Q: What do Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and my character Ruth in my novel Missing Meg have in common with Gardenburgers and the intersection of Melrose and Gower?
A: Take a good look at this photograph! It was taken in late 1937 from the south side of Melrose, looking east down the street. The “R.K.O. Radio Pictures” sign seen more clearly in the photo faces Gower Street. (The original gate of Paramount was, and still is, just a few blocks east on Melrose, at Bronson.)
Film posters plastered on both sides of the building advertise R.K.O.’s Stage Door, released in October 1937. Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolf Menjou and Lucille Ball star in the film, directed by Gregory La Cava.
The car in the foreground is parked in front of a small, set-back apartment building, which we cannot see in the photo.
Across the street from the hidden-from-view apartment building, a bit further north on Gower, Katharine Hepburn had a secret entrance to the studio, a small unmarked door. (Or so our Paramount tour guide claimed.)
In 1974, a very nice and very young Greek-American man named Cosmos bought the apartment building, tore it down, and built Astro Burger, now a Hollywood landmark. In 1986, Astro Burger introduced a vegetarian menu — including Gardenburgers, invented by Cosmos’s friend, and marketed first by Astro Burger.
The R.K.O. building was long ago folded into Paramount, the radio tower is gone, but the globe remains to this day.
But on January 15, 1932, Ruth, a character in my novel, Missing Meg, is eastbound on Melrose, and turns north on Gower. She is driving in her champagne-colored Packard and is heading to Beachwood Canyon. Imagine.