Coronavirus has taken another beloved greater Los Angeles institution – the Embers Lounge in Whittier. A venerable southeast LA dive bar, this 1950’s/60’s era (nobody is quite sure exactly what year it opened) watering hole was home to countless nights of drunken excess, plotted murders, or just a plain old quiet night with a friend.
Located in a strip mall next to a Winchell’s and a Chris n Pitt’s of the same vintage, the bar was cash only, with CHEAP, strong pours, wood paneling, and one lonely pool table. Perhaps best of all, murals by Frank Bowers of his erotic vision of hell graced every available wall – naked, big-breasted women and tuxedo-clad men, complete with devil’s horns and red tails. Bowers painted for private and public spaces from the 1930’s through the 1960’s (risque and straight), but it is believed that the work he did for cocktail lounges was as payment for bar tabs. The Embers murals were wrapped in Christmas paper and garland during the holidays, my favorite time of year there.
Having grown up in Whittier, my formative years were spent at the Embers learning about myself, my friends, and my alcohol capacity. It is an immeasurable loss to the community.
Now I need to find out what is happening to those murals.