Hollywood’s Formosa Cafe Closes

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The legendary Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard, where the cast of Some Like It Hot dined between filming scenes at the nearby Samuel Goldwyn Studios, closed its doors last month, as Julia Bennett Rylah reports for LAist. (The restaurant features in the Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential (1997), and was more recently the venue for a 2015 benefit for Hollygrove, the children’s charity named after the orphanage where the young Norma Jeane once lived.)

“Prize-fighter Jimmy Bernstein opened the Red Spot in 1925 inside a defunct red trolly car, near a film studio that would, in the late 1930s, become Samuel Goldwyn Studio. It was a simple lunch counter that slowly grew into a much larger operation, and was renamed the Formosa Cafe around the same time that Samuel Goldwyn moved in, according to KCET. They served Cantonese and American food courtesy of Chef Lem Quon, who took over the joint after Bernstein’s death in 1976. He then enlisted the aid of his stepson, William Jung.

The Formosa was not a fine dining establishment, but it was famous for its famous clientele, which included actors and rock icons from the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond.

In 1991, Warner Bros. replaced Goldwyn Studio and foresaw the Formosa as a parking lot. As often happens in Los Angeles, a group quickly assembled to save the cafe. Their protest were successful, and the little building remained as the city grew around it.

The worse it got, according to many, came via a remodel in the summer of 2015. The restaurant was gutted and revamped … while the exterior of the building, including its neon green sign, is protected, the inside was not.

However, since everyone apparently hated the remodel so very much, Formosa owners decided to put it back to the way it was. The revert was apparently not enough to save the historic restaurant from closure.”

However, all may not yet be lost, according to LA Magazine.

“The longtime operator of the recently shuttered Formosa Café hasn’t even turned in his keys yet, and the building’s owner is already hearing proposals from new tenants. Vince Jung abruptly closed the restaurant this week. New York-based real estate firm Clarion Partners purchased the West Hollywood Gateway shopping center in 2004 and owns the restaurant property. ‘My goal is to find someone that wants to bring back the history,’ said Gabe Kadosh, vice president of leasing firm Colliers International. ‘This is not going to turn into a Sharky’s or something.’

Jung had been on a month-to-month, below-market lease for many years and made several unsuccessful attempts to revive the business by taking on partners and hosting pop-up nights. One of those partners remodeled the interior without permission from Clarion … Now that the owners have control of the landmark they are seeking a new tenant to restore the Formosa.”

‘Marilyn!’ Musical Preview in Glendale

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As I have often observed on this blog, plays about Marilyn are becoming a staple of fringe drama. Few have managed to rise from obscurity, but MARILYN! – a new musical previewing for one night only at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California on July 29 – has impressive credentials, as Broadway World reports.

“The one-evening-only July 29 event, celebrates the life Marilyn Monroe with a short documentary film featuring Monroe’s former boyfriend Bill Pursel, Monroe’s Bus Stop co-star Don Murray, Monroe author, Michelle Morgan, President of ‘Marilyn Remembered’ Greg Schreiner, and Actors Studio classmate, James Karen, among other key figures.

Audience members will be treated to an exclusive collection of Monroe’s artifacts from Schreiner’s personal collection at a pre-show reception. But the highlight of the evening is the world premiere of the full length musical MARILYN!, which chronicles the star’s childhood and tumultuous path to stardom with stirring and emotional songs …

Prospect House Entertainment is also pleased to announce a collaboration with Hollygrove, formerly Los Angeles Orphan Home, where Marilyn Monroe stayed as a child. Hollygrove will receive a percentage of the event’s proceeds in perpetuity. MARILYN! additionally holds the distinction of being produced with the blessing of the Marilyn Monroe Estate.

MARILYN! Is set in the present day – Michelle is a young journalist from England researching Marilyn Monroe to commemorate the actress’ 90th birthday. She visits Charlie Page, one of Marilyn’s drivers, who is now living a life of solitude. Two stories emerge as Charlie bonds with Michelle he recalls Marilyn Monroe’s phenomenal life in flashback and reveals the real reason behind his living as a recluse for over forty years…

MARILYN! stars Kelley Jakle (Universal’s Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, Spring Awakening in Concert) as ‘Marilyn Monroe’; Kelley Dorney (PBS Concert Special: A Tale of Two Cities) as ‘Norma Jeane’; Samantha Stewart (CBS’ Days of Our Lives) as ‘Michelle Morgan’; and Marvin Gay as ‘Charlie Paige’.”

Marilyn at 90: Fans Pay Tribute

Photo by Jackie Craig
Westwood photos by Jackie Craig

Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.

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Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…

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And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)

13347020_10153652033312688_3184974542303152467_nThe L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived.  Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity  has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.

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Immortal Marilyn listed 90 Marvellous Marilyn Moments on their blog, and compiled a fan-focused tribute video. In Bendigo Park, Australia, staff member Marisa left a memento at the feet of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture,  ‘Forever Marilyn‘.

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Many other fansites, like All About Marilyn and Marilyn Mexico, were also in celebratory mood.

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Mexico loves Marilyn…

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Snapchat users (including reality TV star Kim Kardashian) got busy with a special Marilyn Monroe filter…

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The Milton Greene Archive shared this previously unpublished photo of Marilyn with a canine friend, originally taken for a Life magazine spread on Asian gowns in 1955.

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The estate of Sam Shaw remembered a ‘dear friend.’

sam shawTwo of Marilyn’s most respected biographers, Michelle Morgan and Gary Vitacco-Robles, paid their respects via social media.

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Novelist Megan Abbott chose her favourite photo of Marilyn.

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The estate of Humphrey Bogart also remembered her fondly…

13339528_1353642397983387_775224521514747818_nArtists Alejandro Mogollo and Ileana Hunter shared Marilyn-inspired pieces.

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Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt

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And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.

“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”

Hollygrove Alumni Remembers Norma Jeane

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Bill Fredendall of Eden Prairie, Minnesota was born just two years after Marilyn, and knew her as a child at Hollygrove, then known as the Los Angeles Orphans’ Home. He shares his memories of Norma Jeane in a fascinating interview with Karla Wennerstrom of Eden Prairie News.

“‘Very few people in America can say Marilyn Monroe pushed them on the swing,’ said Bill Fredendall of Eden Prairie.

‘My mother and father were divorced and my father got us kids and he evidently couldn’t care for us,’ Fredendall said. Their father, a master electrician with movie studios, put Fredendall, his brother and sister into the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society in 1933 during the Great Depression.

Both of his parents would visit the children, he said.

A 2005 Los Angeles Times story identifies Marilyn Monroe as the most famous alumna of the children’s shelter, which was founded in 1880.

‘Norma Jean Baker was 9 in 1935 when she was brought to the orphanage by an aunt. She lived in a girls’ residence hall whose windows overlooked Paramount Studios [then RKO] and framed its landmark water tower,’ the story said. Her mother ‘was mentally ill and unable to care for her.’

Fredendall said they could see the RKO Studios water tower from the home’s two buildings, which housed about 80 children, girls on one side and boys on the other. There was a play yard and hospital facilities.

The children would walk over to the studio a few times a month to watch a movie.

‘Most of kids were not orphans,’ he said, but were from broken homes.

When asked to describe life in the orphanage, Fredendall said, ‘It was marvelous.’

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The Los Angeles Orphans’ Home

‘We were trained to take care of our own building and take care of ourselves,’ he said.

In the summer, the children would spend time at the beach – more time if you were a boy, he pointed out. ‘I learned to swim in the ocean,’ Fredendall said.

The location in Hollywood meant that celebrities would visit often.

Actor Pat O’Brien, who would later appear in Some Like It Hot with Monroe, stopped by and dropped off 50 cent pieces at each child’s place at the dinner table.

The sister of Oliver Hardy, half of Laurel and Hardy, was a matron at the orphanage.

‘He would come with his chauffeur and limousine packed full of presents for us boys,’ Fredendall said of Hardy.

‘I remember there was an earthquake every once in a while,’ he added. ‘We would all jump around and have fun with that.’

The orphanage was used as a setting in movies.

‘More than once, they would have a scene of a firetruck rescuing someone from the matron’s dormitory,’ Fredendall said. ‘That was very exciting for us to see.’

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As for Monroe, ‘She was just Norma Jeane Baker,’ Fredendall said.

‘We sat on the radiators and looked at the front of the RKO studio, up in the sky from where we were,’ Fredendall said.

‘We could see that from the orphanage,’ he said. ‘We all wanted to be in the movies.’

Monroe was a friend of Fredendall’s sister, who was about the same age.

‘She wasn’t Marilyn Monroe in those days.’

Fredendall can’t recall when they realized that the Norma Jeane Baker they knew was the Marilyn Monroe from the movies.

‘It’s kind of always been in the family lore,’ Phyllis Fredendall said.

And the family followed her career.

Phyllis said she remembers when Monroe passed away in 1962, and her father was bereft.

‘She was a good girl,’ Fredendall said.”

Party With Marilyn at the Formosa Cafe

1011389_10151653671861878_1115085617_nIf you’re in Los Angeles today, why not get into the Christmas spirit – and help a child in need? The Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard (where Marilyn dined while filming Some Like it Hot) is hosting ‘Hollywood’s Hurrah for Hollygrove’, in aid of Hollygrove EMQ Familes First, a non-profit agency named after the Los Angeles Orphan’s Home, where Marilyn herself stayed as a child. Entry is $10, or else bring a new unwrapped toy for a Hollygrove child – more details here.

For Girls Who Wear Glasses

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Marilyn’s estate has teamed up with Allure Eyewear to create a new range of spectacles, reports Women’s Wear Daily. (The cherry pattern in the above model seems inspired by Marilyn’s rodeo dress from The Misfits, while the retro design recalls her near-sighted character, Pola, in How to Marry a Millionaire.)

“Inspired by the iconic actress, the eyewear includes animal-printed frames and upswept cat eye silhouettes. Each style is adorned with subtle Swarovski crystals for an extra note of glam. Marilyn Monroe eyewear brand will consist of ‘The Marilyn’ Limited Edition Sunglass which will retail for $495, the Silver Screen Sun collection that will retail from $98 to $168 and the Optical collection that will retail between $150 and $180.

Allure Eyewear will donate all profits from ‘The Marilyn’ sunglass to Hollygrove, which was once an orphanage where Marilyn lived as a child and is now an EMQ FamiliesFirst agency that helps children in crisis.”

Hugh Hefner Remembers Marilyn

A painting of the first Playboy cover featuring Marilyn, by artist Victoria Fuller, has been donated to Hollygrove, formerly the orphanage where Norma Jeane lived as a child.

Signed by the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner, the painting is on display at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre until August 31, when will be sold at a base price of $10,000. All proceeds will help children in crisis and their families.

Hefner has spoken about his lifelong muse to CBS News:

“Soraya Fadel asked him if he would have liked to have dated the bombshell. ‘Oh yeah. I would have loved to,” he says, candidly, ‘I’m a sucker for blondes and she is the ultimate blonde.’

His favorite Monroe movie? ‘Without question, it’s Some Like it Hot It was at the end of her career and it indicated how much real talent she had.’

Marilyn long dead, Hefner would still love the opportunity to thank her for what he did for his life. ‘I would have told her how much she meant to me and still does.'”