Lone Ranger Restaurant

Around 1970, food places began popping up around Southern California sporting the names of two great cowboy stars.  You had your Roy Rogers Roast Beef Sandwich places which through changes of ownership, evolved into the current chain that bears Roy’s moniker.  In their original form, they were more like Arby’s but much better.  Now, they aren’t.  You also had around L.A., five or six Lone Ranger restaurants, including one at Pico and Westwood and another over on Wilshire a few blocks west of Bundy.  I remember liking the name and the looks of the places and being very, very disappointed in the cuisine.  It was difficult to bite into one of their burgers and not get to wondering what had become of Silver.

But there was a reason to go the Lone Ranger restaurants and that was that on weekends, the Lone Ranger himself would appear at one or another of them.  And I don’t mean any old out-of-work actor in a mask.  This out-of-work actor was Clayton Moore, himself…and boy, did he still look good in the costume.  To this day, I’m kicking myself that for some reason, it never dawned on me to take a camera and get my picture with Kemosabe.

Moore would arrive in a very nice trailer/dressing room, accompanied by a very Caucasian lady in an Indian squaw costume.  She called herself “Tonta” and she was apparently an executive in the Lone Ranger business, which I think was then the Wrather Corporation.  Mr. Moore would shake hands and pose for pics and sign autographs, largely for folks who weren’t always aware that they were in the presence of the actual guy who’d played the role for years on TV.  If you said something to him that indicated you knew who he was (i.e., Clayton Moore, not the Lone Ranger), you’d see a glimmer of delight behind the mask and he’d talk to you in a whole different way, answering questions about his films and TV appearances.  He might even take you into the trailer for the kind of conversation he couldn’t have in front of the general public where he always had to be The Masked Man, as opposed to the actor.  And if you were really lucky, he’d give you a silver bullet.  He didn’t give those to just anybody.

Despite this, and for reasons obvious to anyone who actually ate at one, the Lone Ranger restaurants were a quick flop.  I think they all closed in less than a year. But it was worth enduring the burgers to shake hands with Clayton Moore and, yes, I still have my silver bullet.

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