Friday, June 25, 2010

Clifton's Cafeteria and Michael Levine

Yesterday the lovely Miss Darlene Gold (aka DecoDarling on etsy) and I visited the fashion district downtown to hunt for some satin for some late 20s pj's for her. My apologies for the lack of photos of us, I will get them next time--new to this! Sufficed to say, Miss Darlene is a knockout, wearing her rhinestone encrusted 50s wiggle dress. Me, well let's just say I'm a nice person.

Michael Levine is the largest fabric store in LA, featuring 60,000 sq ft of insane, heart-palpitating ideas. You like silk? There are about 500 choices. I love the eco-fabric area, grows every time I'm there. They oddly have a ton of art deco prints in silk chiffon that I'm crazy for, along with so so so many other fabrics. It's fun to see the new fashion students in their platform shoes and fauxhawks piling 20 bolts on the tables like they've never seen fabric before, they're so happy.

It's surrounded by hundreds of smaller shops selling trims, beads, upholstery, and the largest array of stretchy sequined day-glo fabrics you never wanted. If you have an ice dancing outfit to make, or a quincinera, you are in luck! LA doesn't get a lot of rain and has the largest homeless population in the US centered in the famous Skid Row nearby. So there is some serious wafting, mixed with the ever-present bacon-wrapped hot dogs sold on the street. If you have a strong stomach and an adventurous spirit, then be sure to check it out. The smaller stores don't have the conveniences we may be used to as far as descriptions, or even prices. The store managers look you up and down and quote you based on your appearance. The inventory, totally random-- bolts piled to the ceiling and stacked all over the sidewalks. I've lost my mind many times looking for just that fabric for a customer, but I always manage to find a dozen I just may need one day. We love it, it's totally LA. A cultural experience. We found a lovely crepe backed lightweight satin that may just do the trick, and tons of other stuff for that "someday" project.

Afterwards, we just had to hit Clifton's Cafeteria, an LA landmark since 1931. It was opened by the Clinton family, who had been running cafeterias in San Francisco since 1888. Clifford Clinton vowed to feed as many people as possible with this new venture, establishing a surprising policy that you don't pay "unless you're delighted". They fed over 10,000 people for free when they first opened, as the country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and went on to feed 1,000,000 people a year thereafter. The dining room easily seats 300. The cafeteria is a fantasyland of North Woods tchochke, with animatronic racoons, a fake stone "prayer nook" with Bible recordings (where we met a cute gay couple), and a wonderful second dining floor that has fabulous burgundy flocked wallpaper straight out of The Shining. They serve roasted turkey, meatloaf, fried chicken, and all kinds of pies, puddings, carrot salad, jello out the wazoo and lots of Mexican specialties. The pie cost $1.89 a slice! They had used real sweet potatoes to make the Sweet Potato Pie, with streusely pecans on top! Not even from a can, I'm totally impressed. As cute as it is, in 1939 the decor was the most fabulous Hawaiian themed ever, called the "Pacific Seas", inspired by the family's trips to HI. It would be every retro person's dream if it were intact. The facade featured a waterfall and real palm trees, the inside neon palm trees, a "rain hut" where it rained every 20 minutes, and hula performances. Fake tree stumps and plastic beavers just aren't as wonderful I'm afraid. But a historic gem nonetheless!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What a sight to see back then, trees and rocks on the exterior of the building. Wow-wee!

    I don't know why my last comment has to show I deleted it. You can't edit typos so I had to delete it. Eh.