RARA-AVIS: What Would Dashiell Do?

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 25 May 2002

A film series devoted to the works of Dashiell Hammett and a show about the Brown Derby inspire dining ideas. BY MEREDITH BRODY


Immediately I think of Musso & Frank, one of my first choices always for grilled meat and a stiff drink, because I'm just as sure Dashiell (uh, maybe I should say Mr. Hammett, since we've never been introduced) had many occasions to dine there. It was a big watering hole for Hollywood writers in the '30s, notably William Faulkner and Nathanael West and probably anybody else who came out from the East on a three-months-plus-options contract (not to mention those who were here already).

My instincts are good. I get a thrill when I turn to page 95 in Diane Johnson's Dashiell Hammett: A Life and read this, about his initial meeting with Lillian Hellman: "He was coming off a bad drunk, someone had introduced them at Musso and Frank's, a restaurant. As nearly as they could remember afterward, they sat in his car and talked about books." And then this, on page 129 of Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett, by Richard Layman, about Hammett's life in Hollywood: "He became a regular at the Brown Derby; he drank more heavily than ever; and he contracted his second case of gonorrhea." (The hazards of the writer's life. When I read this sentence to Andy, he says, "I didn't realize hamburgers gave you that.")

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