We visited the mythic story of Lana Turner's discovery at The Top Hat Cafe.
In 1937 a teenage girl named Judy Turner skipped class at Hollywood High School to grab a Coke with friends at the Top Hat Cafe soda fountain. She was spotted by Billy Wilkerson who was the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Judy was renamed "Lana" and scored a brief but breakthrough role wearing a tight sweater in the 1937 film They Won't Forget. No one forgot Lana and she signed with M-G-M where she went on to star in several classics including Ziegfeld Girl, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Bad and the Beautiful and many more. After years of being overlooked, Lana was honored with a Best Actress Oscar nomination for the 1957 drama Peyton Place. In 1958 her world was turned upside down when her boyfriend mobster Johnny Stompanato was stabbed to death and her daughter Cheryl Crane was implicated. This launched one of the most sensational and lurid Hollywood scandals of all time. Remarkably, Lana's career continued and she went on to star in more films and appear on television shows until her retirement in 1985.
I found recipes attributed to Lana Turner for shrimp scampi and salsa, but let's face it....Lana was not a cook. Since she was discovered in a soda shop and since it is still VERY hot outside, I decided to take some creative latitude and make a milkshake in her honor.
Doing this episode sent me down a rabbit hole about the history of the milkshake. They emerged in popularity in the early 1900s and they became increasingly popular in 1922 when the electric blender was launched. I also went down the rabbit hole of locating various old fashioned style soda fountains that you can find in Los Angeles. I suggest the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop in Hollywood and the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in Pasadena. Now back to the recipe.
3 scoops of ice cream
1/3 or more cup of milk
Place 3 scoops of ice cream in blender and add 1/3 cup of milk. You can adjust the amount of milk based on how thick you would like the milkshake to be. Add whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top for garnish.
April Clemmer is a Hollywood historian, best known as the creator of the Old Hollywood Walking Tour. Her vision is to preserve the stories and style of the Classic Hollywood era by creating experiences that enable others to relive the glamorous past of Hollywood’s iconic places and personalities. She has been a featured Hollywood historian on PBS, a keynote speaker, and given in-person tours for both corporate and non-profit clients such as Hudson Pacific Properties and the Los Angeles Breakfast Club. April founded the Old Hollywood Back Room in 2021, an exclusive membership that enables fellow fans of early Hollywood to connect with others who share their passion, have real conversations, and share stories, memorabilia, and niche expertise. Her monthly Zoom presentations feature detailed research and archival photographs spotlighting classic Hollywood topics. April lives in Los Angeles with her family.
The Final Result
The milkshake was easy to make and delicious, which I knew it would be! In the early days, milkshakes were just chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. Now the sky is the limit. You can find or make your own variations with an endless combination of fruit, syrup, nuts and even alcohol. This was a cool, refreshing treat for this hot Labor Day weekend.
There are TONS of Lana Turner films on DVD and they are frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies.
Here's what Lana's daughter Cheryl Crane said about her eating habits:
“Mother’s taste in food was wide-ranging, from macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, and barbeque ribs to Italian (particularly spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread); traditional Southern plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, to Mexican dishes with tamales and chili - the spicier the better. She carried hot sauce in her purse and added it to virtually everything. She believed chili peppers cleaned the toxins out of the body. In Acapulco we would eat in some frightening-looking places, but Montezuma never took his revenge on Mother.
When she was at home and by herself, after the husbands, she wasn’t regimented as far as meals; she picked at her favorite snacks all day. Her maid would arrange a plate of cheese, vegetables with hot sauce for dipping, salami and crackers, or egg custards. One peculiar favorite was cottage cheese with steak sauce. She didn’t sit down for a meal at home unless there was company. Having dinner with her could be maddening. She ate very, very slowly. It took a full hour to get her through a meal.
There were only two things Mother could cook. One was a fabulous turkey gravy, which she was always in charge of at her favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. It was a recipe learned from Gran. Her other dish was filet mignon. She would coat the steak with French’s yellow mustard and season it with salt and so much cracked black pepper that it would form a crust. Then she would broil or barbecue the steak.
She stopped drinking sodas when she was very young. Obviously, she was drinking one the day she was discovered, but later on she wasn’t fond of bubbly drinks, not even champagne. She drank distilled water, which was only used for ironing in those days. A cold, tall glass of milk with ice in it might come in between meals. Black coffee flowed all day long for years, then stopped cold one day (because it was staining her teeth) in favor of herbal tea. Conscious of eating or drinking anything that might stain after that, she drank white wine instead of red. As far as alcohol, she went from scotch and water to vodka and cranberry; she liked a Ramos Fizz at Christmas, then gave up liquor and had only a glass of wine with dinner…”
-Excerpted from “Lana: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies,” written by daughter Cheryl Crane (b. 1943) and Cindy De La Hoz, 2008.
If you want to read more, then I suggest the books "Lana: The Lady, The Legend, The Truth", "LANA: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies" and "Detour: A Hollywood Story" both by her daughter Cheryl Crane.
Thank you for watching and stay tuned for more food, fun and film history.