Q&A: Why Hollywood is addicted to coffee, and constantly has been


“Since its Silent Era days, Hollywood has been teeming with stated originators — writers, directors, actors, designers, costumers, choreographers — having up early and staying up late, fueling themselves on caffeine cranked from industrial urns,” Steven Rea writes in the intro to his most current book, “Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars” (Schiffer). More than the course of the subsequent 188 pages, Rea delivers meticulously curated black-and-white photographic proof of showbiz’s longtime dependence on the stuff.

A adhere to-up to his 2012 book, “Rides a Bike: Cycling With The Stars,” Rea, a longtime film critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers “Hollywood Cafe” the exact same joyful “check-this-out!” collector’s remedy, applying the captions that accompany every single image, be they staged publicity stills or candids of actors caffeinating amongst requires, to present nuggets of film lore and coffee trivia.

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Flipping by means of the book, you will discover paparazzi shot of Anthony Quinn on place for the 1968 Globe War II comedy, “The Secret of Santa Vitorrio,” his nose buried in an espresso. A spectacularly rumpled James Dean is captured with a cigarette, some brackish-seeking brew and an ice cream sundae in a Instances Square diner. And an impossibly young Lauren Bacall resting against a vintage beach cruiser with coffee in hand in fact does double duty, displaying up in each “Cafe” and “Rides a Bike.”

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in the book “Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars.”

(“Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars”)

Lately we caught up with Rea to go over his analysis method, the stars who understood their coffee and the ones who just swilled it to get a second wind, and why we need to be excited that component of the expansion of Philadelphia’s La Colombe Coffee Roasters incorporates an outpost opening in L.A. this summer time. 

Getting 200 photographs from the mid-20th century of film icons drinking coffee. Exactly where do you even start out?

I talked to dealers in L.A. and in Canada. There’s Jerry Ohlinger’s Film Components shop in New York. There’s a guy in Uruguay who somehow has this unbelievable collection of vintage Hollywood production and publicity stills. The back cover photo of Jackie Gleason? [Los Angeles-based photo archivist] Michael Ochs, he told me about that. He sold his complete archive, which is thousands and thousands of photographs, to Getty.

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Describe a photo that told you your project had scope.

At 1st I believed that it was just going to be film stars holding a cup of coffee. But there [turned out to be] to be so a lot wide variety and bizarre, funny and odd scenarios. There’s the Rita Hayworth photo, which I definitely adore, exactly where she’s getting tended to by a seamstress and a guy is lighting her cigarette and she’s holding a coffee cup in a single hand. There was a single with Molly O’ Day and Milton Sills exactly where he’s got an old-fashioned coffee grinder and he’s seeking at her swooningly. There are lots of photographs of stars like Ginger Rogers and Van Johnson with their personal thermoses. Shirley MacLaine had a Chemex and so did David Niven and his wife. This sounds completely geeky, but often it was truly thrilling.

Shirley MacLaine

A shot of Shirley MacLaine from the book “Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars.”

(“Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars”)

For instance?

Ann Sothern holding a jar of [ground] coffee that she’s just taken out of the freezer. She had this complete strategy of how she keeps it fresh — which I’ve run by a handful of baristas right here and they sort of scoffed. The 1st issue you understand now is to in no way freeze your coffee. But I adore the wide-eyed appear on her face and the specificity of what she’s carrying out with her coffee.

How did you discover the a single exactly where Barbara Stanwyck is holding a customized mug?

I stumbled onto it. I have a dear pal named Stuart Rome — he just won a Guggenheim for his photography — and he ready these photographs for me. He cleaned them up, took out all the blemishes. When we have been seeking at the Barbara Stanwyck photo, we have been reading what it stated on her mug: “Barbara Stanwyck, Actress. Tragedy Completed Though You Wait.” Tiny discoveries like that have been so thrilling. I wonder if that mug nonetheless exists.

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Did you discover that some stars have been interested in the coffee they drank? Or was it mainly just served to them?

Robert Taylor was a popular coffee fiend. I identified a bunch of photographs of him on set obtaining coffee and drinking it. He had a Television series in the ‘50s or ‘60s that was sponsored by a coffee corporation.

Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor

A shot of Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor from the book “Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars.”

(“Hollywood Cafe: Coffee with the Stars”)

Then there was [director] Preston Sturges, of course, who was the godhead more than this project as far as I’m concerned. Coffee was so crucial to him. He was frequently drinking coffee and was extremely prolific. He was quoted in a wire story by Rosalind Schaffer, a gossip columnist back in the ‘40s, that coffee drinkers are the actual originators of tips.

Preston Sturges’ “Christmas in July,” was primarily based on a 1931 play that he wrote named “A Cup of Coffee” that he adapted for the screen. It is about a guy who enters this contest to come up with a new slogan for a coffee corporation. The complete film is coffee-centric and truly funny. The slogan he comes up with tends to make tiny sense and is a operating gag by means of the complete film: “If you cannot sleep at evening, it is not the coffee. It is the bunk.”

What does that even imply? “Bunk” as in what you are sleeping on?

Or bunk as in the nonsense in your head. [Sturges] was frequently drinking coffee and he was extremely prolific. He’s a single of my all-time favored filmmakers. So to find out that he held coffee in a revered location in his life was so thrilling.

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The act of drinking coffee — what do you believe that was supposed to telegraph in old motion pictures?

I believe a huge component of it was romantic. Drinking coffee was a way for a couple to meet in a significantly less seriously committed way than going on a dinner date. Like, “Let’s go have a cup of coffee and verify every single other out.” Then it requires on diverse meanings in diverse sorts of films.

In film noir, coffee keeps the detective up all evening when he’s on a stakeout and has this feverish, intense excellent to it. [Off screen] it is sustenance, it is to give you power ahead of dawn to get your makeup completed and get in costume, to get oneself awake and beginning the day.

But it also shows them as normal folk. When you appear at paparazzi photographs now, it is nonetheless the exact same: Jennifer Garner or Mila Kunis coming out of a Starbucks. It is like the US Weekly issue: “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!”

By the finish of your analysis, do you believe you got a deal with on what the coffee they have been consuming tasted like?

I do not believe it could have possibly tasted that excellent. In some of the photographs they’re at the craft solutions table and there are stacks of donuts and there a giant urn of coffee that is in all probability been sitting there for hours.

But you know what? Even a not-so-excellent cup of coffee can be excellent in the correct context. If it is cold outdoors and you have just come into a diner and you are sitting at the counter and you are obtaining a good chat with a pal or the waiter or waitress comes by and ask if you want much more, there’s also anything satisfying about that. It does not have to be a $five single origin, shaded bean from Ethiopia. There’s nonetheless anything cool about it.

Steven Rea will sign copies of “Hollywood Cafe: Coffee With the Stars,” at Arcana Books, on Saturday, Feb. six from four – six p.m.

Arcana Books, 8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 458-1499, www.arcanabooks.com.


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