Noel Hart Came All The Way From The Land Down Under to Spend Years Working for the Most Eccentric Bookseller Since the Founding of Ancient Rome: Eli Goodman of Cosmopolitan Book Shop, a Rabbit Hole of Chaos that Even Alice Would Not Dare Go Down.
by Paul Hunt
I admit it, I was wrong. When Arnold Herr wrote his epic book The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookseller, I said that it would be the last book ever written about Cosmopolitan Bookshop. Arnold Herr’s book is now out of print, and copies are selling for around $100 if you can find one. But just in time, Noel Hart, another poor soul who suffered for years as an employee and then manager at the book shop, has written a large tome chronicling his years of Melrose madness. The only catch is that the book is not published in the U.S. and is only available through the author in Australia.
I thought that most of the old time employees were gone to the bookseller’s party in the land of fluffy clouds and ladies playing harps. I had forgotten about Noel Hart, who had fled Los Angeles and returned to Australia to regain his sanity and sainthood. Although I had known Eli Goodman for some 20 years, I only had the honor of working at the shop for the last couple years of it’s existence, along with a dear friend by the name of “Five”, and of course, an energetic Arnold Herr who stayed until the end as Store Manager. Folks in Los Angeles will remember Five during the years that he worked at Bodhi Tree Books in West Hollywood. He was a writer, a podcaster host of a fun show called Token and Talkin’, an actor, comedian, and great guy. He has since sadly passed, but I’ll put in a few links to some of his work at the end of this screed.
So, was I surprised to hear that Noel had written a book of over 400 pages about Eli Goodman and Cosmopolitan? Yeah, shocked that someone was even loonier than me or Arnold Herr, and not only had worked at the shop for 10 years but then spent another number of years mulling it over and actually daring to reveal his experiences to a lethargic public, most of whom have never set foot in a book shop in their entire miserable lives.
I remember once when Arnold Herr and I were having lunch at a landmark coffee shop in Burbank when the waitress asked us what we did for a living. My first thought was that she was trying to assess just how much service she was going to waste her time on us, or whether her two diners, bearded and shabbily dressed, with books and papers piled on her table, were so suspicious looking that she might dial 9-11 before even giving us a menu. I piped up that we were booksellers.
“What does that mean, “bookseller”? she said.
“We work in a book shop,” said Arnold.
She smiled and proudly announced that since graduating from high school, she had never read even one book, and I noticed that she was pushing late 50s. I was trying to calculate roughly how many years that was, between the High School graduation and the current year, how many decades of not reading a book. My mind locked up at that moment, the silence broken by Arnold.
“That’s OK honey, we won’t hold it against you. You have that whole stack of menus to read every day. That’s an ordeal enough for anyone.”
My thought is that all those think tanks pondering the great decline of American education, all the books published trying to determine why our country is behind Peru in reading and Samoa in mathematics. All the chatter about the declining levels. My message to all those eggheads is stop gnashing your teeth about it. Just join Arnold and me for lunch once and you will understand the situation entirely.
And yeah, we still left the old gal a tip. It wasn’t her fault. It’s the system. And what difference does it make? There’s hardly any used book stores left in any big city in America. And there’s hardly anyone left alive who’s actually worked in one. Which takes us back to the subject at hand, Noel Hart’s new book. I’m waiting for my copy to arrive, at which time I’ll have a few more words to say. A picture of the back cover and the lengthy blurb gives us a preview. And Noel said he is working on volume 2, which will include a lot of photos.
Contains over 400 pages crammed with intensity from the trenches of the used book business in Los Angeles. SIGNEDLIMITED EDITION, which includes a piece of the bookshop tipped in! This is unique to each copy, a portion of a page printed in 1753, sourced from Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Hollywood (see photographs). SIGNED in full by Australian author Noel Hart in black ink on title page. Introductory note by Arnold M. Herr. Cover artwork by Rom Anthonis. This is a NON-FICTION book. Rear cover blurb: “Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. Around the turn of the millennium. A classic secondhand bookshop, dusty and dirty, shabby with age and happenstance, packed tight with decades of stagnant accumulation. So messy it resembles the aftermath of a major earthquake. Bring a shovel, dig for treasures! Crackly radio jazz can be heard emanating from somewhere. Michael Jackson browses porn in one aisle; a homeless man sleeps on the floor in another; a transvestite hooker works the trade in a secluded corner behind a stack of boxes; a serious collector collates rare seventeenth-century antiquarian volumes near the front counter; a frenetic movie set decorator rents books throughout. All the while at the center of the maelstrom sits 80-year-old owner Eli Goodman, a ruminative, philosophical, New York-born Jew, intelligent and funny, an obsessive hoarder to the extreme, a caricature character who distinctly resembles Woody Allen dropped into a Marx Brothers movie, and who happens to live in a decrepit hovel at the back of the bookshop. For fifty years Eli has presided over the famous and infamous, the bibliophiles, researchers, collectors, decorators, actors, models, musicians, hipsters, the scholarly, shady, and insane, all congealed into a conglomerate crush at Cosmopolitan Bookshop. Longtime store manager Noel Hart, an Australian, captures it all, stuff s it into a mind-blender, then spills it out onto the page. NOTE: What began as a talk given to the Australian Book Collectors’ Society in 2018, then subsequently published verbatim in their journal in 2019, has now been expanded into a book-length narrative by Noel Hart, who managed Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Los Angeles for ten years.” Printed in Australia. Published in 2023 by Bookwood Press, Melbourne. A Blurb Production. Bound in publisher’s original pictorial wraps. A LIKE NEW very nice clean tight solid softcover copy. Uncommon Signed Limited Edition.
Click here to see the actual website of Cosmopolitan Book Shop.
Click Here to see the video I shot during the final days of Cosmopolitan, featuring Captain Jack LeVan and Julie Webster.
Click Here to read RIP Eli Goodman by Paul Hunt and Arnold Herr.
Click Here to read Eli Goodman laid to rest, with photos of Eli, by Paul Hunt.
Click Here to read “Swami Anaconda Bananarama Answers the Question Who Are We?” (Written by Five, in full costume). Thanks to CartoonBazooka.com.
Click Here to watch the video Swami Anaconda Bananarama Meditation in Griffith Park.
Click Here to read We The Sheeple by Five. Thanks to CartoonBazooka.
Click Here to read Breakfast With Jesus Freaks. Thanks CartoonBazooka.
AND FINALLY Click Here to order the book And That Was Only The Front Counter on Abebooks.com