By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Regulars like to tell about the time a middle-aged man suffered a heart attack there. Even when he was carried away by paramedics on a gurney, so the story goes, none of the diners bothered to stop their wheeling-dealing long enough to look up and notice he was gone. That may explain why Jack Nicholson often felt comfortable enough to eat dinner alone at the bar some evenings. Or why Pia Zadora, accompanied by her daughter Kady playing her plastic guitar, serenaded the restaurant. Or why James Woods got down on one knee during dinner and asked for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage.
Like any L.A. restaurant, there were “good” tables — and there was Siberia. According to Morton’s conventional wisdom, the better the artwork, the worse the table. As an original investor, producer Jerry Weintraub for a long time used to have an official table marked by a small wall plaque.
Morton’s was hottest on Monday and Thursday nights. That’s when the power was truly palpable. “You never go on a weekend,” Harris Katleman, then president of Twentieth Century Fox television, once told me. “We call it ‘civilian’ night.”
“My theory, based on observation,” Ben Stein explained to me once over dinner there, “is that it’s because people in the biz are so biz-oriented that they get restless over the weekends being home with their families, and by Monday they’re dying to be out and talking deals. And on Thursday, they’re just stocking up on deals to make it through the weekend.”
UNLIKE THE HARD ROCK, the Morton’s duo couldn’t have made a mint franchising their namesake restaurant: It was peculiarly suited to both the people and place. So when Jonathan Tisch, nephew of Larry, asked to put a Morton’s in the CBS building in New York at one point, the twins nixed it. Yet the pair quickly said yes when friends of Don Simpson asked to hold his wake in the restaurant. I was there, and the dead producer would have been kvelling on this Monday night at Morton’s because the room reeked of raw power. Standing, drinking and eating in his honor were the sort of triple-A-list moguls, celebrities and assorted pilot fish never seen in the same place together unless there was major movie money to be made. Yet here they were, their laughter and chat only occasionally punctuated by the click of raised cocktail glasses and audible sighs of “he’s gone.”
Soon, Morton’s will be gone too. Let’s start its wake now.
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