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Formosa Cafe's Kitsch Draws Star Power


When it comes to dive culture, Hollywood rules. No matter how dark and dingy a joint might be, you never know what million-dollar star might belly up to the bar next to you. Cases in point: Geena Davis and her director-husband Renny Harlin like Boardner's, an urban hillbilly bar with a heart of gold. At Coach and Horses, you might catch Drew Barrymore assisting the bartender. And at the Formosa Cafe you'll see them all, because this is the ultimate Hollywood dive.

There's no place like the Formosa. Its easy-listening soundtrack--think Neil Sedaka in his prime and any-decade Neil Diamond--ideally matches the venue's kitsch factor. For the past 70 years, as near as anyone can remember, the Formosa has been serving up beverages, Chinese food and such oddities as milk toast to famous night owls and day-trippers alike.

Once you step inside the verrrry dark rail car that has housed the Formosa since the '30s, when its original structure was torn down, the thousands of head shots on the walls treat you to a slice of Hollywood's past--a slice that has defied the city's ruthless hunger for destroying its past.

Largely on the strength of its clientele, which over the years has included celebrities ranging from Elvis to Marilyn, Gable to Sinatra, Quentin Tarantino to Christopher Lloyd (who even has a parking place in his name), the Formosa has avoided the wrecking ball repeatedly, with its last victory taking place six years ago.

Especially on off nights, when the place isn't packed to the star-gazing gills, the Formosa remains as warm and friendly a watering hole as ever.

* Formosa Cafe, 7156 Santa Monica Blvd. 21 and older in bar (all ages in dining car area), no cover. (213) 850-9050.


Club Buzz: Two new nights at Union in West Hollywood: every Sunday in March, Cocktail Au Go-Go, with free champagne and a comedy performance from 9 to 10, then Senor Amor, the ultimate Hollywood lounge music maestro, deejaying until 2 a.m. Starting tonight is Alliance, a weekly jazz and acid-jazz scene. Tonight's featured band is Impressions of Energy. Both clubs are free. . . . Beatles fans can check out the Mop Tops--a Beatles copy band that takes its task quite seriously--the first Thursday of the month at Martini in Hollywood.

* Union, (213) 654-1001. Martini, (213) 467-4068.

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