Thursday, April 26, 2007

Apple #239: RoboCop

At long last, we come to the end of our series on What's Your Favorite Place. What does RoboCop have to do with geography, you ask? One avid reader (Anonymous) asked if I would write an entry about Detroit. I directed Anonymous to my already-existing entry on Detroit (paired with a companion entry about dachshunds, of course). Anonymous responded with:
I think the reason I forgot about the Detroit one was because you did not mention Robocop.

So I agreed that I would write an entry all about RoboCop and thus atone for my earlier omission.

Anonymous, I give you RoboCop

(Screen shot from Roboarchive)

  • The movie is set in a futuristic Detroit which is crime-saturated and also run by a giant company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP).
  • To try to improve its image with shareholders, OCP decides to make robotic police officers to fight the horrendous crime in its city. Their test model has glitches and shoots a junior executive by accident.
  • Then a human police officer, Alex Murphy (played by Peter Weller) is killed in the line of duty. Or not completely killed, because an OCP scientist takes his body and uses that to build the company's super-robot, RoboCop.
  • This robot is a success and becomes a one-robot crime-fighting scourge.

RoboCop, bad-ass in the grocery store.
(Screen shot from DVD Active)

  • However, as RoboCop is wreaking carnage on all the bad elements in the city, he meets up with his former partner (played by Nancy Allen) and the Alex Murphy that still lives inside RoboCop begins to remember things. His memories become so undeniable that he changes his own mission to hunt for his creators at the top of OCP.
Here's what reviewer-types have to say about it:
  • Considered by many critics to be one of the best films of its genre. -- Rotten Tomatoes
  • RoboCop is a thriller with a difference. -- Roger Ebert
  • "RoboCop" does for cyborgs and Detroit what "Blade Runner" did for androids and L.A. -- Rita Kempley, Washington Post
  • "RoboCop is cool in so many ways it's hard to count them all." -- Mutant Reviewers from Hell

RoboCop getting human
(Screen shot from DVD Active)

Now, in true Daily Apple style, here are some various facts about the movie:
  • RoboCop was nominated for two Oscars, for best sound and for best film editing
  • Though RoboCop was set in Detroit, it was actually filmed in Dallas. The only shot of actual Detroit is the opening aerial shot. The producer said of Detroit, "its architecture just wasn't right" for the movie.
  • All of the shots of Murphy being killed were shot during post-production in an abandoned auto assembly plant in Long Beach.
  • The robot suit was not exactly flexible. The first time Weller put it on, it took him 11 1/2 hours to get into it. Any time Weller had to get into or out of a car, the legs of the suit had to be taken off.

He's pausing on his way into the car because he can't get into it without taking the legs off his suit.
(Movie Poster image from IMP Awards)

  • One scene, when the robot is supposed to catch a set of car keys in his gloves, took an hour to shoot because the keys kept bouncing off the gloves.
  • The dysfunctional prototype robot ED209 was built by a guy named McNamara, intentionally named after the US Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War. The design of robot itself was based on the structure of a particular helicopter used in Vietnam.

The malfunctioning ED209
(Photo from an End of Media essay RoboCop, Now and Forever)

The Bell UH-1H Huey, the most-used helicopter in the Vietnam War, was the basis for the design of the ED209.
(Photo from Wings of Eagles Discovery Center)

  • The evil Clarence Boddicker, head of the nastiest gang in Detroit, is played by Kurtwood Smith, who is now the dad on That '70s Show.
  • When Dutch Director Paul Verhoeven first read the script, he threw it across the room after reading the first 20 pages. His wife read it, said she saw more in it than the typical Hollywood B-movie. Since Verhoeven was having trouble getting money for his film budgets in Holland, he took the job. It was his first big-budget Hollywood film.
  • Verhoeven's other Hollywood movies:
  • Peter Weller also starred in another 1980s movie I spent scads of time watching with my friends, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, in which he plays Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, who is simultaneously a neurosurgeon, a quantum physicist, and rock star front man for the Hong Kong Cavaliers.

Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, in the gray suit) and his Hong Kong Cavaliers. That's Jeff Goldblum peeking over Rawhide's shoulder.
"Everybody need see Buckaroo."
(Photo from IMDB Photo Gallery)

This marks the end of our look into various geographic locations. Thanks, everybody, for your requests.

IMDB, RoboCop
Rotten Tomatoes, Info & Tidbits about RoboCop
RoboCop Archive
Roger Ebert, RoboCop, July 17, 1987
Rita Kempley, RoboCop, July 17, 1987
Mutant Reviewers from Hell do RoboCop, March 15, 2004
Mark Athitakis,, RoboCop, 2003

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Apple #238: Grindhouse

So I just got back from seeing Grindhouse. I don't usually post my reactions to a movie, and it's not that it was such a stellar film that I think everyone should go see it. But I went into it with a bad opinion, and it turned out that bad opinion was not justified. I have the feeling the movie has gotten a similarly bad opinion in general, and I want to try to counter that, even slightly. I had fun watching it -- for the zombie slasher movie that it is.

Grindhouse: refers to movie theaters whose main focus was "grinding out" or showing as many B movies as possible. Can also refer to the B movies themselves, which were often violent, racy, or exploitative. Sometimes the movies were passed from theater to theater, and over time they would become scratched or worn or some reels (usually the steamiest ones) would go "missing."

(IMDB Movie Terminology Glossary Are you going to the Grindhouse?)

If you have any sort of fondness for the slasher movies of your youth, I think you'd enjoy this double bill. Also, if you remember and faintly miss the Mr. Microphone commercials, or the bizarr-o things they used to put on the movie screen when you were waiting for the feature to start, this movie will speak to you.

Here is what Grindhouse boils down to:
  1. It is thoroughly gratuitous -- and knows it
  2. The good guys win in the end
  3. The chicks kick ass.
What more could you want?

One more thing to note: the Tarantino part of the double bill is really slow at first. Lots of talking, typical Tarantino fashion. Here's where you get up to get the beer (don't get up during the trailers, they're too funny and choice to miss) and the popcorn, go to the bathroom, have a smoke, etc. But make sure you're back by the time the second carload of chicks is on the road. And if you've missed the first part of his movie, know that Kurt Russell is The Bad Guy. Then sit back and wait for the ride. The payoff is worth the wait. Trust me.

And yes, the chick with the automatic rifle for a leg is worth it, too.

Except, in the movie, it's her other leg that's the gun
(Movie poster from

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Apple #237: Venetian Gondolas

I have one more request to address in the What's Your Favorite Place series (unless anybody else wants to ring in). That last request is actually about Robocop -- which is apparently somehow related to Detroit -- but since it's not really about a place, I think I want to insert my own request in first.

Some friends of mine are going to Venice in couple of months, and they told me that they're probably going to take a gondola ride. We were talking about the gondolas, and and how they work and all that, and we realized we were guessing about much of it. So I want to know the facts. How does one hail a gondola? How much does it cost? Do the gondoliers have to be licensed? How is a gondola different from a water taxi? As you can see, I have many questions.

Despite the colorful covers, all Venetian gondole are black.
This is thanks to a decree passed by the Doge in 1562,
which said that only gondole that transport important personages
may be colored. (Photo from Life in Italy)

  • Generally speaking, there are two types of gondolas:
    • Charterage gondole -- gondolas for hire, mostly used by tourists or married couples, etc.
    • Gondole de parada -- ferries used by Venetians trying to cross canals to get from one place to another
  • Before I get into details about these two types of gondole, it is important to know something about the canals in Venice.
  • Venice is an island -- or more accurately, 100 islands -- shaped sort of like your clenched right fist and forearm. Canals snake and criss-cross through nearly every part of the island. But the biggest one snakes through the center of the fist. This canal is called the Grand Canal.
  • There are also smaller islands around the edges of Venice, and the waters that separate Venice from these other islands are also called canals.

Sorry this map looks a little funny, but it was the best one I could find
that shows the Grand Canal and the smaller and outer canals as well.
You can see this map in its original, much larger version,
which also allows you to click to view more detail at Venice Online.

  • So you can see how important it would be for people to use the ferries to get from one place to another on a regular basis.
The practical ferries, or the gondole de parada, or traghetti
    • Costs 50,000 Eurocents. I think that would be 5 Euros? Or roughly $7?
    • There are six major ferry routes. They each take rather winding courses across the island and make several stops along the one. One route goes from the railway station (ferrovia) to St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), which is one of the most famous tourist locations in Venice. That route crosses the Grand Canal but does not follow it.
    • For details about each itinerary, go to the Official Gondola Site and click on the route of interest. Within that route's page are links to specific stops along the way.

St. Mark's Square, 2006
(Photo by Frederick Muller)

The tourist gondolas, or charterage gondole
  • Some of these gondolas are equipped with luxuries such as carpets, stuffed seats, painted brass figures, and other embellishments.
  • A 40-minute, standard tour during the day costs 80 Euros (about $110).
  • If you want to take an extended trip, each extra 20 minutes will cost you an additional 40 Euros (~$55).
  • Nighttime tours for the same lengths of time cost 100 Euros (~$137), plus 50 Euros (~$69) for each additional 20 minutes.

This canal in the San Marco district has a bit of a fondamente
on the left, and no shore on the right. Based on the pictures
I saw, most of the canals do not have a shore.

(Photo by Marpessa, 2005)

  • If you do take a tour, try to choose a route that has fondamente, or shores on the sides of the canals. Canals without fondamente lap right up against the edges of buildings and give a somewhat more claustrophobic view, while canals with shores have a little more breathing room, let you see the people walking by, and generally provide a more extended view of the surroundings.
  • If you get a singing gondolier, the songs he'll sing are from Naples, not Venice. This is one reason why the native Venetians don't like the singing gondoliers.
Additional facts about the gondole
  • Gondolas are built with the left side slightly larger than the right, which helps to counterbalance the weight of the lone gondolier. This means the craft will always list slightly farther to one side.

With a slightly wider hull on the left,
the gondola lists to the right.

(Diagram from the Official Gondola Site)

  • The bottom of the gondola is flat, which allows it to navigate even the shallowest waters.
  • Gondolas can be as large as 11 meters long and weigh 60 kilos (132 lbs), but they can still be propelled by one person using a single oar.
  • The boat is made almost entirely of wood, with the exception of the head and the risso at the stern. The head's purpose is to help balance the boat, but its particular curvature is traditionally designed to represent the shape of the Grand Canal. Other decorative elements represent the six districts of Venice, the Rialto bridge, and other Venetian landmarks.
  • Gondolas used to have an enclosed cabin, or felze, that allowed people to travel without being seen. These types of gondolas were often hired for romantic or illicit purposes.

Gondola with felze, or cabin.
Who knows what went on inside those felzes?

(Image from the Official Gondola Site)

  • The Society of Gondoliers is based on the traditional guild, like an artisans' guild, which all respectable gondoliers have joined. To be granted membership, you have to pass a driver's test, so to speak. You don't have to speak Italian, but it will probably help you get around more easily.
  • Back in the day, guild members were required to give aid to "fugitive nuns" and they could be conscripted to serve in the Venetian navy.
  • Gondoliers have all been men until 2007, when Alexandra Hai, a 35 year-old woman from Germany, became the first female gondolier in Venetian history.
  • However, the Society of Gondoliers revoked her license, claiming she is not strong enough to operate her gondola. She failed her test three times, but passed on her fourth attempt. She also passed the written exam.

Alexandra Hai in 2004.
She did much better on her tests in 2007.

(Photo from

Official Gondola Site (English version)
VeniceWord, gondola
Teresa Cutler, "Gondolas: Venice in Black," Life in Italy
Kate Connolly, "Woman causes storm on Venice's Grand Canal," The Guardian, April 5, 2007
Judy Johnson, The Gondoliers of Venice: Co-operative Tradition Under Threat on the Grand Canal, ACCORD CASC Presentation, May 2005
"Rowing your boat - tips on becoming a Venetian gondolier," Insight on the News, September 6, 1999

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Apple #236: Kurt Vonnegut

By special request, I am interrupting the What's Your Favorite Place series to give you a brief biography of the recently departed Kurt Vonnegut. There have been tons of articles published about him since his death last week, and I don't want to re-hash what everyone has already said (modern-day Mark Twain, favorite on college campuses, etc. etc.). Instead, since I know only very sketchy details myself, I'm going to give you a biography.

  • Born in Indianapolis on Veterans' Day, 1922.
  • Went to Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, where he edited the student newspaper, the Echo.

Young Vonnegut
(Photo from Delos, an Italian sci-fi magazine)

I’ve been a coward about heroin and cocaine and LSD and so on, afraid they might put me over the edge. . . . But I’ll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first driver’s license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.

  • Studied chemistry and biology at Cornell from 1940 to 1942 but didn't achieve high marks. Also wrote anti-war articles for the Cornell Daily Sun.
  • Left Cornell before the university could ask him to leave and enrolled in what is now Carnegie Mellon to study engineering.
  • Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the US Army in 1943.

Vonnegut in his Army uniform
(Photo from a French site about Vonnegut)

  • In 1944, his mother killed herself.
  • Also in 1944, he was sent to Europe. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the worst battles of World War II. Over 75,000 Americans were killed or wounded or captured, while the Germans lost 80,000 to 100,000 during the coldest and snowiest winter in memory.
  • Vonnegut was captured and taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans.
  • He was being held in Dresden when he witnessed the city's firebombing by Allied troops and the total destruction of the city and its civilian population. The only reason he and his fellow POWs survived is because they hid in an underground meat locker, deep under a slaughterhouse where they had been making diet supplements for pregnant women.

Dresden, after the firebombing
(Photo from Tom G. Palmer's site)

This photo of Dresden, from Erich Ufschmid's site, is captioned Cremation on Altmarket, 1945

  • After the war, he returned home and in 1945 married his high school girlfriend, Jane Marie Cox.
  • He went to the University of Chicago where he studied graduate-level anthropology while working as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau. His graduate committee unanimously rejected his MA thesis, titled "Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tales."
Q: What targets would you consider fair game for a satirist today?
KV: Assholes.

  • He and his wife had three children.
  • In 1947 he moved to Schenectady where he worked as a public relations representative for General Electric before his first novel was published.
  • That first novel, Player Piano, published in 1952, satirizes corporate culture. Perhaps it was based on things he saw and overhead while at General Electric? Whatever the inspiration, critics turned up their noses at it, calling it "mere science fiction."
One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.

  • It wasn't until his fourth novel, Cat's Cradle, was published eleven years later that his work gained widespread attention.
  • He showed the novel to the University of Chicago, which had rejected his MA thesis years ago, and they awarded him his graduate degree.
  • Anthropology thesis award-winning novel, Cat's Cradle
  • In 1958, his brother-in-law was killed in a train wreck and a few days later, his sister died of cancer. Following their deaths, Vonnegut and his wife adopted his sister's three children.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, my personal favorite, was published in 1969. The Vietnam War was going full steam at the time and the novel is regarded as one of the pre-eminent anti-war novels of the 20th century.

Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being.

  • In 1973, another favorite of mine, Breakfast of Champions, was published.
  • In 1970, he and Jane separated, and in 1979, they were officially divorced.
  • The following November, he married photographer Jill Krementz. Together they adopted a girl named Lily.

(Photo from Garrett's MySpace)

  • Despite his increasing success and his large family of seven children, he battled depression and attempted to take his own life in 1984.

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now am tempted to give up on people too. And, as some of you may know, this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine. My last words? “Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.”

  • In 1991, he and Jill filed for divorce, but the petition was later withdrawn.
  • In 1997, Timequake was published, which he said would be his last novel. He did start working on another novel, this one about a stand-up comedian, but it was not published.
  • In 2000, his brownstone in New York City caught fire during the Superbowl, and Vonnegut was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
  • His essays were collected in a volume called A Man Without a Country, which was published in 2005.
  • In 2007, he fell in his home and suffered brain injuries, which proved fatal.

I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express. It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.

Biography, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Library Factfiles, Kurt Vonnegut: Novelist from Indianapolis
Grade Saver, Biography of Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Books and Writers, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
World War II History Info, Battle of the Bulge: The German Counteroffensive
Quotes are from some of Mr. Vonnegut's articles which he wrote for In These Times
and have been collected in his book of essays, A Man Without a Country

Monday, April 9, 2007

Apple #235: Merchandise Mart

Next up in our What's Your Favorite Place series is the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. A reader named Cesar's Ghost also listed some of his favorite places in Chicago, but he seemed to be offering his own information about those places, rather than to be asking me to find out more for him. Cesar's Ghost, if you did want me to investigate any one of your favorite spots, let me know and I'll put together an Apple for you. In the meantime, we press on!

Here is the request I'll be responding to in this entry:
Hi Apple Lady -

You so deftly handled my request for Chicago River schooling prior to a (truly) death-defying swim that I thought I might make another Second City suggestion: The Merchandise Mart! It's right here in the heart of downtown, has been here for many years, and is only 1 of 2 places in the city that warrants its very own L stop. It has a lot of history and remains to this day a hub for interior design of all sorts (amongst other things). I work in the building and have always been fascinated with everything from the architectural details to the pez heads in front to the mysterious pictures of fancy 40s era parties held on the roof. Please shed some of your light upon this magnificent (and monstrous) building in downtown Chicago!


The Merchandise Mart in Chicago
(Photo by Felix)

The most obvious thing about the Merchandise Mart is that it's big. But how big is it?
  • The Mart encompasses two city blocks and contains 4 million sq ft of space.
  • Building materials used:
    • 29 million bricks
    • 60,000 tons of steel
    • 3.9 million cubic yards of concrete
    • 200,000 cubic feet of stone
    • 40 miles of plumbing
    • 380 miles of wiring
    • 400,000 windows
  • The central portion of the Mart is 18 stories high.
  • Total length of the corridors inside the Mart is estimated at 5 miles.

A portion of the Mart, at the top of the central column.
(Photo posted by UptownChiBoy)

What Is It?
  • The Merchandise Mart is a big showroom, or advertising space. The idea is that in one building, would-be shoppers can browse among lots of related goods, from furniture to gifts to apparel to jewelry, that might all work together in the shopper's home or office.
  • In addition to the showrooms, other companies occupy the other 50% of available space. The Mart's managers spin this element, saying that other companies are attracted by this hubbub of activity and want to be surrounded by sparkling new things and the bustle of happy shoppers. But it's probably also true that the Mart's owners need to fill that empty building space and will lease it out to other companies as needed.
  • Showrooms in the Mart include:
    • Kitchen & Bath Center: 95,000 sq ft of space housing 30 luxury boutiques for home building and renovation.

Lampshade, available from Urban Archaeology (Suite 108)

    • Residential Furnishings: houses 129 showrooms of everything from fireplaces to furniture to Oriental rugs.

Chair by KirkBrummel at Brunschwig & Fils (Suite 6-121)

    • Gift & Home: over 300 showrooms devoted to selling accents for the home and gifts. Many of the showrooms in this category are set up on a temporary or seasonal basis.

Kyoto Stand, made of Japanese maple by Dover Metals
(showroom 12-645). For use in hotels, it can also
be used in the home for a mere $300.

    • Casual Furnishings: 168,000 sq ft of casual and indoor furniture made of wood, wicker, wrought iron, resin, and similar materials.

This cantilevered umbrella (model #P-18) stands on a teak wooden pole and is available from FIM Umbrella (Suite 8-1000). Or you can design your own patio umbrella to be custom-made.

    • Commercial Furnishings: 180 showrooms on the 3rd, 10th, and 11th floors, specializing in furniture for retail, office, health care, institutional, and governmental environments.

Think you might want your office to look like this? That cabinet alone,
on which the flat-screen TV sits, will set you back a mere $4,300.
Part of the Mural office line from Nucraft (Suite 1166)

    • Apparel: 250 showrooms of wholesale apparel, purchased by buyers for retail stores. The 7th floor houses strictly bridal apparel, also for national retail buyers.
  • In addition to the showrooms and office space, you can also find these services (all of which support people buying stuff, getting together to talk about buying stuff, and shipping out the stuff they've bought):
    • Wine shop and gourmet market
    • Three full-service restaurants
    • Starbucks coffee shop
    • Dunkin' Donuts
    • Full-service bank
    • Currency exchange
    • Wireless services store
    • Hair salon
    • Photo finishing
    • Tailoring and dry cleaning
    • Bookstore
    • Travel agency
    • Card & gift shop
    • US Post Office
    • Federal Express office

The Merchandise Mart, during construction
(Photo from the Merchandise Mart)

  • The Merchandise Mart is the brainchild of James Simpson, who in 1928 was the president of Marshall Field's. At that time, Marshall Field's was the premier department store in Chicago, and probably for the entire country outside of New York City.
  • Simpson wanted to put all of Marshall Field's wholesale activities into one building. And back then, Marshall Field's had the clout to tell its vendors, You come to us, just as big box retailers like Home Depot and Staples can do today.
  • Simpson selected the site on the riverfront. The architecture firm he chose -- Graham, Anderson, Probst and White -- designed the building with a dignified exterior befitting Marshall Field's status, and a highly adaptable interior.
  • Construction was completed in 1931 at a total cost of $35 million. The timing couldn't have been worse, since the building was completed during the guts of the Great Depression.
  • In 1945, Marshall Field's sold the Mart to Joseph P. Kennedy for $12.5 million. Kennedy was a former ambassador to Great Britain, and his son went on to become the 35th President of the United States. Profits from the Mart helped finance JFK's 1960 Presidential campaign.

The Merchandise Mart in 1949
(Photo from the Encyclopedia of Chicago History)

  • Joseph Kennedy was the first to open the Mart for tours. Tours are still given today. They last 90 minutes and cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.
  • Kennedy also ordered the construction of 8 bronze busts outside the Mart. These are four times life size, and are supposed to "immortalize outstanding American merchants."

Who Owns It Now?
  • A boring realty trust company called Vornado owns it now. But the Mart is managed by a company called, appropriately enough, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. They own and manage lots of properties like design centers or places they lease to retail businesses. They also manage two other Merchandise Marts besides the one in Chicago.
  • In addition to managing properties, the company also runs trade shows. They do all the planning and set-up and provide the equipment and so on. As part of their trade show business, they run NeoCon, which is billed as today's Chicago World's Fair and is held in the Merchandise Mart. Really, it's one of the largest trade shows in the commercial furnishings industry.

Chris, I'm sorry but I couldn't find anything online about parties on the roof of the Merchandise Mart back in some mysterious point in time. Looks like that's something you might have to look up in a book -- or I bet they'd tell you the answer during a tour of the building.

Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.
The Merchandise Mart
Reference for Business, Marshall Field's history
For more about the 8 bronze heads, see Alice Maggio's Ask the Librarian entry from November 10, 2005

Monday, April 2, 2007

Apple #234: Musso & Frank Grill

Next up in our What's Your Favorite Place series, we move from New York City and the East Coast to the West Coast, specifically, Los Angeles, home of Musso & Frank Grill. (Anybody from Chicago want to put in a request and fill in the big-city middle?)

  • Actually, Musso & Frank Grill is located in Hollywood. And at almost 80 years old, it is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood.
  • Established by John Musso and Frank Toulet, who gave their names to the restaurant. Although why they picked John's last name and Frank's first name, I could not discover.

Musso & Frank Grill storefront, date unknown, probably in the 1920s
(Photo from Musso & Frank Grill, posted at Epicurious)

The front of the restaurant today
(Photo from Seeing Stars)

  • It is located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue. The Writer's Guild used to be on Cherokee Ave., so a lot of big-name writers used to round the corner to the Grill for food and a drink. Or many drinks, as the case may be.
  • The atmosphere:
    • Red-jacketed, well-aged bartenders and waiters
    • Wood-paneled walls and ceiling
    • High-backed red leather booths
    • Dim lighting
    • Counter, with some seats near the cash register
    • West room with smaller booths
    • Open-air east room
  • Some writers who spent more or less amounts of time at the Grill:
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • William Faulkner
    • Ernest Hemingway
    • Dashiell Hammett
    • Raymond Chandler
  • TV and movie stars who have frequented the Grill:
    • Charlie Chaplin (preferred table 1)
    • Tom Mix (window seat)
    • Marx Brothers
    • Clark Gable
    • Humphrey Bogart
    • Al Pacino (table 28)
    • Sean Penn
    • Ben Kingsley
    • Brad Pitt
    • Tom Selleck (table 24)

Judging by some of the narrower booths, I'm guessing this is the West room.
(Photo from Time Out of Mind)

  • Other famous folks:
    • the Warner Brothers
    • Orson Welles
    • David Lynch
    • Woody Allen
    • The Rolling Stones
  • Supposedly, it was at the Musso & Frank Grill that Marlon Brando's troubled daughter, Cheyenne, first told her brother that her boyfriend, Dag, was abusive. Brother Christian later shot the boyfriend. Turned out that Cheyenne was lying.
  • Appears in movies:
    • Oceans 11 - Pitt & Clooney's characters discuss their Vegas heist
    • Ed Wood - Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) meets up with Orson Welles (Vincent D'Onofrio)

Seats at the counter at Musso & Frank Grill
(Photo from Discover Hollywood)

  • The menu -- printed daily -- is strictly old-school. The kitchen has no microwaves. Whether it's casual food or fine dining, most of the items seem to come from the 1950s:
    • Corned beef and cabbage
    • Chicken pot pie (Thursday only)
    • Grilled liver
    • Flannel cakes (crepe-thin pancakes)
    • Shrimp cocktail
    • Beef stroganoff
    • Welsh rarebit and jellied consomm√©
    • Veal scallopini marsala
    • Roast spring lamb with mint jelly
    • Porterhouse steak
    • Oyster stew
    • Eleven varieties of potato side dishes
    • Coffee served in individual, small pots.

The counter, getting ready to open for the day
(Photo from Time Out of Mind)

  • Not recommended for vegetarians.
  • Not recommended for people in a rush.
  • A few of the sites I checked said the quality of food was not as stellar as the atmosphere or the history of the place. But the reviewers recommended a sample of one or more of the house drinks as a counterbalance to any minor unpleasantness.
  • Recommended drinks:
    • Bone-dry martini
    • Martini with sidecar
    • Bloody Mary
  • The prices are not exactly casual, though. Dinner for two can set you back $25 to $85.
  • Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 11 pm. Closed Sunday & Monday.
  • Park in the $2 lot in back.

Seeing Stars: The Ultimate Guide to Celebrities & Hollywood, Musso & Frank Grill
Frommer's Restaurant Review, Musso & Frank Grill
Yahoo Travel, Musso & Frank Grill
Citysearch, Musso & Frank Grill, Musso & Frank Grill
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Yelp reviews, Musso & Frank Grill, Bar review, Musso & Frank Grill
Positive Ape Index, scroll down to entry titled The Comforting Embrace Of Ritual
CourtTV Crime Library, Christian Brando: A Hollywood Family Tragedy, page 6