A Video Tour of Hollywood’s Last Big General Book Shop

Eli Goodman’s Cosmopolitan Book Shop Was The Last Big General Book Shop in Hollywood.  Some Final Thoughts and a Short Video Tour Before it Was Closed

Posted by Paul Hunt


Click on the box above to see what a really old bookshop looks like.  I did this short film just a few days before the end.  Eli was already under full time care and hadn’t been in the shop for three or four years.


Eli Goodman

Below are a series of Advertisements that Eli Ran in a local paper.

Eli 1 May 1

Eli 2- May 1

Eli 3- May 1

Eli 4- May 1businesscard-3.5inx2in-h-front

2 of our best customers park their rigs at our front door.

2 of our best customers park their rigs at our front door.


Hollywood Boulevard Bookseller Follies – Part 1

(updated with more information 11-17-2016)

Tales of Wild and Crazy Bookseller Behavior From the 1970s,

Some of it Actually True

by Paul Hunt


Mark Sailor Lands a Job at Hollywood Book City

Mark Sailor landed at Hollywood Book City sometime in the mid 1970s.  At that time, Book City was in its growing years, expanding from one store to three storefronts on Hollywood Blvd.  The Store was started by Jerry Weinstein, of the famous Weinstein booksellers.  I knew them all except one of the sisters, and I can tell you they were bibliophiles through and through.  There’s been a few family book dynasties in Southern California, The Dawsons and the Duttons come to mind, but the Weinsteins outnumber any other contenders in all fields, they opened book shops around Southern California, often competing with one another, sometimes squabbling with each other, sometimes partnering up, but usually a fiercely independent group, helping each other only in the direst of circumstances.

Hollywood Book City

Hollywood Book City

When Jerry started Hollywood Book City, he was already a veteran bookseller.  As I remember, he was first involved with Universal Books, which was down east of Vine Street.  Jerry was somewhat desperate to find a suitable partner for the Book City store, someone who could lend a hand but also pump in some desperately needed capital. The desperation was so bad that he even asked me, which was really a joke, I was driving a cab and barely had enough to eat much less that strange word “capital”.   At the time, his sister lived in New York and was married to a man named Alan Siegel, who did have some money.  Jerry convinced them to come out West.  It was a good partnership for a while, but Jerry’s wife did not get along with Jerry’s sister, and that led to a breakup, with Alan running the Hollywood Store and Jerry heading out to the San Fernando Valley, where he started Valley Book City.  More on this Weinstein saga later (maybe), for now we are at the juncture of Mark Sailor drifting into Hollywood Book City and getting a job working with Jerry.

Hollywood was thriving in those days.  Book shops lined the street, and all retail was booming.  Most folks think that working in a book shop is a great life:  you could just sit around reading books all day, making an occasional sale.  How wrong, wrong, wrong you would be if you believe that nonsense, especially if you were talking about the weirdest place on earth, the center of the spinning vortex of strange behavior:  Hollywood.  Let us never forget that Hollywood and the surrounding area was founded by some wonderful but far out religious cults and communes and their occult and secret marks are still on the land.  I have written about this before, and intend to expand on it in the future.

Whatever Mark Sailor knew about bookselling, he probably got a shock working at Book City. The street was full of weird people, who would often come into your shop and drive you nuts.  I worked at several bookshops in Hollywood, and there was never a dull moment.  Nutcakes were especially more obnoxious at night, stealing books, tearing out pages, pissing in a back isle, eating gooey food they had sneaked in, on and on.  Some were so smelly you had to eject them right away or they would run off your other customers. And then there were the robbers, often with guns and/or knives, intent on getting a handful of cash from your register to buy enough drugs to make it through the night. All the above remarks apply only to the other booksellers on the street.   The patrons were even worse.

How Mark Sailor Met Famous Actor Will Sampson

Will Sampson

Will Sampson

Mark Sailor was in the middle of this inferno, starting out as a clerk, putting brodarts on books, cleaning up, trying to remain positive.  He was tall and thin, with thick glasses, an infectious smile and so good natured that I thought he wasn’t 100% human- I never saw him in a bad mood.  One night Will Sampson, the Native American actor who was just starting his acting career, came into Book City. Mark said he was drunk. He was a big guy, 6’5” and a tough former rodeo rider. He was in a rage about the white man and all the things they did to the American Indians. (We all agree with him on that issue). For some reason he grabbed Mark, taking him completely by surprise and got him in a headlock. He then marched him up and down Hollywood Boulevard, all the while ranting and screaming about the evil white man.  Mark thought he was going to die.  Sampson was so strong that Mark, thin and wispy, couldn’t break loose, and the big Indian dragged him around the Boulevard like he was a rag doll.  After a while, he calmed down, let Mark go, and staggered off.   As far as we know, even after Will sobered up, they did not become fast friends. So much for the pleasant evenings working in a bookstore in Hollywood.  After that, Mark became wary of anyone entering the store and getting too close to him.  This story came via Cliff, who got it from Mark before he died.

Mark's Book Shop on North Lake near Washington, Pasadena

Mark’s Book Shop on North Lake near Washington, Pasadena

Mark went on to work at other bookshops, like Cliff’s in Pasadena.  Mark became a first-rate bookseller.  He opened his own stores at various times.  I think his first one was on North Lake Street. Alan Siegel, owner of Hollywood Book City very generously paid for the first months rent, last months rent and security deposit to help Mark get a start. It was a nice shop, but about a year or two after opening the landlord decided to have the building re-roofed, and as soon as the old roof was taken off, an unexpected rain storm came, ruining Mark’s entire stock of books.  The jerk roofer left town, never to be called into account, and Mark had a bad time getting any recompense from the landlord. As the saying goes, “life ain’t for sissy’s”

When Mark first got the shop opened, Alan sent Ivan Chertoff up to help Mark put plastic Brodarts on the dust jackets of his books.  This was a job that Ivan had at Hollywood Books City, where he had hung out for years, not really an “official employee”, but helped Alan around the shop for lunch money.  I met “Ivan” many times at Book City, and frankly always felt that he had more than a few screws loose.  His real name, by the way, was Aaron Sotland according to Cliff.  I have no idea why he donned the moniker of “Ivan”, but other customers at Book City called him the crazy Russian.  When the moon was full, look out, he could fly off the handle.  Mark worked at Book City during this time, and certainly knew Ivan, so some kind of deal was made for Ivan to lend a hand to Mark in his new shop.  Alan probably needed a breather, another good reason aside from the obvious charitable one, to “loan” his ace Brodarter to Mark.

“Ivan” died a few years ago of cancer.  Mark went to the hospital to see him, but Ivan refused to talk to him, angrily and loudly proclaiming that Mark owed him money, possibly from the days of disaster at the Book Company.  Ivan died the next day.  My only thought is that if you are on death’s door why worry about a few bucks that someone owes you?  You aren’t going to take it to wherever you might be headed.  Somewhere I have a photo of Ivan getting an award from the City of L.A. or some Library Group, I’ll post it when I find it.

Another interesting thing that Cliff told me recently is that when he was younger he dated Mark’s mother Marilyn.  Small world, eh?

IMG_3896Later, he had another shop called The Owl Bookshop.  I was never there, but found an old business card that I’m reproducing here.  Mark helped out Cliff with bookselling and bookkeeping until his death a few years back.  He was a sweet guy, always polite and seemed to keep his cool, even under some of the difficult circumstances in his life.

I will update this post in the future, with some photos of Mark, as soon as I find them.  I also need to check with Cliff to get more information on his death.  I know he went into the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, he wasn’t feeling well.  He was put into an induced coma, which he never came out of.

Tribute Scheduled For Author George Clayton Johnson

Egyptian Theater Hollywood to Host Tribute Friday, February 26th, 7:30pm

Geprge Clayton Johnson (R) with old friend Brian Kirby. Photo by Paul Hunt

George Clayton Johnson (R) with old friend Brian Kirby. Photo by Paul Hunt

What Up Hollywood, urged on by Bookstore Memories, had to really dig through the archives to find this great old photo of George with former Los Angeles Free Press Editor Brian Kirby.  This was taken at Tom Lesser’s annual Paperback Collector’s Show in Mission Hills many moons ago.

This program is free to the public – first come, first served – with a suggested donation of $8 to our nonprofit to help cover expenses.

George Clayton Johnson (July 10, 1929 – December 25, 2015) penned some of the most memorable science fiction scripts of the 1960s and ’70s, including the first episode of “Star Trek” and seminal episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” as well as co-writing the novel Logan’s Run. Join us for an evening celebrating Johnson’s life and career, including “Twilight Zone” episodes “Nothing in the Dark”(1962), “A Penny for Your Thoughts” (1961), “A Game of Pool” (1961) and “Kick the Can” (1962), as well as remembrances from colleagues. There will be a panel discussion and a performance by members of Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre Company.

To rsvp on Eventbrite click here. It is free to rsvp.
Panel discussion follows with biographer Vivien Cooper, LOGAN’S RUN co-writer William F. Nolan, writers Dennis Etchison, Mark Scott Zicree and Wendy All and producers Jason and Sunni Brock, moderated by George’s son Paul Johnson. There will also be a performance by members of Ray Bradbury’s Pandemonium Theatre Company. (approx. 150 min.)

Posted by Uncle Paulie

R.I.P. Eli Goodman, 92, Cosmpolitan Book Shop

Cosmopolitan Book Shop was the Last Big Used Bookstore in Hollywood

by Paul Hunt and Arnold Herr

Eli Goodman

Eli Goodman

Eli Goodman, one of the long-time booksellers in Los Angeles died in a Burbank care facility this past Sunday February 7, 2016. He was 92 years old.  He opened his first book store on Western Avenue in East Hollywood in 1958. He and a partner took over the Western Avenue shop from Peggy Christian when she moved to La Cienega Avenue with other high-end booksellers like Heritage Book Shop and  Jake Zeitlin”s Big Red Barn.

Eli's first location

Eli’s first location

In 1971 Eli moved to 7007 Melrose Avenue near La Brea in the heart of Hollywood.  He established himself there in the heart of the chic collectible shops and fashion parlors. Later, in the 1980s skyrocketing rent forced him to move a couple doors west to 7017 Melrose Avenue, a double storefront.  This was to be his last location.  His shops were always stocked with a variety of books on all subjects in the modest price range, although he accumulated and sold higher-end scarce, collectible, and rare books when he could get them. For a while, his brother, noted Hollywood author Ezra Goodman worked in the store in the back room, pricing the rare and collectible books.  Ezra, a journalist for major newspapers and Time Magazine, covered the Hollywood scene.  His writings were on the flamboyant actors, the studio moguls, and the latest films.  He wrote a book that became quite famous called “The Fifty Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood.”  About 15 years after it was published he received a death threat, which he immediately assumed  was the result of a “contract” put out on him by either Howard Hughes or the Hollywood Moguls or maybe both.  He went into hiding, working for Eli in the back room of the Melrose shop, always in the disguise of a homeless man, and kept such a low profile that by the turn of the twenty-first century he had faded into total obscurity, the alleged “hit contract” having turned to dust, and Howard Hughes and the mob of Moguls long dead.

Eli took care of his brother until his death, providing him an apartment and supervising his medical care.  Ezra was a great writer and it is a shame that he went into hiding after publishing his fascinating book on Hollywood.  Ezra died about 10 years ago, although Eli kept the apartment just as it was for a couple more years, because his loss pained him so much. Closing down Ezra’s place represented the finality of Eli’s last remaining relative, the dreaded end that left Eli facing old age alone.

Cosmopolitan Book Shop

Cosmopolitan Book Shop

At Cosmopolitan, Eli himself had plenty of drama to deal with.  Anyone who has owned or worked in a bookstore will know that every day brings something new, both good and bad.  Once a fire smoldered overnight in the shop, this due to faulty wiring.  The smoke damage was bad enough, but the fire department poured on a billion gallons of water, sealing the fate of thousands of books.  Eli could not bear to discard them all, and spent months on various schemes to dry them out. Finally,  the thousands of books that were damaged by fire and water were then stored in large plastic trash bags for a number of years until it was determined there was no longer any reason to keep them since he had found out that his insurance agent had been pocketing the premiums, leaving Eli with no insurance.  In the interim, the books had mildewed and new and peculiar life forms thrived and bloomed in the warm, humid atmosphere in the bags.  Sometimes the gases in the bags would expand causing them to swell and burst.  Several customers and one or two staff members were overcome by the escaping pestilential effluvia.  In fact, one longtime staff member grew a third eye.  Or maybe it was a third ear. The whole smelly episode was a total loss, both financially and emotionally.

There were always crazy characters roaming through the store.  It seems like eccentrics and schizophrenics gyrate naturally to bookstores, and Cosmo pulled in its share.  Being one of the larger stores in Hollywood also meant that there were always books by the tonnage to purchase, and Eli was always up to the task.  He could never turn away some down on his luck book scout who showed up to sell Eli 20 boxes of books, paperbacks, and magazines with a lavash supply of rubbish mixed in.  As long as it was really cheap, it would end up stacked in teetering piles inside the front door.

Eli and his staff made a number of great buys from estates over the years.  Enough to carry the shop during times when the book inflow was slowed due to astrological or economic effects on the sellers.  Some book scouts couldn’t show up until their period of incarceration was over.  Other book dealers have also seen this strange phenomenon. The last few years were a struggle for Eli and a couple of dedicated employees.  The rent had gone way up due to the building being sold to a major corporation.  Meanwhile, the internet and amazon had taken away a chunk of the business.  Getting on the internet as a seller was a big help, as was using amazon.com to order books for customers, bringing in needed sales.  But Eli’s declining health when he was in his early 90s was the big factor leading to shutting down the store in December of 2014. All in all, he had had a good long run, more than most will ever get.

Those who knew Eli will remember him as a very intelligent man, self-educated by his beloved books.  His sense of humor and his extreme thriftiness carried him through the tough times that seems to dog booksellers.  It is not a profession for the weak.  His Cosmopolitan Book Shop was the last of the large used book shops in Hollywood.  Gone before him were all the scores of great book stores that at one time had lined Hollywood Blvd.  Old timers remember some of them: the huge Hollywood Book City, Universal Books, Gilbert’s Books, Larson’s Book Store, the fabulous Pickwick Bookshop, Atlantis Book Shop, Marlow’s Bookshop, Jack Garvin’s Hollywood Book Shop, Helen Hall’s Hollywood Book Service, Fred Dorsett Books, Hollywood Book and Poster, Collector’s Book Shop, Red’s Baroque Book Store, Aldine Books, Cherokee Book Shop,  Book Treasury, Partridge Books and others.  Hollywood Boulevard from Western Ave. to Highland Ave. was the dream street for book lovers in the 1960s.  Now the only shop left is Larry Edmunds who sells books on cinema.  In the place of all the fine book stores are nightclubs, bars and souvenir shops. As far as used book stores go, Eli’s death is the end of an era in Southern California. The few literary outposts left are scattered around the county, there is no more book row, and the way things look, there probably won’t ever be again. Eli Goodman loved books and no matter the hardships loved to work in his shop every day. Rest In Peace our beloved friend.

downloadGoodman was interned on April 21, 2006 at the Riverside National Cemetery.  He qualified for resting there by his service in World War 2.