This was cut from Gourmet Ghosts 2 at the last minute – I’d already gone way over my page limit – but now it’s here for you to read…
Since 2008 it has been sushi restaurant Kiwani, but when it opened here in the 1930s it was called Jack La Rue’s.
It’s had a number of other names over the years too, including Tamu Sushi, This Dinery, Uncle Tal’s Mandarin Gourmet, and Uncle Thai’s Hunan Yuen, but “Jack’s” it still is to many.
Jack La Rue was born Gaspere Biondolillo in New York in 1902, and first came to fame on that city’s stage before he made the move west and tried to crack Hollywood. Sometimes mistaken for Humphrey Bogart, he often played thugs and gangsters, but he was successful enough to invest in his own eaterie here in Studio City.
La Rue may have been a movie star who was married three times – including to Austrian Baroness Violet Edith von Roseberg, a union that lasted barely a fortnight and was said to be purely because she wanted US citizenship – but his restaurant didn’t hit the headlines that often.
The first time was in September 1939, when the LA Times reported that “boy and “girl” (actually teenagers) June Atwell, 18, and 19 year old George Hoagland had broken into the restaurant and stolen two cases of beer and a picnic hamper, according to Rose La Rue, Jack’s sister.
A guilty conscience – or maybe an attempt to make things better for her – saw 18 year old Atwell calling the police the next day though, and telling them that Hoagland and another man, Edward Deidrick, would be coming to her home – which they did, apparently in a stolen car.
Atwell was still charged alongside Hoagland though, as was Deidrick too.
Things took a few more serious turn at La Rue’s in November 1967, when the LA Times reported a very dramatic turn of events between a number of ex-employees.
David Stanley Young was an ex manager at La Rue’s, and he had teamed up with Arthur Ashley Matsu – an ex-bartender there – to kill another ex-bartender, John Francis Baxter, who was found shot dead in a car opposite La Rue’s.
Baxter had recently been working at the Blarney Stone – now the location of the hipster Laurel Tavern and just two doors down – and was found dead in his still-running car, which was parked opposite La Rue’s. Initially Young said that Baxter had robbed him in the parking lot and he show him as he ran away – but there was more to it than that.
After being fired from La Rue’s, many customers had followed Baxter to the Blarney Stone and made it their new local bar, and it seemed Young (and then new bartender Matsu) were mighty disgruntled by this, and a feud began – one that seemed to end in murder.
A year later, the courts announced their verdict: Young was found guilty of second-degree murder, and was sentenced from five years to life imprisonment.