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The Hat Heads for Pasadena

February 01, 1987|EVELYN De WOLFE | Times Staff Writer

The Lieberg Building, which opened in Pasadena in 1926--the same year as the first Brown Derby--is the new home of the legendary Hollywood dining spot, complete with its "Wall of Fame" caricatures and other original furnishings.

The new address at 911 E. Colorado Blvd. seems a little distant from the Derby's more glitzy, former site near the world renowned corner of Hollywood and Vine, but, says owner Walter P. Scharfe, it has been relocated to a community that is also famous for its spectacular events.

Scharfe and his late wife, Elisabeth Khittl-Scharfe, purchased the Hollywood Brown Derby in 1975, hoping to spark a revival of the Hollywood landmark after it had begun to lose favor as a hangout of the stars.

The Scharfes invested about $800,000 in extensive reconstruction and remodeling of the building, but despite the hard work and dedication, the original Brown Derby had to suspend operation in April, 1985 because of extensive earthquake reconstruction required to meet safety codes.

At that time, all 1,500 caricatures from the Wall of Fame, antique furnishings, fixtures and equipment were put into storage until a more suitable home could be found for the restaurant.

What Scharfe wanted most to preserve intact was both the Brown Derby name and the tradition of the Golden Age of the movies that it symbolized.

The 60-year Brown Derby tradition began when a Hollywood entrepreneur decided to open a coffee shop on Wilshire Boulevard and called it the Brown Derby in honor of Alfred E. Smith, then governor of New York, who was visiting Los Angeles and, typically, wearing his brown derby trademark.

The Hollywood Brown Derby opened its doors on Vine Street on Valentine's Day in 1929, and soon became a gathering place for the movie colony. It was to become the "in" place for filmdom for several decades and a convenient spot for celebrities to conduct interviews and for movie moguls to negotiate contracts.

The landmark eatery also became the unofficial headquarters for the influential gossip columnists of their day, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Scharfe has refurbished the relocated restaurant legend, incorporating its former architectural style, and has used most of its original furnishings.

But the big test for this reporter, a long-time regular at the old Hollywood Brown Derby, was whether or not the famous Cobb salad that former owner Bob Cobb used to personally prepare for me, could possibly be the same.

Take it from an old Derbyite: it's the same, the very same!

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