I was entirely heartbroken when the 90-year-old C.C. Brown’s ice cream parlor on Hollywood Boulevard a block west of Grauman’s Chinese Theater — the place it had been since moving there from its original downtown location in 1929 — was shuttered in 1996. Clarence Clifford Brown’s place had played into some integral days of my history. Visits were made during my first date in junior high, my high school prom — even on the night of my wedding in 1988 when after the reception my first wife, myself and our wedding party still in our tuxes and dresses pulled up in a rented pink 1955 Cadillac convertible like something out of a movie. Turned out to be the high point of a marriage that went south shortly thereafter if not before then.
But like so many personal landmarks in this city it too inevitably got wiped off the map. To add insult to indignation, what opened up in its place? A fucking souvenir/t-shirt crapeteria where I’m told a small section of the ice cream shop’s original flocked wallpaper still hangs. The saddest thing was that the place where the hot fudge sundae was reportedly invented wasn’t closing for lack of customers — hell C.C.’s even shrugged off a Haagen Daz franchise that dastardly dared to open up a couple doors down in the mid-80s and closed a few years later — good fucking riddance. No, the reason C.C.’s closed was greed. John Shumacher had bought it from Brown’s son in 1963 and with the help of his wife and children had owned/operated it since. But by the mid-1990s the Schumachers had grown tired of the ice cream game. Though they were eager to sell and had the interest of buyers, in those burgeoning days of Teh Internest the Shumachers saw an opportunity to sell the famed hot fudge sauce online so they weren’t so eager to give up the rights to the hot fudge in name or recipe. Thus the buyers laughed and said go to hell and the store where legends of the big screen got their sundae on and legend has it Bob Hope once worked was to be no more.
When news of its closing made the media rounds I made the saddened obligatory pilgrimage that last day to wait in the long line with many other mourners in order to sit in the leather cushioned high-backed booths with the marble tabletops and savor my last C.C. Brown’s hot fudge sundae served up in a silver cup with the best hot fudge ever beside it in the signature little pitcher for me to pour. Upon its delivery I told our server that I had no intention of leaving without that very last pitcher leaving with me (pictured at right) and the server — one of the now fully grown Shumacher children who’d grown up working there — just shrugged. One less thing to clean or throw away.
Sometime afterward, the Shumachers made that move online and in occasional fits of frustrated nostalgia I’d buy a jar or two, putting aside my distaste for how they’d killed one of my favorite places. The sauce was the same as it ever was, but the homemade sundaes I attempted were never quite right of course and it’s been years since I’ve even thought of C.C. Browns… until something this past week made me pull ccbrowns.com into my browser and whoa if I wasn’t surprised to find that the Shumachers had at some point last year –the 100th anniversary of C.C. Brown’s founding — sold the name and recipe to the Lawry’s corporation. Then, with a little further googling I discovered via the L.A. Business Journal that back in 2004 I’d entirely missed a failed attempt by a company called Sundae Creations Inc. (apparently entirely unrelated with the Calabasas-based Shumachers) to recreate the C.C. Browns parlor in the Sunset + Vine residential/retail establishment — the same place where the ill-fated and misconceived Schwab’s reinvention died trying to rise again. S+V’s slogan should be “Where nostalgia goes to die.”
But the ending of this post is a surprisingly happy because Lawry’s had the good sense to add the C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge Sundae to the dessert menus of their various eateries around town, and in a replica presentation.
From their website:
Presented like royalty in a silver goblet, this signature sundae features hand-chopped roasted almonds and homemade whipped cream layered atop Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream. The exquisite hot fudge sauce is served in a small pitcher allowing guests to pour their preferred portion, hot from the pitcher.
Sure the pitchers are now glass and there’s the irony in that the ice cream being used by Lawry’s is that of the bully company whose franchise tried and failed to compete with C.C. Brown’s when they were going strong in Hollywood, but both are small sacrifices I’ll readily be able to make when I soon venture to Lawry’s Tam O’ Shanter Inn in Atwater Village for dinner soon.
Or maybe just dessert.