“After that, I drove down to headquarters. That’s the way a lot of us think about Schwab’s. Kind of a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room. Waiting, waiting for the gravy train.”
-William Holden as screenwriter Joe Gillis, upon facing rejection in the major motion picture Sunset Boulevard
When most of us envision a pharmacy, we recall aisles upon aisles of magic weight loss pills and periodicals, a blood pressure machine, cheap plastic toys and lines queued with the elderly. In the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, one particular drug store was the center of Hollywood. Simply, it was headquarters.
Schwab’s Pharmacy was its own monster. Tinsel town legend dictates that gorgeous sweater queen Lana Turner was discovered here. This tale is one in a million. 8024 Sunset Boulevard was a who’s who of industry players, a venue to fill prescriptions, grab an ice cream cone, feast on a light dinner, and solidify blockbuster deals that would lead to cinema gold. On any given night, a trip to pick up aspirin for that nagging headache would yield a glimpse at the likes of Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, and the Marx Brothers talking shop. Charlie Chaplin was a notorious pinball machine hustler, while future leading lady Ava Gardner poured sodas behind the counter for the entertainment elite. The titanic film “The Wizard of Oz” might have gone down in the annals of motion picture history as an also ran if not for the enigmatic anthem “Somewhere over the Rainbow”-quickly composed on the famous countertops of Schwab’s Pharmacy. F.Scott Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack (fortunately amidst a plethora of meds) inside the pharmacy’s hallowed walls, and Marilyn Monroe fed a grandiose appetite for pills though the pharmacist/chefs of Schwab’s.
The behind the scenes brass, arguably more important than their fresh faced and replaceable talents for hire, brokered some of cinema’s greatest collaborations over Coca Cola floats and cheeseburgers. The magical building was the last of its kind, a convergence of wanna be’s, has been’s, and current stars. It was a place where a misplaced drama club performer from a small town in Iowa could light Mickey Rooney’s Lucky Strike, where James Dean might seek the opinion of a stock boy strategically placing industry rags near the checkout lane.
8024 Sunset has been demolished and rebuilt several times, reborn as a multiplex and a shopping center to name a few. Nothing has lived up to the iconoclast known as Schwab’s Pharmacy, but it is not their fault, as nothing possibly could. Hollywood collectors treasure many things; Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, Rocky Balboa’s American flag inspired trunks, Luke Skywalker’s light saber- magnificent, all, yet none can touch the almost biblical rolodex that once was within the grasp of a teenaged soda jerk at Schwab’s.