Another longtime Hollywood landmark has closed very recently, and very quietly. The Formosa Cafe, 7156 Sunset Blvd, first opened in 1925 and immediately became a local hangout for celebrities of the day.
Everyone from Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean to Michael Douglas, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt have spent time there. Frank Sinatra drowned his sorrows there over losing wife Ava Gardner there in the mid 1950’s, eventually leading to his famous album release In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning.
It’s proximity to several major film studios ignited the place almost immediately, but it was the atmosphere of dining and drinking in what appeared to be an old railroad car that really made the place. Many waitresses and bartenders worked there for 40 to 50 years, maintaining the image and general comfort of the landmark.
Many well known films were shot there, the most famous being 1997’s LA Confidential, directed by Curtis Hansen, perhaps the greatest LA film noir of all time. A young Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger starred in the film, but the best (of many) great lines in it were spoken by other characters. Who could ever forget the scene with LAPD Detective Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) stating to a gorgeous blond woman dining with gangster Johnny Stompanato “a hooker cut to look like Lana Turner, is still a hooker,” when fellow cop Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) responds “That IS Lana Turner.”
The Formosa underwent a major remodel in 2015, gutting the historic interior. It did NOT go over well with fans of the place, so they attempted to restore a similar decor recently.
The word is mum on why it closed so suddenly, but no matter the reason, someone should buy it! Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington, George Clooney, are you listening? Brad Pitt would also be a good candidate. It would take his mind off of the divorce.
A far less famous local landmark also quietly went away late last year. The Half Moon Motel on Sepulveda in Culver City. Although I never stayed there, I loved the turquoise neon sign, that also featured a bright yellow crescent moon. I am told a collector from the Hemet area bought the sign. The motel has changed it’s name,and lost it’s longtime historical identity.