Tuesday, July 23, 2019

by Janet J. Lawler 
July 23, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Located on Santa Monica Blvd.
The newly remodeled and recently reopened Formosa Cafe is legendary in West Hollywood.  And for good reason.

In its heyday, the place served drinks to the best of old Hollywood -- Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and John "The Duke" Wayne.

When you bellied up to this bar, you always knew who was sitting next to you.  Movie stars. Famous singers.  They came here to hide out from the movie studio execs down the block.

Just stepping into The Formosa Cafe you feel the presence of movie history (celeb photos line the walls), the allure of fame (and its demons) tempt you as you listen to bartenders mixing and shaking drinks.  I had the popular Mai Tai that could knock your socks off... except people don't wear socks in L.A.

The 1933 Group did a great job in bringing The Formosa back to life.  They poured $2.5 million dollars into its renovation.  Thankfully they did, it's keeping the haunt going that first opened in the 1930s.

The bars (there are two) are huge, one in the front room and one in the back.  There are gorgeous, red booths where you can enjoy Asian eats.  David Kuo oversees the Chinese-American menu.  We enjoyed the pot stickers and the beef and broccoli.

You can sit in the dining room, bar area, or in the remodeled Pacific Trolley car.  It's an authentic trolley car now lined with celeb photos and newspaper clippings about the movie industry from days gone by.  Bogart and Bacall often came here.

During the recent July L.A. earthquakes, a waiter said customers eating inside the trolley got a little impromptu ride.  Fortunately, no damage or injuries, but it sure gave patrons a reason to order another drink.

I love The Formosa Cafe.  It's not a tourist trap but instead is a cool, hideaway vibe.  If you want to wow someone, meet them here for drinks and appetizers.

It's said that actor John Wayne once got so plastered at The Formosa that he passed out overnight in one of the red booths.  They found him in the morning cooking eggs in the kitchen with a hangover.  And, crooner Frank Sinatra is remembered as having a broken heart.  He'd down drinks at The Formosa while pining over Ava Garner.

Ah, Hollywood.

Speaking of, last night was the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Quentin Tarantino's ninth stand-alone film.  I hope to see it this week.

Until next time.

website link to The Formosa Cafe https://theformosacafe.com/about

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA
July 17, 2019
The other night I took in a very young Jane Fonda double-feature ("Cat Ballou" and "The Chase") at The New Beverly Cinema in L.A.  It's not like summertime at a classic Drive-In, but pretty close.

The New Bev is a wonderful, cozy movie haven located on Beverly Blvd.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino owns this establishment and selects many of the films projected.  You can tell, his fingerprints are everywhere you look from European movie posters in the lobby to the great cinema selects each month.

All prints are shown in glorious 35mm (unless noted in 16mm), no digital projectors allowed.  The famous writer/director wants you to experience movies the way they were meant to be seen.  Many of these flicks are directly from Tarantino's private collection.  I love it.

From the moment you get in line, (best to order your tix online),  you know this experience is for movie geeks. No apologies made. If you come to The New Bev, you love cinema, pure and simple, all kinds of cinema.   But, you can enjoy the place even if you only see a movie once in a while.  But,  chances are you are obsessed with cinema just like me.  You can feed your celluloid addiction at The New Bev any day of the week, at all times of the day -- with kiddie matinees on weekends to midnight screenings.
Get your seat early at The New Bev
The theater itself was recently remodeled and is clean, with a great screen and sound system, comfy seats and cheap snacks (even vegan hot dogs).  Hey, it's L.A.  They could easily price gouge theatergoers here, but they don't.  Admission prices are reasonable as are the cheap snack prices (visit the theater's link for specifics http://thenewbev.com).
In the lobby, they sell T-shirts and you can see Tarantino's soon-to-be-released "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" movie poster on full display.  The staff is friendly, welcoming and efficient.  The place has a relaxed, cool vibe but expects reverence for all its showings (that means no texting or looking at your phone during the movie.)

Before each show, the film is introduced by a staff member offering inside tidbits about the making of the film.  The night I attended manager Charlie introduced the Jane Fonda double-feature.  (We also got to watch a grainy 70s trailer for Fonda's Academy Award-winning role in Klute).

Thanks, Quentin Tarantino, for making a personal investment in cinema, for putting your money where your mouth is.  I'm hooked and will be back.

Cinema is about great directors, writers, actors, cinemaphotographers and music scores... but it's also about the theater experience itself.  When that's done right, it's pure magic.

You can also listen to The New Bev's podcast The Pure Cinema.  It has an interview with Tarantino all about his ninth film and programming for summertime at the movie house.  It's a hoot!

Until next time.

#TheNewBev   #QuentinTarantino #OnceUponATimeinHollywood
The New Beverly website:  http://thenewbev.com/
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