First off, huge thank you to Moriah Ferguson for looking up this with me. You can follow her on Twitter at @_daisykenyon. For those who don’t follow Moriah, she’s basically a Lana Turner encyclopedia. I couldn’t have done this piece without her help.
The story of Lana Turner’s discovery is one of the most commonly recited stories in Hollywood lore. Sipping on a soda at Schwab’s Pharmacy in 1936, director Mervyn LeRoy discovered her. In actuality, she was discovered by William Wilkerson, publisher of The Holly(wood Reporter (reportedly) at the Top Hat Cafe.
SCHWAB’S? TOP HAT CAFE? SOMEWHERE ELSE?
Legend claims Lana’s discovery happened at Schwab’s Pharmacy or Top Hat Cafe. In actuality, Lana was discovered at Top’s Cafe and Cocktail Lounge.
In mid-1937, the Top’s Cafe appears to have moved to a different location roughly 10 miles away:
In 1939, the building was sold:
The Top Hat Cafe (trust me when I say there were A LOT of places with Top in their name) was just under a mile away from Hollywood High School:
Schwab’s was just under two miles away:
This photo of Lana ran in 1937, erroneously labeling Lana’s location as the Top Hat Cafe:
However, newspaper clippings clearly show the 6750 Sunset Blvd address was the Top’s Cafe and Cocktails in 1936 when she was reportedly discovered. It’s likely MGM did not want to disclose their latest find was 15-years-old at a cocktail lounge, instead opting to make it the more family-friendly Top Hat Cafe. I do want to note that it’s possible the Top Hat Cafe opened a second location at the 6750 Sunset address before the building was forced to close in 1939; however, I don’t have any proof to support that idea.
Today, the Top’s Cafe and Cocktail Lounge is a Chick-Fil-A: