Dave Chasen (July 18, 1898 - July 16, 1973) worked as an actor, but is best known for being a celebrity restaurateur.
Born in Odessa, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire (now Ukraine), Chasen immigrated to the U.S. and found work in vaudeville, performing as a stooge with Joe Cook.
Dave Chasen, Joe Cook, and Tom Howard in Rain or Shine (1930)
In the movies, he appeared in Rain or Shine (1930), Arizona Mahoney (1936), and Millions in the Air (1935).
Upon the recommendations of several friends, he opened his eponymous restaurant, Chasen's, which became a celebrity haunt, famous for its chili. (see below)
Dave was married twice, to Maude Martin and Theo Holly. He died on July 16, 1973 in Los Angeles, California. Dave Chasen is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery Glendale.
Chasen's was a restaurant frequented by entertainers in West Hollywood, California. Located at 9039 Beverly Boulevard on the border of Beverly Hills, it first opened for business in 1936 and was the site for many years of the Academy Awards party. It was also famous for its chili. In 1962 while filming in Rome, for example, Liz Taylor had several orders of Chasen’s chili flown to the set of Cleopatra.
Many of the restaurant's regular customers had booths named in their honor. The Ronald Reagan booth, now on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, was where Reagan proposed to Nancy Reagan (neė Davis). Other well-known entertainers with their own booths included Frank Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, and Groucho Marx. After suffering a steep decline in business over the course of many years, Chasen's closed permanently in 1995.
Comedian Dave Chasen, Joe Cook's performing partner in vaudeville, opened the restaurant in December 1936  at the advice of his former director, Frank Capra.
It was initially called "Chasen's Southern Pit." The New Yorker's editor, Harold Ross, along with business associate Daniel Silberberg, grubstaked the operation.
It was nothing more than a shack, but quickly became well known for its chili and was soon a favorite among Hollywood actors at the time. At first, Capra had to loan Chasen his silverware for the restaurant's operation. Walt Disney, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Clark Gable, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were customers.
Bert Lahr, Herbert Marshall, Robert Benchley, David Niven, Dave Chasen
As newer generations took the reins of Hollywood, trendier restaurants like Spago drew the ‘in’ crowd and stole some of Chasen’s clientele, but its A-list, many until their death, stayed faithful to the end. Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Richard Nixon, James Stewart, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Kirk Douglas, Ronald Reagan, and Jack Lord were still regulars, along with newer celebrities such as John Travolta, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Mel Gibson. Ed McMahon was a frequent guest.
Alfred Hitchcock at Chasen's
Chasen's was well known to not accept credit cards. Instead, established or recognized customers simply signed for their charges and had a bill mailed to them.
In the ''Columbo'' episode "Publish or Perish," Columbo eats in Chasen's and orders chili and iced tea.
A documentary was filmed in the restaurant's final weeks, entitled Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's.
The restaurant closed on April 1, 1995. The site was used for private parties and as a filming location (The Opposite of Sex). In 1997 its illustrious contents – pictures, bars, booths, even paneling – were auctioned off. Many original photos and artwork (including a piece by LeRoy Neiman of Tommy The Maitre'D) from Chasen's walls, ten of the booths and the venerable Chasen's barstools are now found in Santa Paula, California in the Mupu Grill on Main street. The Frank Sinatra booth, the bar, the front awning and many other items were purchased by comedian Brian Haley.
The original building, save the Beverly Blvd. facing wall, was demolished and a Bristol Farms grocery store was built in its place.
In the cafe of this grocery store are several booths from the original Chasen's and some of the original paneling. As of 2013, the building is still occupied by the Bristol Farms grocery store. A much smaller Chasen’s was opened in 1997 about a mile away in Beverly Hills by the grandson of Dave and Maude Chasen, and had much success at first, but closed in 2000.
1. Brown, David (February 20, 1995). Brown, Tina, ed. "Chasen's Fadeout". The New Yorker. New York City. ISSN 0028-792X. OCLC 320541675.
2. Kunkel, Thomas (1995). Genius in Disguise. New York: Random House. p. 237. ISBN 0-679-41837-7.
3. http://cruiselinehistory.com/chasens-dave-chasens-legendary-hollywood-restaurant-to-the-stars-didnt-allow-credit-cards-or-celebrity-chefs/ CHASEN’S – Dave Chasen’s legendary Hollywood restaurant to the stars didn’t allow credit cards or “celebrity chefs”!