Friday, January 28, 2011


Did I ever tell you about the time I had breakfast with Pamela des Barres, aka Miss Pamela of the GTOs and a so-called super groupie (Morrison, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Don Johnson, among others)? 

At the time we shared a British publisher and she was in London promoting her memoir I’m With the Band.   I did occasional freelance writing for some very mild men’s magazines, and so I arranged to interview her over breakfast at her hotel just off Baker Street. 

It must have been an unmemorable interview since I remember almost nothing about it but I do recall what she had for breakfast.  She ordered kippers, which seemed a good “when in Rome” thing to do, and when they arrived she smothered them in HP Sauce, for which there’s no exact American equivalent, although A1 Steak Sauce comes close.

To this day I’ve never, ever seen anybody else do that to kippers, and I did wonder at the time whether she was being a bit “Hey look at me, aren’t I wild and unconventional,” but she did actually seem to like the combination of flavors and she certainly ate it.

To the extent that I don’t remember the interview, I don’t really remember much of what’s in I’m With the Band either, but now I’ve been reading Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-And-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker for which de Barres is a source and I was reminded of her story of Chris Hillman and the grapes.  That's him below.

Hillman was in the Byrds and the 15 year old Pamela was trying to impress him by any means possible.  She hit on the unlikely plan of delivering him a huge bunch of grapes, brought back from Mexico by her father.  Yes, I too blame the parents.

She writes, “The plan collapsed when the bag tipped open and I skidded halfway down the hill on seedless green grapes from Ensenada, landing on my face.  I scrambled back up, leaving the squashed grapes behind, rolling in profusion toward his front porch …  I would have to think of another way to enter his life.”

The Michael Walker book has some interesting things to say about eating in and around Hollywood in the sixties and early seventies.  For people with long hair it could be quite a challenge.  Walker says that most restaurants on the Strip refused to serve longhairs, and the few that did, such as Ben Frank’s coffee shop (that's it above), were both packed and under intense police scrutiny.

And even if you got served things weren’t necessarily going to run smoothly. Michael Stuart-Ware of the band Love (that's him above) says that waitresses called the cops to clear out tables of customers “even if they were only suspected of something as innocuous as being the kind of people who might not leave a proper tip.”   I have to say that no waitress I’ve ever met would regard the lack of a tip as “innocuous,” but anyway the freaks eventually moved away from the Strip and relocated to Canter’s Jewish deli, on Fairfax, where there’s still a lively after-hours crowd apparently, although when I’ve been there it’s always been fairly tame.

It was in response to the local difficulties that the Rainbow Bar and Grill was opened on Sunset Strip in 1972, a place where rock and rollers and longhairs would be welcome, although by 1972 a longhair was hardly what he or she had been five years earlier.  The Rainbow is still there and on a good night you’re quite likely to see the likes of Ron Jeremy, Lemmy Kilminster and Vince Neil in situ, along with a lot of tourists who have are seeing exactly what they came for. (See below)

Incidentally, a few years back Pamela Des Barres wrote a “My LA to Z” column for Los Angeles magazine in which people say which local stores and restaurants they frequent.  One of hers was Dukes West Hollywood, about which she said, “Right up the street from the Whisky was a place called the Galaxy, which was an amazing club. It’s now Dukes coffee shop, which used to be in the Tropicana Motel. It’s crazy, there’s one sandwich with mushrooms and mustard and, oh my God, it’s great. It’s called the magic mushroom or something. I’ve been eating it for 40 years.”

That may not quite be the same thing as kippers and HP sauce but it’s definitely part of the same culinary universe.

1 comment:

  1. I found my way to your blog thru that great NY Times column about our bookshelves and how they might look to the G-Men. The article especially caught my attention because of the mention of Anatomy of Melancholy, which seems to be on my radar lately, of interest to me related to a project of my own, and showing up (almost) everywhere I go these days. Anyway, so glad I found my way here. Another pocket of genius hidden from me just over the next ridge all this time. Another person spinning out these odd and fascinating tales, simply because he wants to. Another reason for hope.