The bartender is a looker, a blonde in a backless dress that matches her ultraviolet eyes. In fact, there are a lot of good-looking people drinking and wisecracking here, people who make, or hope to make, a living by being looked at.
Residuals was consciously--maybe a little too consciously, it seemed at the time--planned this way. When it opened, it announced it was going to be an actors' hangout and "conversation bar." Easier said than done, but Residuals was a year old March 13, and would you look at it: table after table of eminently photographable faces, plus a smattering of spouses, agents and ink-stained wretches of the screenwriting persuasion.
And are they talking. Talking shop, talking gossip, talking deals. Asking each other whether this great location has ever been used as a shooting site (it has--there's a photo of Ted Danson on the wall from when it was used in last season's "When the Bough Breaks"). Talking for reasons known only to actors.
The name is a bit of show-biz black humor. A residuals check is, of course, a check for your work in something being rerun on TV, your percentage of a marked-down product. Any residuals check in the amount of $1 or less is compassionately valued at $5 by this bar, and there's a display case of desolate little checks people have brought in; checks for 12 cents, even a couple in the mortifying amount of $0.00.
The owners are all in show biz themselves: actors, managers, producers or directors. The leading figure is Craig Tennis, talent coordinator of "The Tonight Show." "All of the 12 partners," he said, "are New Yorkers, by birth or circumstance. We wanted the kind of bar we'd known in New York, a neighborhood bar for this end of the Valley. (Residuals is in Studio City.) We draw from the area from CBS to Disney.
Not only are all 12 partners in show biz, but they require the employees to be. The violet-eyed afternoon bartender, Kathy Autumn, said when she applied for the job she had to submit a head shot, the standard 8-by-10 glossy, just as if it were an acting job.
Her photo was pinned up in an employees' corner by the phone, but you don't have to work at Residuals to get your picture on the wall here. All you have to do to get on the "big board," the prominent display above and below the windows, is to be (1) a working--no longer an aspiring--actor and (2) a regular customer. If you make it so big that you start drinking at Trumps instead, down comes your picture. As a result, the photos on the big board tend to be faces you've seen, but can't quite name.
It's all well and good to say this is a New York bar in Los Angeles, but let's face it, Residuals is more. To be sure, for the devotee of the thespian art and paying one's dues, there's a New Yorkish room of serious-minded wooden tables with plain wooden chairs. The other room, though, is spacious and full of plants, which survive beautifully because the room has so many windows it's virtually a greenhouse. It's one huge skylight.
Welcome to California. Here's a bar where you can drink without losing your tan.
Residuals, 11042 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 761-8301. Open daily 11 a.m. to midnight (soon to 2 a.m.).