Main Street Xmas Eve: A Wake for Craby’s Joe’s

Dear Friends,

As Musso & Frank and their employees are a living testament to Hollywood and its golden age, so Craby Joe’s is to downtown Los Angeles’ tenderloin on Main street.  At the corner of 7th and Main since 1933, it will close it doors for good on Xmas eve.  It has served as a watering hole to John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and many other great souls who drew from this well of characters and atmosphere from the wrong side of the tracks.

The dance to the march of time has changed tempo of late, and commercial property owners humming gentrification and other popular tunes of the day have moved into the neighborhood.  The Cecil Hotel, already on the skids when Raymond Chandler described it in his early short stories, can boast of two known serial killers as residents in the 1980s and 90s, Richard Ramirez one of them, is now a self described boutique hotel–a destination for the discerning European traveler.  This fragile coral reef on Main Street of artists, galleries (the hub of art walk is two blocks away at 5th and Main at Bert Green’s), SROs and their long time residents and encroaching development will suffer a severe blow with the close of Craby Joe’s.

Please join us there around 10 pm this Xmas eve for what Hemingway wrote of the custom in his beloved Spain, "La Penultima–the next to last drink," for the last one is too bitter a thought. . .

I remain,

Published by

Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

2 thoughts on “Main Street Xmas Eve: A Wake for Craby’s Joe’s”

  1. Once me and some friends went there after a Kings/Montreal game (friggen Guy LaFleur scored on an end-to-end dash with only 9 seconds remaining). During the game, one of my friends had been conked in the head by an errant puck, but he managed to pick it up before he blacked out. He had it his pocket when we walked in to Joe’s. Anyway, we ordered drinks all around, and in about an hour we had pretty much forgotten our hockey letdown. In the corner, one of our friends was talking to a real pretty hooker, when some guy at the bar hauls off and cold-cocks him. Pretty soon we were all over this guy and his pals, a real good fight you know, and somehow Ray’s puck gets knocked off the bar, or out of his hands, but off it rolls and the bartender starts walking everyone out while waving this wicked crowbar around, my other friend, grabs the crow bar and punches the bartender into the floor, and the ruckus starts all over again. Besides watching out for flying fists, you had to look out for whatever guys could get a hold of and throw flying around, I get hit in the back of the head by one of those heavy glass mugs which dazed me really good, and as we start mopping up the pimp and his helpers, some toothless hag at the door yells out that the cops are coming, and that place really flushed out fast( poor Ray lost his hard-earned
    puck), and as were walking toward the car, I noticed the big knot on Ray’s head from the puck, and I thought to myself, what a perfect end to a perfect night.
    Anyhow, almost exactly one year later, we went there again, mostly the same guys and again after a hockey game(Kings/Buffalo), and we sit around the place meaning to celebrate the rare Kings victory. After a while, I hear Ray and the bartender arguing about something, and then it got really loud with none willing to back down. It seems that behind the bar in a little glass box was Ray’s hockey puck from the year before. So Ray’s beside himself trying to explain the pucks history and the bartender is equally worked up trying to keep Ray on his side of the bar. So Stephan jumps the bar , grabs the puck, and the place is all flying fists once again. The bartender is on the ground choking Steph…. Ray, me and the others are trying not to get stabbed while sorting out friend and foe, and all the while a toothless hag by the door is screaming like a banshee ( probably the same from the year before?), when all of a sudden and out of nowhere, here comes the puck flying out of the back, and hits Ray square in the forehead, AGAIN!! Ray picks up the puck and we back out of the place and make for our car. As I’m walking , I look over at Ray, who has got a big knot on his forehead from getting conked once again by the puck, the same puck from a year before and in practically the same spot on his noggin, and I says to myself….what are the chances?????
    I went there recently with some friends, and the place was half-filled with truly hard-core yuppies( the type you see in Hybrid car commercials)and you know, it was really sad to see this, another indication that the last remnants of my old L.A. are fast dissapearing with one exception…..the old toothless hag was still tottering by the door.
  2. A few years before the hockey puck incident at Craby Joe’s, my dad, in one of his drunken fits, had tossed me out of the house. This was around 11PM, and instead of hanging around outside until he went to sleep (or passed out) and trying to sneak in through the basement, in my anger , I hopped on the old 75 out of Echo Park and rode the bus to Skid Row. I got off and wandered around, stopped in a few places, exchanged pleasantries with a few hookers and drug dealers, then made my way down to Main. I had a sandwich at the corner diner, the one just a few feet from Craby Joe’s, and in there I met a lovely little, I mean exquisitely precious, petite doll-like waif of a runaway. Sweet. Little skin-tight pink pedal pushers…ballet-like shoes….tight fitting crew top….neck like Audrey Hepburn, jet black page-boy cut, dark root-beer diamonds for eyes, the softest china like pink-white skin you could imagine…she couldnt have been more than 15, and with a killer southern accent. She asked me if I wanted to take care of her…and green-behind-the-ears me said, oh hell yes!!! So she says, “Lets walk over to Joes”….Craby Joe’s. I had never been inside that place until then, though I had passed it several times during my travels around downtown. As Obi-Wan would say, “A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy.” Spent the better part of three hours in there, and after a while (an HOUR) I figured out what was going on….I was just too terrified to get up of my stool and run away. All night long I had these huge black dudes (and a few huge Mexican and white dudes as well) come sniffing by me, and I guess the reason they didn’t kill me then and there was because they probably thought I was packing or something. They were unnervingly polite and complemented me on the good looks of the girl. After a while I mustered up enough to get the hell out of there. We walked over to the Rosslyn, and I promised her a new life outside of Skid-Row. I managed to walk/talk her all the way to the corner of 3rd and Main, but there seemed to be some kind of force-field that she could not cross over (just a few blocks to the 75 and back to my warm basement in Echo Park). She even looked up and around as if she could actually SEE (like Marcel Marceau) the impenetrable invisible wall. She asked me to stay there, take “care” of her. Be her man. Be her pimp. I let go of her tiny hand and walked back to the 75 and rode that sucker back to Echo Park with a terrible case of blue balls keeping me company all the way to my stop at Effie Street. I got home just as my dad was leaving for work. Home again home again, jiggity-jig.

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