“I started drinking before you people were born. I’ll be drinking after I bury you.”- Charles Bukowski
Chances are it’d be hard to figure all the joints Bukowski bellied up to. His domain was Hollywood and Western for a chunk of his life when he was boozing/ writing poetry and prose by day and sticking mail at the post office by night. There’s a neat video of him reminiscing about his old neighborhood here.
That hood has changed a lot since those days with arrival of the Metro Red Line and scads of soul-less structures filled with fast food and big box stores which knocked out whole city blocks of mom and pop shops. It used to have equal parts grit and personality… lots of bars, liquor stores, and street life.
Though Bukowski was long gone (moved to San Pedro in the late 70’s) the area still had flavor in the 80’s and 90’s when we captured these pix. This dive was on Western– perhaps he tipped a few back here before getting 86’d. Notice the sex shop next door.
The Study is wedged between a hotel and a liquor store that Bukowski recalls, so maybe he did some “studying” here as well. This spot became a gay bar in the ’90’s and has now been erased from the landscape all together. I remember it having a pot belly fire pit inside, providing refuge from the cruel LA weather I guess.
Buk is said to have ventured west on Hollywood Blvd. to the Frolic Room, which keeps pouring ’em strong to this day.
Big Ed’s was a classic Culver City watering hole, popular among actors, gamblers, & hustlers in ’40s & ‘50s. It seems a stretch to think Bukowski would have been a regular here as it falls so far outside of his home turf.
It had its last last call in the late ‘80s. Just before shuttering, it was transformed into The Golden Horn bar, the setting of the cult movie, “Barfly”, the only screenplay penned by Bukowski. If you squint, you may be able to imagine the Golden Horn neon atop the Big Ed’s. Bukowski had a cameo as a bar patron towards the end of the movie, so maybe just maybe he did drink here after all…
Sometime after the movie was made Big Ed’s was razed, but not before being mysteriously burned, which is when this shot was snapped. Wouldn’t you know it became a parking lot. Now that’s poetry.
Find more photography of old Los Angeles dive bars here.
After a complex week you may need a simple recipe for a rye Manhattan. Skip the mixologist and stir up your own stiff one to kickstart the weekend.
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is key to this Manhattan. It’s good, it’s old (been around since 1810), and it’s easy on the wallet. Just look for the Old Man on the label. You’ll also need some Angostura Bitters, Luxardo Marachino Cherries, and some fresh clean ice. Yeah, crusty old freezer burned ice can ruin a cocktail from the get-go.
1. Fill cocktail glass with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey (for measuring purposes).
2. Dump whiskey into a cocktail shaker with ice.
3. Add a couple healthy shakes of bitters.
4. Stir until whiskey is chilled.
5. Strain into cocktail glass.
6. Add twist of lemon, rub rind around rim & toss into glass.
7. Add one or two Luxardo cherries followed by a couple spoons of cherry liquid.* The brand name is everything here. These cherries are not your run of the mill atomic candied cherries. They are extremely edible (known to be eaten atop ice cream) and make the drink.
8. Stir gently until a bit cloudy.
9. Toast your partners & drink!
*Most Manhattan recipes call for vermouth, but we think a couple drops of Luxardo cherry juice sneak in a less heavy-handed hint of sweetness.
Crazy for craft beer? You can’t seem to go far these days without stumbling across artisanal ales. Nothing like bellying up to the local bar for some local brew, but some days you just feel like cracking a cold one on the cheap in the comfort of your own home.
For the love of good beer with a dash of dive bar atmosphere, we’ve created a set of Handmade Upcycled Photo Coasters to bring old school beer-sonality to your home bar.
Stay in and enjoy a healthy session of homestead elbow bending, without endangering that heirloom coffee table.
Some juice joints modernize by switching out neon signage for plastic, covering old worn bar wood with laminate or selling out to a hipster who fumigates, reupholsters and reopens with higher prices and younger clientele. Downtown Los Angeles has a few of the latter with King Eddy’s Saloon the most recent to get the make over.But if you’re lucky, you end up as just a wink in a camera bug’s eye and nary a mention on the internet like the Dog House, a rundown bar across the street from MacArthur Park that disappeared without comment sometime in the 1980s. Besides this shot taken from the window of a passing car, the Dog House’s only other appearance is in the background of a scene in some obscure low budget flick that dropped out a sight a few years ago. The Dog House would belong in the Bar Hall of Fame, if there were such an institution. There is a Drinkers Hall of Fame for those who care for such places. You can chance upon it if you drive east out of LA on the old Route 66 though the bar signage got the modernization treatment mentioned above. Inside it’s as nondescript as a striped down ranch house in the Valley but the painted sign that once attracted drinkers on the side of the bar is still something to admire in old photos like the one snapped on an escape from the city several decades ago.
Even before digital shutters made spending $$ on film obsolete, fools like myself took as many shots as our fingers could tap out in the hope and prayer that out of several rolls of 36 at least one brilliant shot would surface. That’s one of several reasons why I don’t remember taking many of these photos, that is the where, when, why, who and whatever. Like DL’s Beef & Beer. What was this simple storefront? A precursor to Wurstkuche where instead of Belgium brew and artisan sausage they served Bud and ground beef? The Zimba Room. Now here’s a sign I pass nearly everyday on Beverly Blvd in Echo Park but you’d never recognize it. The white letters were painted over long ago so now it’s just a huge chunk of blue metal hanging on the side of a true flop house called the Lafayette Hotel. The Lafayette is a dump that no hipster would ever consider giving the gentrification make over. Any fumigation would involve torching it to the ground. But imagine if you can the bar that was once accessible from the front, a place called the Zimba Room. Zimba…the imagination is rich with visuals…Like Zimba, the name Taxi Bar inspires the mind to wander and dream of stories best found in detective novels. Taxi Bar is still visible on Third, a block or two before the street dips down into downtown. Unfortunately the sign, with blue & white letters, a star and arrow, was switched out several years ago by all new vinyl. Probably the only good part of the joint and now that’s gone too.
Step back in time with some photo postcards of bygone Los Angeles Bars.