I love having the place to make coffee if I want to make coffee, which I don’t even know how to make.”

The author continued into the dining room area, opening a door that revealed a tiny balcony. “There’s a little terrace here, which I sometimes sit out at and smoke a joint…heh heh heh.”

My shot from 2022 lines up!

In this screenshot from the documentary, you can see that Dunne has taped his notes and photos from the trial to the wall.

Below, you can see a long shot of the living room area where Dunne was being interviewed.

The same desk:

Dunne sits in the comfortably overstuff living room chair:

Not surprisingly, it has been recovered with a different fabric. The light and end table are the same.

Sitting at the dining room table:

The same table:

Dunne strolls into the living room, about to sit on the couch to continue his interview:

The furnishings and art on the wall have changed a bit. The Dali print above the couch is the same, though.

Sitting at his desk, we have a better view of the living room:

Which pretty much matches up with my 2022 photo:

This shot from the documentary was achieved by walking up the winding street behind the Chateau:

In a case of serendipity, I was able to get virtually the same shot back in 2013 when there was construction of a new home going on. This view would be almost impossible to duplicate now.

Dunne’s story is a somewhat sad one that occurs all too often. “I just never felt that I belonged anywhere. Even in my family, I was an outsider of the six kids.…There was something about me that drove [my father] crazy. He beat me with a riding crop. I had welts on my ass and my thighs. He mimicked me. He called me a sissy. Sissy is a tough word; it may not sound tough, but it’s a word that hurts terribly and lingers. It can linger for a lifetime that kind of hurt. It may seem like nothing now, but it’s awful to hurt a child. It’s a terrible thing. I still haven’t totally eliminated all that hurt. My opinion of myself was nothing. I believed that I was everything that he said. I got to a point where I thought, ‘I will never let him make me cry again, no matter what. I’ll never cry.’”

Oddly enough, it was Humphrey Bogart who changed things for Dunne. Employed as a floor manager for “Robert Montgomery Presents” in New York City, Dunne was able to meet a wide variety of celebrities, including the legendary Bogie. “Bogart got a kick out of me, and I really just worshipped him. So I said to him once, ‘God, I love to look at movie stars!’ And he said, ‘What are you doing Friday? Come to dinner!’ Sinatra sang, Judy Garland sang, and Lana Turner lived next door. Lana Turner was so fantastic at that time. And Spencer Tracy was there that night, and David Niven was there that night, and Hank Fonda was there that night. And it went on and on…I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. And they just sort of took me in and accepted me, like I was one of them. I was so up there was no way I was going to go to sleep. I called Lenny [his wife] and said, ‘We’ve got to move to Hollywood! It’s incredible, you won’t believe it!’ It was everything I wanted.”

And so they did. In this frame from a Dunne home movie, Rock Hudson is shown, but you can also clearly see Judy Garland lighting up a cig below right, too. For Dunne, this was the acceptance he had failed to achieve from his father and it consumed him. The tragic death of his daughter shifted his focus but still kept him in the celebrity spotlight, which he craved.

See more Chateau Marmont photos at my main website.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Monday in Memphis: Sun Studio

I visited Memphis back in 2009 and Sun Studio was at the top of my “must see” list. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2003, Sun Studio is synonymous with the discovery of Elvis Presley. Owned and operated by Sam Phillips, Sun Records became known for giving local area artists their start in the recording biz, such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, and Charlie Rich. Not a bad lineup, huh? Edited from the Sun Record website page on Elvis Presley

In the summer of 1953 Elvis drops by The Memphis Recording Service, home of the Sun label and makes a demo acetate of “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” for a cost of about $4.00. (The studio came to be known as Sun Studio though never officially named that until the 1980s. For simplicity this text uses the name Sun Studio.) The studio owner isn’t in, so his assistant, Marion Keisker handles the session.

Want to see Marion’s desk?

And here’s Marion:

Elvis wants to see what his voice sounds like on a record and he has aspirations to become a professional singer. He takes the acetate home, and reportedly gives it to his mother as a much-belated extra birthday present. By the fall, he is working at Precision Tool Company, and soon changes jobs again, going to work for Crown Electric Company. A year later, at Marion Keisker’s suggestion, Sam Phillips calls Elvis into the studio to try singing a song Sam hopes to put out on record. The song is “Without You” and Elvis does not sing it to Sam’s satisfaction. Sam asks Elvis what he can sing, and Elvis runs through a number of popular tunes. Sam is impressed enough to team Elvis up with local musicians Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass) to see if they, together, can come up with something worthwhile. Nothing really clicks until July 5, when after a tedious session, Elvis and the guys break into a sped-up version of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right.” This song, backed with Blue Moon of Kentucky becomes the first of five singles Elvis will release on the Sun label. Flash forward to November 1955: Elvis signs his first contract with RCA Records. Colonel Parker negotiates the sale of Elvis’ Sun contract to RCA, which includes his five Sun singles and his unreleased Sun material. The price is an unprecedented $40,000, with a $5,000 bonus for Elvis. RCA soon re-releases the five Sun singles on the RCA label. At the same time Elvis signs a contract with Hill and Range Publishing Company, which is to set up a separate firm called Elvis Presley Music, Inc. Elvis will share with Hill and Range the publishing ownership of songs bought by Hill and Range for him to record. Elvis is the hottest new star in the music business.

The recording studio at Sun:

From the Sun Studio tour page:

Sun Studio is known worldwide as “The Birthplace of Rock’n’roll”. Today our goal is to spread the story of Memphis’ history and culture through the music that put Memphis on the map. Stand in the very same spot that Elvis first recorded. Your tour guide will tell you the inside stories of B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner before Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, & Roy Orbison who were all drawn to the new Sun Sound. See the priceless memorabilia from the musical legends that blended blues and country music to explode in the "big bang" of Rock'n'roll. Hear the voices of musicians that still haunt this studio, as you listen to outtakes from recording sessions and feel the energy of the music created here.

I didn’t see any ghosts, but I sure enjoyed seeing the vintage equipment, photos, and memorabilia!

Elvis has nothing to worry about.

Below is Elvis’ cow hide guitar case, from the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show which aired on January 28, 1956. This item was on loan from Graceland.

Elvis’s diploma from L. C. Humes High School, circa 1953:

This RCA lathe recorder is what put the grooves in the vinyl:

Atop this vintage radio is Elvis’ Social Security card:

This jacket was worn by Elvis in 1954 at the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium in Texarkana (named after Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana):

Last photo for today shows the stained glass window designating the address of 706 Union Avenue for Sun Studio.

See more Sun Studio photos at my main website.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Au Revoir, Sweet Lady Jane

Almost twenty years ago (yikes!), the gorgeous girl in the middle of the above photo was part of my regular visits to LA. Erin gave facials at the Ole Henriksen salon on Sunset Boulevard, and I can still say hands down that she was the BEST. On top of that, she’s a kick-ass gal that you would want on your team and as a friend. I enjoyed our conversations as much as I did the facials. On one of my visits, she told me and Doug that we HAD to try the cake at Sweet Lady Jane bakery on Melrose. When Erin spoke, we listened.

The bakery was small, but its desserts packed a wallop. They were especially known for their Triple Berry Cake. It was one of the most amazing concoctions; sweet, delicious, and light. You didn’t feel like you had gorged on something that left you in a food coma. It was out of this world and paved the way for the fame that Sweet Lady Jane experienced during their tenure. From their website:

AT SWEET LADY JANE, OUR MISSION IS TO CREATE DECADENT DESSERTS THAT LEAVE A LASTING IMPRESSION. Sweet Lady Jane first opened our doors on Melrose in 1988. Founded by Jane Lockhart, our dessert shops focused on using the best quality ingredients and simple technique to create something undeniably delicious and unique. Cakes, pies, tarts, cookies– these craveable desserts became popular throughout the Los Angeles area and more locations were soon to come. Ever since, Sweet Lady Jane is the premiere destination for every special occasion. We aim to deliver the most special and delicious centerpiece for every gathering with a focus on consistency, quality, and taste. Our beloved Triple Berry Cake has been spotted at the celebrations of friends and celebrities alike. More than three decades later, we continue to commit to crafting confections that guests love and making hosting just that much easier.

The bakery wasn’t just frequented by ordinary folks like me; it was also a favorite of Hollywood celebrities including Taylor Swift, Sophie Bush, Blake Lively, and Kim Kardashian. Whenever I had a special occasion or birthday, Sweet Lady Jane was my go-to bakery. On one occasion, I bought one of the Triple Berry Cakes to take back home to San Diego. I was staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and asked them to put it in their refrigerator overnight (the one in the room was too small). When it came time to checkout, the staff had no idea where the cake was and refused to compensate me. Yes, I was honked off. For a fall 2015 event I was having at the Chateau Marmont, I met with one of the Sweet Lady Jane employees to create a custom designed cake.

She couldn’t have been friendlier and the result surpassed all expectations. The lemon cake was divine and the little chocolate pawprints (for Willis) were adorable.

When it came time to celebrate Shirley Temple’s birthday anniversary after the pandemic had ended, the cake had to come from Sweet Lady Jane. Here, SJR and Melissa (aka “The Colonel”) proudly stand outside the bakery, circa April 2022:

Shirley T. herself would have been proud of the resulting Triple Berry Cake!

That summer, to honor my friend Will’s birthday, a decadent chocolate ganache cake was ordered. Decadent is an understatement.

Last April, I returned once again to Sweet Lady Jane for a Shirley Cake.

The interior, as snapped by Melissa:

Sea Salt Brownies were added to the mix of sweets; oh how I could use one now! They melted in your mouth and had just the right amount of salty mixed in with the sweet chocolate.

Shirley’s rich cake and brownies are shown below. I also loved the elegant gold candles that Sweet Lady Jane gave out with their cakes. Well, they didn’t exactly give them out. I paid for them.

Lighting the candles:

Have you got a picture of how I feel about Sweet Lady Jane yet? Now maybe you can understand how it hit me when a friend told me that this favorite LA tradition was no more. From their January 1, 2024 Instagram announcement:

Dear Community, After 35 years we are closing our doors. Our last day of business was December 31, 2023. We did not come to this decision lightly nor quickly. While the support and loyalty of our customers has been strong, sales are not enough to continue doing business in the state of California, allowing us to service our lease obligations and pay our treasured employees a living wage without passing those costs directly on to you. For more than three decades, we didn’t just build a loyal customer base, we created a real community. It has been a privilege to be included in your sweetest moments. Big and small. LA’s most beloved Triple Berry Cake will live on in your memories, and in ours. Thank you. Sweet Lady Jane

From Blake Lively:

No. No. No. heartbroken sending love and gratitude for the years of joy and deliciousness. Come open in NY. We need you here :)

The comments were a mixed bag of sadness from former customers and also some nasty snipes from what might perhaps be called social media trolls:

I have loved your cakes for years but to blame California for your over expansion and the woes that come with that is unfair. Where else in the country except NY can you charge $100 for a cake? So California and Los Angeles were good to you all these years in making your business, now it’s to blame. Sorry - It’s on you! So sorry for your employees and that they got no warning of this.


It’s baffling to attribute the issues to California. If you believe that fairly compensating your employees led to your downfall, perhaps you don’t truly value their contribution. We invested in your pricey cakes, a luxury not available in many states, yet you can’t prioritize a decent minimum wage for the ones who shaped your business’s success over the years. Quite disappointing.

A rebuttal:

They can but if after paying a decent wage they have $0 profit why stay open? They are not a vessel for employees and government taxes, they are a business, meaning they had to make over $200k profit in California per location to stay viable.

I took Lady Jane’s surprising announcement at face value, assuming their downfall was a combination of a too-quick expansion, faltering economy, and California’s high cost of living/crazy taxes. Apparently there was more to the story as there so often is. Edited from a January 13th LA Times Article:

For nearly seven months, the companies behind Sweet Lady Jane have been embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by an employee who alleged wage theft, according to court documents reviewed by The Times. Employees also said the company suffered from mismanagement. Blanca Juarez, who worked at the bakery for about two months in 2022, alleged that Sweet Lady Jane LLC and SLJ Wholesale LLC did not compensate her for all hours worked, including overtime, as well as for missed meal periods and rest breaks, according to a complaint filed June 30 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. “Defendants engaged in a pattern and practice of wage abuse against their hourly-paid or non-exempt employees,” the lawsuit reads. Juarez also accused the bakery of not keeping accurate payroll records and of failing to provide “reimbursement for necessary business-related expenses,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that Sweet Lady Jane had the ability to pay but “willfully, knowingly, and intentionally failed to do so” in an effort to “increase Defendants’ profits.” In court filings, the bakery chain denied Juarez’s allegations and called the complaint “unverified.” Lawyers wrote that Juarez and other employees who could join the lawsuit have been paid “all sums earned by them that are due.” In a court document filed Tuesday, lawyers said the companies intend to file for a state alternative to bankruptcy, which could allow creditors, including former employees, to try to recover what they are owed. Some former workers have been offered severance packages, according to documents obtained by The Times. The documents say that if employees sign the deal, they must agree not to join lawsuits “seeking any additional amounts of money or to participate in any class, collective or representative actions.” Concerns over finances predated the companywide closure. Phoebe Davidson, who was employed from summer 2021 to summer 2022, said Sweet Lady Jane had been cutting back on its menu and hitching up prices. When a 9-inch cake had cost about $90, Davidson said, customers would often round up to $100 for a tip. But the company raised the price to $100. “Then people wouldn’t tip us,” Davidson said. “And we started asking for raises, and they were like, ‘Well, there’s no money for raises.’ How’s that possible when we’re selling thousands of dollars worth of cake a day?”

Davidson’s comment is typical of those who don’t run a business themselves. When a company overextends itself financially with expansion and remodeling, the money to cover those expenses has to come from somewhere, and that’s why the products have to exponentially increase in price. Sweet Lady Jane’s $100 cakes surpassed the general customer’s pain threshold and the business had to close. Sad, but this is not atypical of business in general. This one just happened to play out publicly.

With my 60th around the corner, where will my cake come from now? I don’t think Sweet Lady Jane’s cannabis friendly neighbor on Melrose is going to be the solution:

Erin, I am relying on you to find the next best alternative!

See more photos at my main website.