Seeing Stars: Hollywood Landmarks..  


6714 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 463-0000



The year was 1927. And Hollywood was just coming into its own when the Pig 'N Whistle was born.

Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer" introduced "talkies" to an audience accustomed to silent movies.

On the Boulevard, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel opened. (Two years later, the hotel would host the very first Academy Awards ceremony.)

And across the street, showman Sid Grauman opened his famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The Chinese was Grauman's second grand movie palace on Hollywood Boulevard. His first landmark cinema there had been the Egyptian Theatre. The Egyptian had opened five years earlier (in 1922) with the world's first movie premiere, of Douglas Fairbanks' "Robin Hood". And in 1927, Fairbanks and his wife, Mary Pickford, were the first to immortalize their hand and footprints in the wet cement outside Sid's new Chinese Theatre.

So where does the Pig 'N Whistle enter this scenario?


1940's Pig 'N Whistle menu

Well, when we think of going to a movie, most of us think of popcorn and candy and soft drinks.

But back in 1927, movie theatres didn't have concession counters inside their lobbies. Movie-goers still wanted to eat, of course, but they couldn't do it in the theatre. So an enterprising soul took advantage of the opportunity and opened a family restaurant and soda fountain right next door to the Egyptian, where movie-goers could have a meal before or after seeing the film.

It was called the Pig 'N Whistle, the name inspired by it's fanciful logo of a dancing pig playing a flute. A side entrance to the new family restaurant opened right out into the grand courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre, so movie-goers could easily move from the restaurant to the theatre and vice versa.

From July 22, 1927 to the late 1940's, the Pig 'N Whistle served a loyal Hollywood audience and became something of a Hollywood landmark, surviving both the Great Depression and World War II.

Among its fans were any number of celebrities during Hollywood's Golden Age. Shirley Temple was a regular. Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young, Howard Hughes and Barbara Stanwyck all dined there. A story in "Film Fan" magazine tells about young Judy Garland's day out with friends at the Pig 'N Whistle, back in 1939, the year she made "The Wizard of Oz." Johnny Weismuller, of "Tarzan" fame, was served a soda by a young singer named John Gary, who worked there as a waiter.

       

Although the original Pig 'N Whistle contained an ice cream parlor and a candy counter in front (with dining in the back), it was always a fine, elegant restaurant, due in no small part to its spectacular interior decor, a Gothic mix of ornate dark woods, heavy beams, paneled ceiling and stained-glass windows. An organ player entertained guests up front.

But as the 50's approached, Hollywood was changing. Elizabeth Short (AKA "The Black Dahlia") was seen at the Pig 'N Whistle in the weeks before her gruesome murder. By 1949, the Pig 'N Whistle was closed, it's wooden booths purchased by the nearby Miceliís Italian Restaurant.

Over the next fifty years, the Pig 'N Whistle building (which had been designed by the same architects who made the El Capitan theatre and was featured in a 1928 issue of Architectural Digest) passed through the hands of various owners and was damaged by a fire. Most recently, it housed a seedy fast food joint, its gorgeous interior hidden beneath a hung ceiling and false walls. Its sad state matched the neglected Egyptian at the time, which was a virtual ruin next door.


But the Pig 'N Whistle wasn't forgotten. It was even mentioned in the movie "Chinatown," starring Jack Nicholson. Here's an excerpt from the script:

    Walsh shows him the photos. He looks at them. They are a series outside a restaurant showing Mulwray with another man whose appearance is striking. In two of the photos a gnarled cane is visible.

    GITTES (continuing; obviously annoyed) This?

    WALSH They got into a terrific argument outside the Pig 'n Whistle.


And with Hollywood Boulevard undergoing a much-needed renaissance, Chris Breed & Allan Hajjar (who gave us the celebrity-laden Sunset Room) gifted the Boulevard with a $1.5 million makeover of the Pig 'N Whistle, painstakingly restoring the landmark space to its original Art Deco luster. They had to use old photographs to help reconstruct the interior.

Breed's father was a movie buff, and thus salvaging the landmark room is his tribute to his dad's love of Old Hollywood - and his bet that the ongoing rebirth of Hollywood will be a success.

The Pig 'N Whistle reopened after two years of work in March of 2001, and former child actress Margaret O'Brien attended the grand opening, as did actor Kevin McCarthy.

The restaurant remains where it always was, right next to the recently-renovated Egyptian Theatre. A matched set. They even preserved the side entrance into the Egyptian's exotic courtyard. The original dancing pig logo has been preserved; you'll even see the little fella playing his flute on a number of colorful tiles around the restaurant.

So what is the Pig 'N Whistle like now? It's a dazzling little gem of restored Hollywood glamour, a cozy den of rich woods, heavy beams and fine linen which makes you feel as if you just stepped back in time when you stroll into in from Hollywood Boulevard.

The restaurant opens up onto the Boulevard, with a few tables actually located on a small patio outside next to the door - offering a sidewalk cafe, al fresco experience ideal for people-watching. Inside, the old candy counter and soda fountain are gone, it's strictly a restaurant now, with booths, tables and a bar. (If they'd just get rid of that giant-screen TV in the back, it would be perfect.)

The lunch menu offers sandwiches and salads, averaging around $10. It can get a little more expensive in the evening, when dinner entrees such as osso buco, grilled garlic chicken and glazed roasted young pig sell for $15 to $24. There's even shepherds pie on the menu, a nod to the owner's mum.

They're open for lunch & dinner Monday through Saturday; they plan to start opening on seven days a week soon. The hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

After 10 p.m., the Pig 'N Whistle changes its tune, and its name, in a bid to lure Hollywood's young club-goers after dark. It becomes "NuBar," featuring martinis and music. (There's even full-size beds in the back room for lounging, a recent fad at other clubs like the Sky Bar.)

Looking at the bigger picture, the Pig 'N Whistle is yet another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is the current restoration of downtown Hollywood. Along with the restored Egyptian, the Hollywood Roosevelt, the El Capitan, the Pantages and the Chinese Theatre, the puzzle is slowly but surely being filled in. And construction on the biggest piece of all, the massive Hollywood-Highland project, can be seen from the sidewalk tables of the Pig 'N Whistle.

Getting thereThe Pig 'N Whistle is located right next to the Egyptian Theatre, on the south side of Hollywood Blvd. From Hollywood & Highland, just go east one and a half blocks.



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Copyright © 2014-Gary Wayne
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