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.

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