Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1945-1955 Kings Restaurant

  • Kings Restaurant
  • George Distel
The Kings Restaurant (1945-1955)
8153 Santa Monica Boulevard

In 1945, previous Hollywood night club manager George Distel started Kings Restaurant at the old bank building site on the northwest corner of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights. He used the address at 8153 Santa Monica Boulevard. He operated with host Paul Franks and Master Chef Mel Moore.

8151 Santa Monica Blvd.
LAPL Regional History Archives

8153 Santa Monica Blvd

Kings Restaurant aimed to be a top notch seafood restaurant. It served fresh seafood flown in from all over America via American Airlines. There was live lobster from Maine and oysters from the Atlantic Ocean and clams from Massachusetts.

Distel worked hard to attract the celebrity crowd to his night spot. Over the years he worked in Hollywood he had quite a few friends in the Hollywood industries.

On the first floor of his restaurant was the main dining room - which seated 125 people. There was, of course, a cocktail lounge which sat 45.

On the 2nd floor there were two banquet rooms which were available for private parties. there was also a dining balcony and an owner's apartment.
1st floor - restaurant building
Main dining room seats 125
Cocktail lounge seats 45
2nd floor
Two banquet rooms.
Dining balcony
Owner's apartment

Also on the main floor there were two grand pianos and broadcast equipment. Late at night he had a disc jockey spin records and broadcast over the show over the radio from his restaurant.

LAPL Regional History Menue Archives

LAPL Regional History Menue Archives

Kings restaurant was open 7 days a week. In 1948 it advertised itself as:
The Show People's Show:
Your Disc Jockey George Jay Broadcasting nightly from our dining room
on KWIK, 1490 on your dial, midnite to 3 a.m. Sensational! Unbelievable!
General Electric Television Screen Life Size Pictures
installed by Roy J Goldenberg
Eastern Seafood Flown in Daily by American Air Lines
Now Playing nightly, Except Mondays Earl Scarebrenik and his Violin
with Rafael Rubinstein at the piano

Where the Atlantic Meets the Pacific.
Featuring Maine Live Lobsters, Ipswich Clams, Maryland Soft Shell Crabs
South Dakota Pheasant

You are likely to observe a number of movie stars on the premises
Your Host George Distel (who had managed several other nightclubs in Hollywood including the 7566 Club on Melrose) and Paul Franks

From the get-go King's was an after-hours night spot. It was open 'til 4 a.m.

1945 advertisement

source: LA Times

This was the time in history when television was new and exciting. George installed a large GE television screen inside the restaurant for all to watch.

George Distel tried to make Kings Restaurant into a celebrity late night haunt similar to the exclusive super clubs on the Sunset Strip.

In 1948 he brought in lounge style piano and violin music.

1948 advertisement

Source: LA Times

At this time his buisness partner was Dave Higer and Audre Higer.

In 1951 Marel Lamaze was brought in as chef.
In the early 1940's Lamaze was quite a famous maitre d'hotel. For a time he even had his own restaurant called Cafe Lamaze at 9039 Sunset Boulevard. This would become a pretty popular address for many other restaurants and clubs...notably in the mid 1960's it would become Gazzarri's.

Lamaze had become a regular Hollywood night club impresario. He had previously worked at Earl Carroll's and was the co-leaser and chef at the famed Ciro's. Now he worked at Kings.

source: LA Times

In 1953 Kings Restaurant host and owner, George Distel was involved in a law suite. Apparently his dog had bit a woman outside of King's Restaurant in the parking lot. The woman, Dorothy Campbell, sued Distel for $60,000 claiming negligence.

Then, in 1954 Distel was injured in a serious car accident and his leg was fractured. His dog who was with him was okay.

In late 1954, George Distel filed for bankruptcy and set out to actioned off the property that was once King's restaurant at 8151 Santa Monica Boulevard.


George Distel had long, sordid history working inside the underbelly of the late night Hollywood club scene. His had been a world of illegal gambling joints and speakeasys that catered to the Hollywood celebrity crowd and gangsters.

Before he opened King's Restaurant in 1945, Distel had many run-ins with the law, was arrested many times, convicted and sent to jail. But that never kept him down to long.

The first time we learn of George Distel was in 1928. George Distel was arrested for the manufacturing and distribution of slot-machines in Los Angeles County (West Hollywood). He was charged with violating the gambling ordinance.

In 1932 he was in the news again. This time he was arrested for selling liquor without a license. He was the manager of the 41 Club at 3634 Beverly Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. The 41 Club was a roof club located on the top floor of the American Storage Company's building at 3636 Beverly Boulevard.

The club was raided and large amounts of liquor was seized by Federal dry agents. George and several others were arraigned on charges of conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act. Federal agents also seized the club's furnishings.

George sought the return of several thousand dollars worth of personal property that the agents had seized, such as glassware, linens and tableware were personal property.
This request was denied.

George Distel and associates were found guilty of conspiracy, sale of liquor and maintaining a nuisance. George Distel was sentenced to jail for ten months and fined $500.00.

The federal government auctioned off the furniture, table, linen and silverware and other furnishings of the defunct 41 night club.

In July of 1933 George was arrested again. This time police raided the exclusive pleasure casino called the 833 Club located at 833 South Spring Street. Police battered through the steel-barred doors and arrested 17 (including George) and confiscated gambling paraphernalia and equipment. More than 100 guest were present. George Distel, the owner, was arrested and booked on charges of conducting a gambling place and violation of the prohibition laws.

The 833 Club had been in operation for more than nine months and was one of the most exclusive gambling clubs in the city. There was the gaming room, a dining room, dance floor and jazz music.

In February 1935 George became the general manager of the new 41 Club in downtown Los Angeles. This was a swanky club that offered dancing and dining. To attract the Hollywood crowd, George began a Sunday night guest artist night and floor show which attracted many Hollywood celebrities. The club became quite successful.

source: LA Times

In 1936, George opened at new dine and dance club called Club LaSalle at 542 South Broadway. This club only lasted a year.

In 1937 George was pretty much out of work for awhile.

Then, in 1938 George was hired to managed the Sunset Club at 732 North Highland Avenue. Unfortunately - four days after he started his new job, the club was destroyed by a fire. George bearly escaped by leaping from the bedroom on the second floor. He was 48 at the time. George was injured, however the club was completely destroyed.

In July 1939 he was back to work again at the 41 Club - this time the club was located at 7819 Beverly Boulevard. However, the club was soon raided by Federal agents and George and others were arrested for selling liquor without a license.

1940 was not a good year for George Distel. He was arrested arrested four times for liquor law violations when he was manager of the 41 Club and the 7566 Club at 7566 Melrose Avenue.

Police raid 7566 Club at 7566 Melrose Avenue

1941 photo: Herald Examiner Collection at the
LAPL photo database

In the raid at the 41 Club in 1940, the names of 1000 club members were also seized. Many of the members turned out to be high ups in city government, financial, business and entertainment worlds. The names were found in six bulky filing cabinets and ledgers. It appears that after joining the club, each club member would post a sum of money for the purchase of liquor which was to be put away in the member's private locker.

Subsequently, the member could order his drinks from his private locker and then pay 35 cents for service charge and 15 cents a drink for the liquor.

Again George was charged only with selling liquor without a license.

In 1943 George Distel became the manager of the King's Club. Again he was arrested for selling liquor after hours.

George Distel is presented with an arrest warrant by the vice squad
1943: photo: Herald Examiner Collection at the
LAPL photo database

source: LA Times

In 1945 George Distel opened King's Restaurant at 8153 Santa Monica Boulevard.

MARCEL LaMAZE - chef extrodinare

After the Kings Restaurant closed in 1954, Marcel Lamaze went to being the matre d'hotel at the Moulin Rouge at 6230 Sunset Boulevard (old Earl Carroll's place).

Marcel Lamaze died in 1960.



melissa said...

Hi! I found your blog interesting! Please note however that Marcel Lamaze is spelled this way! Thanks,
Melissa Lamaze

Ron Kessler said...

I would like to report an error in the "1945-1955 Kings Restaurant".
I'm George Distel’s Grandson, Ron Kessler.
The error is:
"In 1949 George Distel married Marrion Jean Morrison. They were married at the Little Brown Church in the Vale and honeymooned in Palm Springs. They lived at 7292 Fountain Avenue."
The above was George Distel's son George Distel Jr. My Uncle.

Ron Kessler said...

"After the restaurant went backrupt in 1954 - George went on to work as head bartender for his friend and former buisiness associate Dave Higer at the Saratoga Restaurant at 7953 Sunset Blvd. Saratoga's was seafood restaurant located directly across from the Screen Director's Guild. George worked there more many years. Higer retired from the restauratant business in 1983."

The Above is in error. It was George Distel's son that worked at the Saratoga. Dave Higer was George Distel's son-in-law.

Ron Kessler

Unknown said...

Does anyone know the history of kelleys(kellys?) steakhouse. On Santa Monica blvd circa. 1970