Remembering a century of Fox studios

Taylor Trade Publishing

Citrus Heights Barnes & Noble community relations manager and film historian Michael Troyan has been working on another big book following 2011’s “MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot” (Santa Monica Press, $35, 312 pages). His “Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment” is due out Aug. 1.

Troyan shared excerpts from a chapter on Fox’s elegant Cafe de Paris, which opened in 1929 as the studio’s commissary. “It was later renovated and still serves employees today,” he said.

Quoting from the upcoming book: “Will Rogers became a regular, eating at a favorite corner table and drinking Coca-Cola that he dubbed ‘the champagne of America.’ Spencer Tracy, who dined with him, once recalled that those fortunate enough to do so never paid the check.

“During the studio’s peak years (1935-1949) the commissary served 600 to 1,200 (employees) every day. Pastry cook Alfred Ulrich remembered that creamed chicken and peas on toast became a house specialty because it got little Shirley Temple to eat her peas. Tyrone Power loved ox joints, and Betty Grable (irritably) inquired about the ‘oeufs plat au jambon,’ ‘What’s the idea of putting ham and eggs on a French menu?’ 

Troyan notes the cafe’s special visitors included Presidents John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the Shah of Iran, Prince Charles of Great Britain and King Saud of Saudi Arabia.

“The starriest event there was in 1959, when Nikita Khrushchev – denied admittance to Disneyland – was honored with a luncheon,” Troyan writes. “(More than) 400 VIPs attended, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope (Mrs. Khrushchev sat between them) and even the reclusive Marilyn Monroe.”

A visit to Hut’s Place

Many of the attendees at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association’s trade show in October wore pin-on buttons proclaiming “I Love Hut.” The reference was to Hut Landon, who was ending a 15-year run as executive director of the NCIBA. His replacement is Calvin Crosby, who spent 10 years on the NCIBA board of directors.

Former bookstore owner Landon knows titles and authors, as he shows in his online newsletter “Hut’s Place: Weekly Words About New Books in Independent Bookstores.” The current issue includes a review of “M Train” by National Book Award winner Patti Smith, and an announcement of George R.R. Martin’s new fantasy, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

His newsletter is free to subscribe to.