Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who the HELL is "Dining at Melvyn's"?

click to enlarge
"Dining At Melvyn's" was a large panoramic mishmash drawn by "The Rumba King", Cuban bandleader/caricaturist Xavier Cugat created when Melvyn Haber ("Mr. Palm Springs") opened the restaurant in 1975. Melvyn's continues to be a popular Palm Springs restaurant/tourist stop, and this piece featured many of the new "regulars", or at least 1975 Palm Springs regulars. A print of the art still hangs there above the men's room urinal. Some of the caricatures are clearly identifiable (thanks to his  basing them on Al Hirschfeld caricatures), some continue to baffle to this day. Cugat took his master list and the mystery to the grave with him in 1990. People have debated this for years. 
The best I can make out:
Top Row: Possibly John Carradine, Abbey Lane or Charo (both Cugat wives), the artist himself-Cugat, Liza Minelli, Phyllis Diller, possibly Ernest Borgnine, or, a restaurant bouncer?, the following the most confusing of all: possibly Eddie Fisher and his latest squeeze, or, as some have speculated, restaurant owner Melvyn's "agent" with his girlfriend, although why a restaurant owner would have an agent is confusing, and finally possibly Melvyn himself?
Row 2: David Niven, Tony Bennett, Buddy Hackett, Liberace, Charles Bronson, Jerry Lewis (some had guessed Clark Gable, but ears way too small and he was long deceased)
Row 3: John Wayne, Hugh Hefner, Katherine Hepburn, Danny Kaye, Jackie Gleason, Barbra Streisand
Row 4: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sonny and Cher, Sammy Davis Jr. (??), Alfred Hitchcock (via Hirschfeld), Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra
Bottom Row: Rex Harrison, Kirk Douglas, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, Danny Thomas and Groucho Marx (what, no Zeppo who lived in Palm Springs?)


  1. I'm pretty sure the second one is Charo, not Abbe Lane.For the row 2 unknowns how about Charles Bronson and

  2. I really want to say that it looks like Charles Bronson and Gable next to Liberace, but I can't see either fitting in with that crowd. Especially in '67 (Gable was dead and Bronson was pretty obscure.)

  3. Hi Drew. I'm thinking Paul Robeson to Liberace's right.

  4. Feel free to call me an idiot, but I think the mystery man with ascot might be Jerry Lewis. Shiny black hair, lower lip, indication of high cheek bone, and ascot all say Jerry to me. Plus he has a house in Palm Springs. Remember this would be the more mature Jerry, not the skinny kid from 1955.

  5. Drew! This is the piece I just saw, signed by Cugat, at the Santa Monica Swap Meet! If I'd known you were gonna discuss it, I would have bought the thing! Now it's tripled in value.

  6. I don't think that's supposed to be Sammy Davis Jr; it looks more like Perez Prado. His John Carradine (?) looks like a cross between John Barrymore and Lawrence Harvey. And the Bronson caricature looks like the "What If They Mated" bastard lovechild of Charles Laughton and Danny Trejo!

    But I really don't want to pick on it. Can we at least agree that Cugie drew pretty good for a bandleader? I have an LP cover that he painted of some Spanish kids, in a kind of cartoony, Mary Blair/"Small World" style. It's actually kind of appealing.

  7. I agree it doesn't look at all like Sammy, but most likely is supposed to be. The guy on the upper leaft continues to be a mystery.

  8. Dean Martin is definitely between Rex and Red on the lower left! That solidifies my impression that Jerryʻs between Phyllis and Danny. Also, I see the upper left guy as Kirk Douglas, then, Charro. This is hanging in the upstairs bedroom/loft of our Hollywood-themed vacation rental in Woodland Hills and Iʻve been naming the celebs all week! I agree with Eddie Fisher and thought Ann-Margaret was with him, then, Ernest Borgnine. Definitely Sammy Davis. Guess I gotʻem all, except Hugh Hefner (shame on me, an ex-Bunny!). Big thanx for the key!