Thursday, January 03, 2008


Well, indeed the new year has arrived and all hopes are in place that this year -- my 60th new year-- will be better than 2007. The last year saw some hope and brought a new job, but there are big challenges ahead. My new collaborator, John Nugent and I celebrated at Miceli's Restaraunt -- a mere five blocks from Universal Studios. Here is a most festive place where the waiters and waitresses all sing and perform. one can hear anything from classic Sinatra tunes like "That's Life" to a medley of Sondheim tunes or Broadway eleven o' clock numbers like "Old Man River" from "Showboat" or "This Is The Moment" from "Jekyll and Hyde" Even a little opera. The food is wonderful and the celebration is grand. It was amusing to hear the long list of "goodbye and good night" songs that the piano player played to get the crowd into the idea that "the party was over at about 12:45 am. After all, these guys normally close at 11pm. I was reminded of a New years eve at a classic restarunt in 1980. That was at the Brown Derby, that old classic Hollywood landmark that was demolished over twenty years ago. Walt and Lillian Disney often went to the Hollywood Brown Derby and a photo of them there exists from 1939 of them enjoying a Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake.
The famous Cobb Salad at the Derby was an accidental creation by Cobb himself. Supposedly, one night in 1937, Bob Cobb was awakened by a drunken Sid Grauman (of Grauman's Chinese Theater fame) demanding something to eat so he could sober up. The kitchen had long been closed for the night.
Opening the huge refrigerator, Cobb pulled out whatever he could find including a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, some cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing. He started chopping. He added some crisp bacon and the Cobb salad was born. It was so good that Grauman returned the next day and asked for a "Cobb Salad" and it was put on the menu.
Cobb's midnight invention became an overnight sensation with Derby customers, with people like movie mogul Jack Warner who regularly dispatched his chauffeur to pick up a carton of the mouth-watering salad.
Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons loved desserts but was on a constant diet and threatened not to return to the Brown Derby unless there was a non-fattening dessert. So Cobb came up with the grapefruit cake, he said, "because everyone knows grapefruit is slimming." No one stopped to question that the frosting contained 20 ounces of cream cheese in addition to a cup of powdered sugar with the grapefruit.
Walt and Bob Cobb were friends who also shared a love of baseball. They served together on the board of directors of the Pacific Coast League's Hollywood Stars and on the advisory board of Gene Autry's California Angels. On July 17, 1955, Cobb and his wife were the invited guests of Walt for the opening of Disneyland and stopped in at Walt's apartment over the firehouse on Main Street.
The Hollywood Brown Derby continued operation until 1985 when it was closed for earthquake reconstruction. The historic building was demolished in 1994 after further earthquake damage.

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