Musso and Frank is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. Some of its loyal service staff have been with them for, well, a lifetime, an entire career. There is something about a place that can hold onto its staff over the long-term and something about a staff and their knowledge of the clientele that make that `something’, something special.
It’s an Italian restaurant in that it’s owned by Italians, the menu is American fare. I only mention this because it makes it obvious the place would close on Mondays. If you don’t believe me or think I’m stereotyping, look around. Lately they are putting some of these Mondays to good use. Monday April 30th was one of those. It was a combined effort between the restaurant and the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) to present an evening salon entitled, Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles Underworld. The time period was the 1930’s. No one describes Los Angeles better than Chandler. He describes it obliquely, through its people, its weather, its attitudes: The trees on the upper side of Laverne Terrace had fresh green leaves after the rain. In the cool afternoon sunlight I could see the steep drop of the hill and the flight of steps down which the killer had run after his three shots into the darkness. Two small houses fronted on the street below. They might or might not have heard the shots. If you haven’t read Chandler it is probably time to start. He is the only detective fiction writer on the list of the 100 best authors of the 20th century. You remember the 20th century, don’t you?
The lead speaker was John Buntin, author of L.A. Noir. He is a reporter for Governing magazine, where he covers crime and urban affairs. He and the other speakers presented a Los Angeles that was a melting pot of crime. It was where out-of-town crimes and criminals came to mingle with local crimes and criminals, to learn, to be nurtured, to grow, to mature, to prosper. While crime elsewhere was intent on influencing and controlling government, crime in Los Angeles was the government.
While the information presented was informative and fun I need to add the following. If I have a criticism it is in the presentation. I’m not a native of Los Angeles so a few visual aids would have been helpful in giving context to the material. Also, The presenters were not well rehearsed and were ill prepared in microphone use. I want to attribute this to jitters and hope that future salons will consider improving on these areas of concern.
The final speaker rose simply to quote from Chandler: It is not funny that a man should be killed but it is sometimes funny that he is killed for so little. This may sum up the 1930’s crime scene in Los Angeles or the human condition in general. It’s tough to decide.
Thanks for listening.