North of Restaurant Row, in a building that now houses something called The Shark Bar, there was a seafood restaurant owned at least in part by “Skipper” Alan Hale from the TV series, Gilligan’s Island. I believe The Lobster Barrel was a small chain in nearby cities at the time and that Hale arranged to buy into the one on at 826 N. La Cienega Boulevard and they then plastered his name and face all over it. Unless acting work kept him away, he was always there to greet people, show them to their table and pose for snapshots. At each place setting, there was a large color postcard bearing a portrait of the Skipper. If you looked at all like a first-timer, he would seat you and then without being asked, autograph the postcard to you. He also sold (or sometimes gave away) skipper hats like the one he was always wearing.
I only ate there once and was a bit overpowered by Mr. Hale’s teddy bear friendliness. He called everyone “Little Buddy” and seemed a bit too happy to have us there. Still, you had to admire his spirit. The place had been open for some time before our visit and he didn’t seem tired of all the jokes about Ginger and Mary Ann washing dishes, and was the Professor in the kitchen making the clam chowder and did you have to be Thurston Howell III to afford the full steak-’n’-lobster combo? I was kind of hoping they’d have something set up where every half-hour or so, one of the interior palm trees would drop a coconut on his head…but no such luck.
His restaurant was open for fifteen years and then when business slumped, he shut it down and started a travel agency which he ran until his death in 1990. (Would you book a tour through the man who ran the Minnow aground?) About the time the Lobster Barrel closed, Sonny Bono opened a trattoria just around the corner. I guess starting a restaurant in that neighborhood is what you’re supposed to do when you’re on CBS, your show gets cancelled and your former partner goes on to other projects without you.