Posted by: Didapper PJ30 JUN 2010
Dozens of museums around the world house reconstructions of old pharmacies. But one of the more unusual examples is to be found not in a museum but in a Florida amusement park.
Universal Studios Florida, in Orlando, has a film and television theme. Positioned opposite its “Terminator 2: 3D” attraction is a replica of Schwab’s Pharmacy, a Hollywood drug store that became famous as a haunt of actors, writers and composers.
In 1932 four brothers named Schwab bought a failing pharmacy at 8024 Sunset Boulevard and began catering to film industry workers. They opened charge accounts and cashed cheques for struggling young actors and their lunch counter became a popular gathering place for would-be stars.
They also provided telephone booths for customers’ use, and the pharmacy became an informal “office” and meeting place for agents, managers and talent scouts as well as for the “talent” itself.
Among the regulars were Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Clark Gable, the Marx Brothers, Shelley Winters, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Orson Welles, Ida Lupino, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Ronald Reagan. Gloria Swanson bought her make-up there. And Ava Gardner landed a job behind the soda fountain while awaiting her big break.
In 1939, songwriter Harold Arlin popped in to jot down a melody that had come into his head. The tune became “Over the rainbow”.
References to Schwab’s appear in a number of Hollywood movies. Most notable is Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Sunset Blvd’, in which one of the main characters describes Schwab’s as “headquarters” for Hollywood writers, “a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room”. That is certainly what it was.
Financial difficulties forced the pharmacy to close in 1983, after 52 years, and the building was demolished a few years later. But if you wish to gain a flavour of the place you can head for the Orlando theme park and sample the sandwiches, sundaes and milkshakes on sale at the Schwab’s lunch counter.