After 36 years in business, a Marilyn-themed restaurant in Ontario, Canada is taking its final bow, as the Owen Sound Sun Times reports.
“Owner Julia Gendron said she had been considering an exit strategy from the restaurant industry for the past few years, but those plans were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gendron’s late husband Rene and his business partner Gerry Gnaedig opened Norma Jean’s Bistro at 243 8th St. E. on a cold Jan. 6, 1984.
Gendron, who most people know as Julie, started working at the restaurant that same year and became a partner around 1990.
It was a last-minute decision to name the restaurant Norma Jean’s – the given name of Marilyn Monroe – and was chosen because Gnaedig’s wife was a fan of the iconic actress. The restaurant was decorated with photographs of Monroe and its menu also featured images of the actress, with sections on the bill of fare like Opening Acts and Red Carpet Favourites.
Gendron, in a letter to patrons that announces the restaurant’s closing, said some of the best times at Norma Jean’s included the rowdy New Year’s Eve parties, intimate family get-togethers and music nights ‘that would shake the windows.'”
The Formosa Cafe, a Chinese-themed bar and restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard where the Some Like It Hot cast and crew dined between takes on the Samuel Goldwyn lot, has been fully restored and is now back in business, as Pat Saperstein reports for Variety.
“The restored Formosa re-opened Friday with an impressive $2.4 million restoration by the 1933 Group, which brought classic spots like North Hollywood’s Idle Hour and the Highland Park Bowl back to life. The complete reconstruction included the historic front room and streetcar as well as a new lounge area and the rooftop patio.
At a pre-opening event, documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong showed off a new display of historic lobby cards and movie stills featuring Chinese and Chinese American actors that he curated for the Formosa.
The Formosa was nearly torn down several times, with countless remodels. The last revamp was one of the most misguided, when the vintage Chinese decor was put into storage and everything was painted grey. The 1933 Group’s Bobby Green got involved soon after that, when Vince Jung, the grandson of longtime owner Lem Quon, ended up losing the bar.
In the past, the Formosa wasn’t known for its Americanized Cantonese food, but that is likely to change with the entirely new menu from chef David Kuo of Mar Vista’s Taiwanese restaurant Little Fatty. ‘We wanted to make it more appetizing by today’s standards, but not stray too far away,’ Green explains, ‘We tried David’s food, it was so good and homey, perfect bar food.’
Green says an archivist and architect were hired to determine that the streetcar was the oldest surviving Red Car, dating to 1902. The false ceiling from the streetcar was removed to reveal colored glass windows along the top. Diners now have a view through the streetcar windows into the new back room, where the elaborately carved bar from beloved Chinatown bar Yee Mee Loo has been brought out of storage to become the centerpiece of the new addition.”
The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.
The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.
The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.
From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.
MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”
“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …
Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.
‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.
‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”
Charlotte Dale, former owner of the Villa Nova restaurant on the Sunset Strip, has died aged 93, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“Born on June 24, 1924, in Duluth, Minn., Charlotte Dale’s family moved to Beverly Hills in the 1930s. Graduating from UCLA in 1946, Dale worked for a time at the William Morris Talent Agency and was a personal assistant to ‘F Troop’ star Forrest Tucker..
In 1948 she married Allen Dale, who had changed his name from Carlo Alfredo Di-Lisio when he came from Italy to Hollywood in the 1920s, finding work as an actor and stuntman. He opened the Villa Nova Trattoria on Hollywood and Vine in 1933 with financial backers Charlie Chaplin and Vincente Minnelli.
According to Alison Martino’s Vintage Los Angeles website, that’s where the couple met. After marrying, they ran the restaurant together, which moved several times before settling on the Sunset Strip in 1944. The site is now the location of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, a rock star hangout. The site has an interesting article about Dale’s visit to the Rainbow when she was 90.
Villa Nova was frequented by Hollywood’s elite on the Sunset Strip. Legend has it, it’s where Marilyn Monroe had her first date with Joe DiMaggio and Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland.”
First published in 2013 (and reviewed here), Marilyn: Her Life in Pictures, edited by Martin Howard and Oliver Northcliffe, is now available in French.
Two academic studies make significant references to Marilyn this autumn. FromReverencetoRape, Molly Haskell’s feminist critique of Hollywood, is now in its third edition. Haskell writes well about how typecasting hindered Marilyn’s career. In Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre, Cynthia Baron considers the influence of the Method on her performances. Adrienne L. McLean also mentions Marilyn at the peak of her glamour in Costume, Makeup and Hair, the latest in Rutgers’ Behind the Silver Screen series.
On a lighter note, Marilyn is among the bevy of bombshells featured in Richard Koper’s Fifties Blondes, and the stories behind some of herfavourite Hollywood haunts are revealed in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, a coffee-table tome by George Gerry.
And finally… IMet Marilyn , a new collection of interviews with friends and associates by Neil Sean, is out in paperback and via Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:
“Having been a fan of the legend that is Marilyn Monroe since an early age, it seemed whoever I interviewed had either met / worked and known something about her during my journalistic career. As the years went on I noticed this even more, to the point I was lucky enough to meet and interview some very famous people whom have not had their ‘Marilyn’ stories told before. I started with a trusty cassette player, which along the way had me meeting the likes of Sir Lawrence Oliver, Charlton Heston and even Sir Norman Wisdom. What is fascinating when reviewing the tapes – along with never broadcast interviews with Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds to name just a few – is how revealing the whole conversations are. I urge everyone to take a look at the book if you’re a true Marilyn fan, as it will give you a rare insight into her final months: and as Ricci Martin (Son of Dean) who met Marilyn many times told me, ‘it’s the biggest story in the world of showbiz ever and yes I was party to it in many ways which is frightening.'”
A Vanity Fair article about Hollywood’s retro diners mentions that Marilyn was once a patron of the Original Pantry Cafe, which opened in 1924. Whether she was a regular customer is unclear, but a signed photo of MM hangs on the wall. Blogger Lindsay Blake – of IAmNotAStalker fame – visited the cafe in 2011.
“While I had actually known about the landmark restaurant for many years … it wasn’t until fellow stalker Lavonna recently informed me that my girl, Miss Marilyn Monroe, had once dined there that I realized the place was also a stalking location. Just a few of the other luminaries who have patronized the legendary restaurant over the years include Humphrey Bogart, Sammy Davis, Jr., former President Bill Clinton, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Martin Luther King, Jr.”