Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Barney's Beanery - Rock Landmarks L.A.

Located a couple blocks from the Alta Cienega, the landmark Barney's Beanery opened on Route 66 (Santa Monica Boulevard) in 1927. Barney's was a regular hangout for Jim Morrison, as well as Janis Joplin and many other rock legends and movie stars, with Marilyn Monroe a regular alongside James Dean (the roadhouse was the site of Dean's last meal before his tragic accident). Quentin Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction while sitting at the bar. 

The vibe is unpretentious with lots of rock memorabilia and a pool table, and its rep as a casual, come as you are roadhouse has maintained its appeal. That wasn’t always the case, though; Barney’s for years struggled to keep the roadhouse from becoming a gay bar in an area of L.A. known as Boys Town, going so far as to have matches printed with “Barney’s Beanery on one side and "No Faggots Allowed" on the other.

Jim Morrison would come in to drink after recording at The Doors Workshop just a bit further down Santa Monica Blvd. That is, until Morrison was inspired to stand on the bar and relieve himself.  The decadent singer was immediately escorted out and not welcomed back (now there is a plaque on the bar honoring the Beanery's connection to Morrison, installed after Morrison’s sudden death in France in 1971).

Barney's even has its ghost stories. In September 1973, 25-year-old Leonard Taylor shot and killed Robert Rush, the 34-year-old bartender, over a game of pool. This documented murder has led to the belief that "The Man in Black," a specter often seen near the ladies' room, is Rush's spirit, still watching over the 8-ball games. Or maybe the mischievous spirit is that of Erroll Flynn, remembered as much for his sexual appetite as his acting. The playful ghost of Flynn is known to pull ponytails and push open the swinging kitchen doors so that they rock wildly on their hinges. Female employees often feel a touch on their back as if someone is trying to walk behind them, only to turn and realize the walkway is empty.  

With almost 100 years of history under its belt, Barney's Beanery has seen just about everything. It was here that Morrison was hit over the head (deservedly, they say) by Janis Joplin with a nearly-full bottle of Jim Beam, so it's no surprise that it is home to paranormal entities as well as history. If you want to see a Hollywood staple and love a busy atmosphere, Barney's Beanery is a must. The history isn't just printed on the back of the menu, it's hanging on the walls, and felt in every corner of the roadhouse.

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