Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Ship Cafe, Venice, California

Venice California holds a special place in my collection and in my heart. I grew up in  West Los Angeles and graduated from Venice High School. As an adult, I lived in Ocean Park (beach town between Santa Monica and Venice) for over 20 years. I still have friends and family in the neighborhood. While I never got to see the Cabrillo (or many other Venice treasures from the past), these postcards make me feel like I have.

The Ship Cafe, built in 1905 alongside the Abbot Kinney pier, was the "in" spot to find some of this "action." Named the "Cabrillo," the combination hotel-restaurant was fashioned after a Spanish galleon and served up high-priced cuisine in the main dining room, or in private salons on the second deck. The staff were uniformed like sixteenth-century naval officers

The Ship was available for private functions, which many of Hollywood's rising stars preferred, and the mayhem that attended New Year's Eve made for headline copy. It was at the Ship that Valentino had his heels cooled by movie queen Nazimova, who called him a "pimp" and a "gigolo" at a private party she was throwing for coworkers at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. And it was Buster Keaton who, pestered by autograph hounds, jumped out of one of the restaurant's portholes in a faked escape attempt, only to find twice as many fans when he returned.

On the Sunday night of January 11, 1920, before Prohibition took effect, an estimated 100,000 revelers jammed the seaside resort of Venice, closing off all available avenues into the town. Tables at the Ship Cafe went for $300, and doors were closed at 10 p.m. after capacity had long since been reached.

But the Cabrillo's heyday was before the Depression, and it slipped into obscurity, eventually to be razed in October 1946.