C. C. Brown's ice cream parlor is old-fashioned and all-American.
It's as pure and simple in its rich desserts as it is in its genuine turn-of-the-century Americana decor. Vintage high-back maple-wood booths that provide a feeling of privacy, crystal-drop chandeliers, a huge American flag, Victorian dolls and a signed letter from Ronald Reagan are as much the essence of Brown's as are its fancy sundaes. Ah, the sundaes--made of high-butterfat ice cream, topped with high-fat, hand-whipped cream and drizzled with high-fat, homemade fudge.
"This place is really a haven from Hollywood Boulevard," one regular customer said. "You come in here and it's like Disneyland--but more real, more genuine. Look at that flocked wallpaper," she said, waving at the walls. "When do you ever see flocked wallpaper anymore?"
No Worries Over Fat
It may be that old-fashioned sensibility that explains the parlor's worry-free attitude toward fat. In addition to its rich desserts, C. C. Brown's also offers a simple meal menu which includes such hearty American fare as fried ham and eggs ($4.25), baked ham and cheese ($3.75) and fruit salad with, yes, whipped cream ($4.25).
"We get all kinds in here," said owner John Schumacher, 62, who bought the parlor from the Brown family in 1963.
"We have dieters who come in and break down. 'We just gave up our diets,' they'll say. We have people who come in and eat here every day--and they don't look fat, no matter what.
"We have one gentleman, tall and thin, and every time he comes in he has three Buster Browns (the favorite here--an extravagant banana split that comes with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, fresh chopped roasted almonds and whipped cream and is served with a pitcher of hot fudge ($4.25)) and he comes in three times a week."
Of course, not all of C. C. Brown's customers are so lucky in the figure department. "We do have some people," Schumacher said, "who need two or three chairs to hold them. Their kitchen is their main room at home, and it's the same for them here."
Fat or thin, C. C. Brown's fans flock to the ice cream parlor for two main reasons. One is the idyllic, family atmosphere generated by the pleasant-faced Schumachers. Schumacher makes the sandwiches and cooks the hot- fudge sauce in his candy factory in the back.
His wife, JoEllen, dips the sundaes and five of the eight Schumacher offspring wait on tables and help in other ways. Because four are in college and one is a senior in high school, the young Schumachers often do their homework in the shop.
Studies in the Booths
"We work out a schedule where they have some things to do (in the parlor), then they study in between. They study in the booths," Schumacher says.
Of course, the main draw is the ice cream, especially the fancy ice cream sundaes.
"A man makes the ice cream for us in a dairy downtown," Schumacher said. "The hot-fudge sauce is a secret formula. We haven't changed it since 1906." Each sundae comes with its own pitcher of steaming, hot-fudge sauce, "and really, it's like melted candy," Schumacher said. And the cream is whipped in a bag, rather than using pressurized cans.
Something of a Hollywood landmark, Brown's stands across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and just a half a block down the street from Mann's Chinese Theater. Through the years the parlor has been popular with sweet-toothed Hollywood celebrities. In the old days, "Clark Gable and Mary Pickford used to come here," Schumacher said.
'Lucky to Get a Seat'
Now, the signed menus, proudly displayed in a glass booth near the entrance, sport the signatures of actors Judd Nelson and Michael J. Fox. "People like Clark Gable were very fussy about their favorite tables," Schumacher said. "Nowadays, celebrities just feel lucky to get a seat."
And not every customer need feel obligated to partake of the high-caloric offerings. One diet-conscious young woman, who was accompanying a friend, an ice cream fan, said: "All I ordered was coffee and they were so pleasant. I didn't feel pressured to order anything else."
C. C. Brown's, 7007 Hollywood Blvd.; (213) 464-9726.