Skull & Bones Bar, Los Angeles 1940s Matchbook art
Skull & Bones Bar, Los Angeles 1940s Matchbook

Skull & Bones Bar, Los Angeles 1940s

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Product Description

The Pirates Den themed restaurant and nightclub established in Los Angeles in the 1940s was advertised as ‘the jolliest, most unique and colorful rendezvous in the whole cockeyed world.’ Serving staff were dressed as swashbuckling pirates and the high jinks and horseplay included mock battles being staged and female guests being ‘abducted’ and put in the brig until they screamed. They were released having earned a ‘scream diploma.’

The bar was called the Skull and Bones Bar and this witty image of a skull having a cocktail was depicted on matchbooks given away by the restaurant – everyone smoked cigarettes in that era.

Celebrity investors of this unusual spot included Hollywood actors Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Fred McMurray and Johnny Weismuller – they were called the Council of Pirate Chiefs.

Owner Don Dickerman was a fanatic about the swashbucklers of the high seas. Born in Illinois in 1893, he dressed as a pirate, wore an eyepatch and carried a parrot on his shoulder when he was a student at art school in New York, rooming with up-and-coming artist Norman Rockwell.

He opened several restaurants and bars and his first Pirates Den opened in Greenwich Village in the 1920s.

He must have been quite a character. He was reportedly married 13 times, boasting that his marriage tally was one more than his hero Bluebeard. His granddaughter Dottie said one marriage lasted only two hours. ‘He married her and then left her at Grand Central Station,’ she revealed.

Dickerman declared bankruptcy during the Great Depression in the 1930s and went on to open a Pirates Den in Miami before arriving in Los Angeles.

The nightspot was a short-lived location. In 1941, according to a report in the LA Times, a woman complained to the Police Commission that her 19-year-old son and his two friends had been charged the outrageous sum of $6.50 for a round of sandwiches and Coca Colas at the N La Brea Avenue nightspot.

The renewal of the Pirates Den’s entertainment license was already under examination after a customer – who happened to be a Superior Court judge – complained that he had been charged $6 for three beers.

 Certainly, the food and drink was expensive for its time, presumably because of the entertainment value. The most exotic dish was rattlesnake en casserole for $2.50.

Rumors swirled - unfairly as it turned out - that the Pirates Den was a clip joint where customers were tricked into paying far above market prices. But the damage was done as far as public opinion went.

Married at the time to his fifth wife, Don Dickerson went off to play pirates elsewhere.

There was a change of ownership but the nightspot was, as a sea-faring buccaneer would say, holed below the waterline and closed.

Gallery quality Giclée print on natural white, matte, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper using Epson archival inks. Custom printed with border for matting and framing.

Each order includes a print of the interior menu.

All printed in USA.

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