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Clara Bow’s It Cafe

The “It Girl” created the “It” nightspot in Hollywood.

Clara Bow came out of a three-year retirement in 1937 to open the It Café, located in the lobby of the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, with her husband Rex Bell.

Decorated to match her taste, the Vine Street club had mirrored walls, merlot-colored carpeting, and a gold ceiling hand-painted with the signs of the zodiac in pale blue.

The booths and chairs were covered in red-and-cream striped fabric, which complemented the cream piano (with black keys). Table lights were replicas of the “It” statue presented to Bow after the 1927 film’s success—chained to the base to ensure sticky fingers didn’t walk away with an unauthorized souvenir.

Behind the shiny ebony wood bar, uniformed men shook up 35-cent “It Cocktails.”

The opening night was covered by Paramount Pictures, Bow’s former studio, and the footage ran in theaters. The following year, Movieland tour added the It Cafe to its list of must-see stops.

A star-sighting was just about guaranteed: “It Crowd” patrons included Cary Grant and Olivia de Havilland. Bette Davis, whose go-to order was the pineapple salad, even once brought First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

However, the celebrity with her name on the door was rarely seen. Weeks after opening, Bow became pregnant with her second child and followed doctor’s orders to rest. As she and Bell spent more time at their Nevada ranch, they sold the Hollywood hotspot in 1939 to Phil Selznick, uncle of film producer David O. Selznick.

By 1943, the café was no longer “It” and closed for good.


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