In most days you can find Yetive Moss behind the nonfiction counter at Dutton's Brentwood Books, perched on a metal stool, phone in one hand, pen in another, calling customers about special orders. She uses a voice that, despite her 92 years, is less grandmotherly than authoritative; soft-spoken and formal, it causes people to pay attention. Her daily uniform, if one can call it that, consists of plain slacks, blouse and sweater vest. It is the style of a female book clerk circa 1930--which is exactly what Moss was. Over a period of more than 70 years, she has worked in almost every independent bookstore in the city, which must not only be some kind of record but also makes her the grande dame of Los Angeles booksellers.
Her first job was at the Rare Book Department of the downtown May Co. She then worked as a clerk at Stanley Rose's store next to Musso & Frank on Hollywood Boulevard. She progressed to Campbell's in Westwood and to Hunter's (later Brentano's) in Beverly Hills. There were stints as a research librarian at the County Museum of Art and as curator and book buyer for the Assn. of American Artists in Beverly Hills. The association's store-cum-gallery was, says Moss, the most avant-garde place in '30s L.A. The building had no windows, but it did have a central flying staircase and "was arranged so that anywhere your eye went you either saw a book or a piece of art." Its patrons included Humphrey Bogart ("an impressive art collection") and Edward G. Robinson ("a marvelous library").