Plans to demolish The Derby on Los Feliz Boulevard and build condos have got some Los Felizians in an uproar. The fledgling Save the Derby Coalition doesn’t have a website up yet, but the subject was raised at last night’s meeting of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council Planning/Zoning and Historic Preservation Committee. Lisa Pardini of Scoop Marketing is sounding the alarms:
I doubt I’ll have to sell many people on the coolness and historical importance of the Derby in the Hollywood community. Built as the Willard’s Chicken Inn restaurant circa 1928 — with the backing of none other than longtime Los Feliz resident Cecil B. DeMille — it eventually became one of the five legendary Brown Derbys where Tinseltown’s elite gathered between 1940 and 1960. Joan Crawford famously tended bar there in 1945’s “Mildred Pierce.” And of course Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau memorably entered via the kitchen in 1996’s “Swingers” — helping to trigger a nationwide swing craze with the Derby as its indisputable epicenter. Whether you’re into swing dancing or, like me, have enjoyed seeing local music acts play under its distinctive wooden dome in recent years, the Derby’s place in the thriving local arts / nightlife community is unassailable. It’s the Derby, for cryin’ out loud!
Wow. I wish this was a joke, as I’ve been there several times in the past to see live performances by Steve Lucky & The Rhumba Bums as well as The Ditty Bops. There’s even live burlesque on Monday nights. Plus the food is brought in from next door at Louise’s Trattoria. For sheer ambience, it’s awesome, and right up there with the now defunct Bricktops. Plus, I mean, come on, Swingers!
UPDATE: Here’s an update.