Schwab’s Pharmacy

Legend has it that Lana Turner was discovered for movies as she sat at the lunch counter at Schwab’s Drugstore at Sunset and Crescent Heights, which is seen in the above picture.  This is almost certainly not true.  For one thing, they used to tell that story as if it had occurred at one of the other Schwab’s Pharmacies — the one further down Sunset near Doheny.  When it was torn down, the legend shifted to the one at Crescent Heights.  And the story probably wasn’t true even before that because Ms. Turner always told people she was spotted by a talent scout in a cafe called the Hi Hat across the street from Hollywood High School.  (And even that may not be true, as others say she was found via agents and the usual submission process, and the whole story of being discovered while eating lunch was a press agent concoction.)

So then, what was the big deal about the Schwab’s at Sunset and Crescent Heights?  Beats me.  Seemed to me like a perfectly ordinary, poorly-stocked drugstore with a small luncheonette area.  My impression is that in the sixties and maybe before, as big chain drugstores grew all over Southern California, less and less of Schwab’s business was in that area so they kept expanding the dining sections.  Most of what they sold in the drug/pharmacy area seemed to be makeup such as a wanna-be actress might purchase.

But the lunch area was pleasant enough, and while you couldn’t get discovered there, you might spot a lot of people who had made it into movies and TV shows…maybe not in the star roles but it was a big hangout for actors.  I don’t mean Big Stars.  I mean (mostly) supporting players, including many of the “Oh, that guy” variety where you know the face but can’t place the name to save your life.  I don’t think I ever ate there without seeing Dick Miller, who was so good in all those Roger Corman pictures.

During Breakfast hours, it was practically like a club — the same folks at the same tables.  When Schwab’s closed down in 1983, that group began drifting from restaurant to restaurant, never managing to find a venue that was as good and actor-friendly.  In the meantime, the old Schwab’s location was torn down, replaced by a shopping center built around a Virgin Megastore.  Also demolished to make way for that complex was Harry’s Wood-Pit Barbecue.  The Virgin is gone now too and there’s a Trader Joe’s and other businesses in its stead. They’re all probably nice places but I’d much rather have Schwab’s and Harry’s.

21 Responses to Schwab’s Pharmacy

  • Ellen Shaver says:

    I can say I actually used to get breakfast here !

  • Steve Shor says:

    I was the youngest of the Schwab’s regulars from mid- ’70’s through 1983. It was one of my “in’s” to Hollywood knowing Warren Oates, Marty Feldman, John Belushi, Shelly Winters and many more. Schwab’s made breakfast exciting reading the trades and hanging out with character actors.

  • Marilynne Marcos Jawitz says:

    I lived on Crescent heights blvd with my sister (1965 67) went to Schwabs for breakfast every Saturday morning! It was a hang-out for B actors and bit part actors, but it was still fun to see them! Yes I remember Steak & Stine! my neighbor Trudy worked there. At that time Mat Cimber was one of the owners or managers! Wonderful memories!!

  • susan glick says:

    I was friends in the 1960s with Arlene Schwab and her husband
    and would love to reconnect…CAN YOU HELP ME?

  • John Breckenridge says:

    The Schwab’s transitional job worked…first the delivery driver, then Beverly Hills handyman to Lake Arrowhead building contractor to Regional Manager for Showtime Satellite Networks and SIRIUS Satellite Radio.

  • John Breckenridge says:

    In an effort to make a major life style change (from PR Consultant), in 1974 I thought becoming a Schwab’s delivery ‘boy’ for a month or two might offer an interesting transitional experience (I was 36 years old). Instead, I worked full time for Leland Schwab at the 9201 Sunset store for 2 years. What a great experience. Barbara Stanwyck almost always invited me in for a soda. Natalie Wood Wagner answered the doorbell. Charleton Heston met me at the gate. I knew Rosie Clooney and she was surprised that I arrived at the front door instead of around on the side kitchen door. I knew who had a facelift or other cosmetic surgery, delivering pain meds to a small exclusive MOTEL on Sunset west of La Cienega….and on and on. It’s a book, I tell you and had I not been just married, it would have been more interesting. Loved driving that little yellow VW.

  • Robert Schwab says:

    Looking for original Schwab’s restaurant menu; will pay good price; my father was one of the original partners; many thanks; Robert Schwab

  • Robert Schwab says:

    looking for original restaurant menu; will pay good price!! my father was one of the original partners of Schwab’s Pharmacy

  • Billy Mitchell says:

    I walked into Schwabs in 1967 for the first time and feel like I never left. I became one of the regulars along with Phil Dixon, Mike Perotta, George Mathers, Joe Van Winkle, Rudy Diaz, Richy Beck, Jonny Jacobs, Joey Ross and so many more. There where times when my cash flow was nonexistent and the wonderful waitresses would feed us without giving us a check. Yes, there was a lot of star’s, but for the most the regulars made-up the atmosphere of this fantastic place. I truly wish it never would have closed, but all things come to an end. Id like to add, when SAG was on strike, I forget which year, I was thrown through the front window by Chuck McCann, who was a good friend and still is, because he thought I took an acting job during the strike (scab)! Fact was I was a driver on a Canadian commercial. I don’t know if he had to pay for the window. Thanks for letting me take an enjoyable journey back and sharing it with you. If you have photos of any of the regulars of Schwabs or you are one of us, please get in touch with me anytime at wemphd@aol.com.
    Sincerely, Billy.

  • richard says:

    Used to be close friends with daughter of one of the owners of “Steak and Stein” in the 60’s Name was Sally Emerson . Maybe you knew her? Be trying to locate her. Thanks

  • Sue Schmier says:

    My boyfriend and I used to go to theSchwabs on Sunset. The night we saw Alfie we went there after the movie and there was Michael Caine. My boyfriend told me to get his autograph but I was too shy. I has a crush on Michael Caine!

  • lynne lyons says:

    I used to eat breakfast here in grade school. Jello and milk.
    Also read someone wanted to know about la barbaras, I ate there to in Santa Monica. Best pizza.

  • Carol L says:

    And I loved the restaurant that was next door to Schwab’s even more. Went there often as it was just up the street from our apt. It was called Steak ‘n’ Stein. Anybody remember that?

  • Jeanette says:

    I worked at Schwab’s Beverly Hills for 15+ years and I can tell you that more that just “character” actors frequented all the Schwab’s at the time (6 stores) in the late 60’s to early 80’s. I had the delight of helping Mohammed Ali to Sugar Ray Robinson, Elvis to Mick Jagger and Elton John,Gregory Peck to Warren Beatty and Steve Mc Queen,Rita Hayworth to Cher, Gilbert Roland,David Niven, Bob Wagner,James Coburn, Sir Lawrence Olivier and many,many more…it was an institution to most of Hollywood…I remember Jack Schwab (oldest of the Schwab clan) telling about the glory days when Tyrone Power slipped behind the soda fountain on sunset and served malts and many such wonderful stories…..they never turned back anyone and were very generous to many starving actors….even gangsters were welcome! I recall Al Smiley(who escaped the Bugsey Segal masacre),Nate Stein(who did prison time for Jimmy Hoffa) and Johnny Rozzelli( who later was found dead in a barrel) Interesting place to be most of the time!

  • Bill says:

    When I was working in Hollywood back in the 70’s I occasionally would lunch in the small back dining area at Schwab’s on Crescent. There was always a table clearly reserved for character actors. Paul Sorvino was a regular. Once say Shelley Winters saunter in and join the table.

  • William says:

    Remember–you can always see the original Schwab’s in the film Sunset Boulevard. So it lives forever…

  • Sheridan Leatherbury says:

    When I first entered Hollywood freshly equipped with a SAG card in 1980, I went to the deli to be discovered like Lana Turner. I remember thinking, wow, how long does this take? My sandwich is almost gone!
    I am so glad I did this, it goes in the book I’m writing. Too bad its not there anymore. Along with the other places I went and sat… waiting….

  • Max says:

    I was the news boy at this site for a couple of years. My Dad had Danzig Jewelry across the street at 8027 Sunset Blvd. I have noticed the picture has been shown with confusion over the other Schwab’s some two blocks west of Doheny on Sunset. That one didn’t exist in the thirties, forties or fifties. The confusion is because the 8024 Sunset Blvd. Schwab’s was original the wooden front picture often shown. In about 1956-57 that building was redone as the modern building shown in the picture above. The one in Beverly Hills (west of Doheny) didn’t exist at the time but the sign was about the same. There were some offices above the pharmacy where a gossip report maintain offices. Schwab’s indeed full of celebrities and I recall Liz and Mike Todd living a block east on Laurel Avenue and coming to breakfast there. I fell in love with Sophia Loren when she walked in to Schwab’s but I was only about ten years old.

  • rolf Harper says:

    My friends ex husband actor Rudy Dias has been going there every afternoon for at least for 25 years. Always sitting on the far end of the counter. If he wouln’t have past away and the place still there, you could have spotted him there tomorrow at 4pm

  • William says:

    Thank goodness that we still have Greenblatt’s Deli that is across the street from where Schwab’s Pharmacy was.

  • sandra lee says:

    looking for La Barbaras Pizza, anybody know where they went ?

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