Monday, December 10, 2012

December's SPIRITS with SPIRITS

GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual social gathering of regional ghost hunters and those that just like ghost stories. Open to all, from the curious skeptic to the passionate phantom pursuer. Make friends, and toast a ghost! Let's put the “Boo!” back into “booze.”

All those who attend will receive a free (square) G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you, without asking the staff about our group.

Note: This Thursday is Downtown's Art Walk, so parking/traffic may be an issue, but this location is walking distance to the galleries,(for those that also want to check out some culture before having a drink and hearing a ghost story).

THE DATE: December 13th, 2012 (Thursday)
THE PLACE: Redwood Bar and Grill
316 West 2nd Street, Downtown (Map)
(near METRO Red Line's Civic Center Station)
THE TIME: 7:00pm - ?
(Happy Hour 3-8pm)


"Haunted houses are a hobby of mine...
If a house is haunted, I'd like to hear about it...
What do you hear - moans, groans, squeaking steps at night?"

-- Perry Mason (from "The Case of the Worried Waitress" by Earle Stanley Gardner)

Although Raymond Chandler's private-eye, Phillip Marlow, seems to get the most attention of the many LA-based literary investigators, Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional lawyer, Perry Mason, is certainly no slouch with 84 novels, movies, and a successful TV series. What the Mason novel's lack in poetic descriptions of Los Angeles, they more than make up for with their fast-paced plotting through familiar neighborhoods. Like Chandler, Gardner also seemed to disguise specific localities, leaving the reader to try and decipher the actual places being described in the books.

One reoccurring location in the Perry Mason novels is a small, dark restaurant located near the courthouse, which the famous lawyer frequents while a trial is in progress. As such, the staff know him, and give him the back room where he can discuss his case privately with his staff and/or a client. Despite never being mentioned by name, it seems pretty clear that this fictional hole-in-wall tavern frequented by lawyers, defendants, reporters, politicians, and city workers (with a back room for legal strategy sessions) is modeled after the real-life Redwood Bar and Grill.

The Redwood opened in 1942 at 234 W. 1st Street, moving one block to its current location at 316 W. 2nd Street in 1970 (which formerly housed offices for the DWP). It's name is a result of the owner's shock that he was able to score a shipment of redwood for the interior when, due of the then war, resources were scarce. Because of its proximity to the civic center of our city, The Redwood has always catered to those that have business and/or work in this part of town.

With so many people patronizing this watering-hole over the decades, is it any wonder that there are also ghost stories attached to the establishment. There are claims of shadows moving along walls (seen in the reflection of the mirror of the men's restroom), as well as phantom fingers that tap on the backs of those sitting at the bar (as if to get their attention). Additionally, the ghost of a man has been seen around the building's lobby (near the barroom). Could this male spirit be the same one in the men's room, or the one tapping female patrons?

Who could this brazen male ghost be? Is it the original owner, Samuel "Eddie" Spivak, who may be keeping an eye on the place? Is it Bill Eaton, a former bartender (old location), and later owner (new location), who used to hand out "Bill's Pills" (vitamins) with the cocktails to keep the drunks healthy? What about long-time fixture, Lou "Nightly" Wilson, whose steel-trap mind could recall any song ever written even if his rendition was off-key? Then, there is local celebrity, Art Ryon, who wrote a popular restaurant column for the LA Times from the front booth. Also, in 1920 at this address, a man was arrested for "trying out" women, who answered an ad about employment in the motion picture business. Perhaps, this pervy spirit still lingers on to "touch" others.

In recent years however, the bar has become known more for its pirate decor than its patrons (and past patrons). If a pirate-themed bar seems out of place in Downtown Los Angeles, remember California's (and possibly Los Angeles') connection to legendary pirate/privateer/patriot, Sir Francis Drake, who patrolled the waters up and down our coast in 1579. Yes, the British were in California long before they ever set foot on the East Coast (before Plymouth Rock).

So come out and toast Los Angeles' legal, literary, and larcenous history at the Redwood Bar and Grill... if you dare.

(for more info about this ghost, check out "Gourmet Ghosts" by James Bartlett...)

(to read about more ghosts of this haunted location...)
(to read about last month's haunted location... )
(to see a map of previous SPIRITS with SPIRITS locations... )

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