Dave Chasen (Dave Chasen)

Dave Chasen

Restaurateur.  Founder of Chasen’s,  which in classic Hollywood fashion rose from humble beginnings to become the quintessential Beverly Hills restaurant.  Chasen was born in Odessa,  Ukraine,  and came to the US as a child. He started out as a vaudeville entertainer and from 1923 played the stooge to headlining comedian Joe Cook.  Cook went solo in the early 1930s,  and his partner moved to Los Angeles.  In 1936 Chasen borrowed $3500 from Harold Ross,  editor of the New Yorker magazine,  and opened a little barbecue shack called The Southern Pit on Beverly Boulevard.  It wasn’t long before the celebrity crowd discovered his famous chili and Hobo Steak,  and within a few years The Southern Pit had grown into Chasen’s,  an imposing two-story complex with a recreation room,  a sauna,  and a greatly upscaled menu.  Renowned for his unflappable geniality as host,  Chasen took good care of his regulars.  When a pregnant Lana Turner had trouble squeezing into a booth,  he had part of the table sawed off to accomodate her.  He had his bartender invent the non-alcoholic “Shirley Temple” cocktail so the underaged Miss Temple could drink with her peers.  Since Chasen’s was off-limits to autograph hounds and the press,  the stars felt they could let their hair down and the ensuing carnival atmosphere contrasted sharply with the restaurant’s stately trappings.  Rubber-legged Ray Bolger would dance around the room,  James Cagney would sing Yiddish dialect songs,  and Frank Morgan,  the Wizard of Oz himself,  would climb up on the bar and do a striptease.  W.C. Fields could often be found in the back room,  playing ping pong and guzzling gin.  Humphrey Bogart,  Jimmy Stewart,  Alfred Hitchcock,  Frank Sinatra,  and Ronald Reagan all had permanent booths.  (It was here in 1952 that Reagan proposed to actress Nancy Davis).  Chasen’s chili,  once described as “the most expensive on Earth”,  remained its biggest culinary draw even though it was no longer listed on the menu.  Elizabeth Taylor had buckets of it shipped to Europe while she was filming “Cleopatra”.  During World War II Chasen volunteered to help entertain the troops and temporarily handed the reins over to his wife,  Maud.  She became a fixture of the restaurant,  running it successfully long after Chasen’s death in 1973.  When Chasen’s closed in April 1995,  it was a virtual time capsule of Old Hollywood and many veteran show biz folks turned out to bid it a fond farewell. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)  Family links:  Spouse:  Maude King Chasen (1904 – 2001)* *Calculated relationship


  • July, 18, 1898
  • Ukraine


  • June, 06, 1973
  • USA


  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • California
  • USA

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