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TOUR DU JOUR | So SoCal

Googie Woogie

June 23, 1996|Stuart Cohn

Named for a now-demolished coffee shop on Sunset where the Virgin Megastore stands, Googie is the exuberant building style redolent of an age that couldn't conceive of the word downsize--roof lines thrusting into outer space, neon arrows pointing ever forward. With Googie standard-bearers like Norm's and Ships coffee shops lionized within an inch of their nerdy souls, here are some of Southern California's lesser-known classics of the genre.

Johnie's Broiler, 7447 Firestone Blvd., Downey (1958) A tatty Taj Mahal by day, a glowing marqueed oasis by night, Johnie's (love the single "n") gleams invitingly as Firestone Boulevard takes a Jayne Mansfield-sized curve. A frequent movie location ("Short Cuts," "What's Love Got to Do With It").

The Parasol, 12241 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach (1962) Umbrella-shaped light fixtures, cantilevered benches, the booths, counter and kitchen a series of concentric half-circles, this is an unusually well-preserved example of pure Googie-ism. Holy curvilinear, Batman!

Bahooka Ribs & Grog, 4501 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead (1976) Despite its bicentennial provenance, this Mann's Chinese of grog-soaked Polynesian grills is as un-self-consciously tacky as its tiki torch-lit forebears. Dine on cuisine that knows no nation beneath huge coral- and aquamarine-lit fish tanks.

Astro Family Restaurant, 2300 Fletcher Drive, Silver Lake (1958) Graphically, dramatically Googie, at least on the outside. The roof's large white triangles form an arrow pointing downward, an unconscious comment, perhaps, on the eventual decline of the Googie style. Designed by Louis Armet and Eldon Davis, kings of roadside architecture, who created Ships and Norm's.

Donut Hole, 15300 Amar ROAd, La Puente (1968) Form truly follows function in this, the ultimate drive-thru, unabashedly shaped just like the product it sells. As architecture critic Alan Hess has noted: "The sign and building have become one."

Sources: John English; L.A. Conservancy; "Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture," by Alan Hess

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