Article on Stanley Rose Sheds Light on Early Hollywood Literary Scene
by Paul Hunt
The website LAist, run by Southern California Public Radio (KPPC) published an interesting article on the history of Stanley Rose and his influence on the Los Angeles literary scene in the 1930s. Click Here to read the article by Hadley Meares and view some rare photos that picture Rose and some of his literary friends.
To fill in a few tidbits not in the article, some old memories and stories about the era will add to the flavor of the times. Rose opened a bookstore on Vine Street called Satyr Books, next to the famous Brown Derby. He was partners with a man named N.M. “Mac” Gordon, who was evidently manager of a downtown Los Angeles Bookstore. He later moved to Hollywood Blvd. and located next door to Musso and Franks, the famous restaurant which is still there today. There was an old timer who worked for me at my book shop in Burbank, Atlantis Books, named Bill Chase. He was in his late 60s when I hired him, he had retired but didn’t want to hang around the house and get in his wife’s hair, and needed a part time job. He was one of the most knowledgeable booksellers I have ever met. He was a treasure to have him at the shop, and his memory was sharp, with excellent recall of book titles and authors. Within a couple of weeks at my shop he know the entire stock better than all the rest of us combined.
Bill Chase, Manager of Gilbert’s Book Shop.
Bill had been the manager of Gilbert’s Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd just east of Vine. The store was owned by Ed Gilbert, who was married to one of the daughters of Edgar Rice Burroughs. According to Bill Chase, Ed started in the book business by taking over the Satyr Bookshop on Vine. I am assuming that it occured when Stanley Rose moved to Hollywood Blvd. Possibly Rose split with his partner Gordon, I don’t know this for sure. The details of the transaction are unknown, but later Gilbert moved around the corner on to Hollywood Blvd., where he stayed for over 40 years. Bill Chase was manager for most of that time.
Photo by Wayne Braby
A really colorful character, not mentioned in the LAist piece, was a guy named Larry Edmunds.. He was evidently a partner of Stanley Rose. In the 1930s he developed a talent, possibly learned from Rose, to peddle books to the movie studio executives. The rumor that I picked up over the years was that the books that Edmunds flogged to the studios were, let’s say, of the more prurient type, not available in any bookstore. Edmunds was known eventually as “The Lothario of Hollywood Blvd.”, and a detailed piece about him was once published in an old issue of Los Angeles Magazine.
The LAist article mentions the heavy drinking that went on around Rose’s Hollywood Blvd. store. Larry Edmunds, a young man at the time, was also a big boozer, which led to his horrible demise. He was also described as a good looking young man who was really popular with the many movie studio secretaries who he met while visiting the studios. The rumors were that he also had flings with some of the wives of the studio executives. At some point Edmunds had a falling out with Rose, or was cast loose when Rose closed his store. Edmunds was on his own, and opened his own shop on Cahuenga Blvd., just south of Hollywood Blvd. I think the whole building he was in was torn down or remodled and like many of the landmarks of old Hollywood, is now gone forever.
Someday, if there is any interest, I’ll write down what I know about that colorful guy Larry Edmunds, and trace the history of his shop which is still operating today on Hollywood Blvd., although it has gone through other owners and is now the only surviving book store left on Hollywood Blvd., specializing in the memorabilia of Hollywood..
Stanley Rose was actually a great promoter of authors, and as told by the good LAist article, helped some of our home-grown authors get published. He was one of a kind, and despite the heavy boozing, ran a very unique book store which was a watering hole for many of our best authors. It was a good place to hang out. We have nothing like this today. Even in the heyday of Hollywood bookstores, 1970s-1980s, I can’t recall any place like it. In fact, many of the book stores discouraged people to just hang around.. Even Barnes and Noble removed most of their chairs and couches after experimenting with the idea of creating a welcome space. Too many homeless folks would just park themselves in the store all day.