The Fabulous Mrs. Unruh, as former showgirl Chris Unruh billed herself in her Las Vegas-style performances at Mt. Baldy’s Buckhorn Lodge and elsewhere, died earlier this year, as I wrote recently. And despite her passing, and the passage of time, your own memories of her have not dimmed.
“I used to go witness her magic and that of her band,” says Dan Thomas of Moreno Valley. “She was an amazing lady. She wrapped her feather boa around me more than once.”
Margi Austin of San Antonio Heights went up to the Buckhorn starting in the late 1990s with friends, many of whom likewise ended up draped in the feather boa. Austin recognized Unruh’s wit, warmth and intelligence and says she loved her dearly.
Once at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Austin was dining with her mother when she spotted Unruh at another table. Unruh saw her too and came over to join them. It was a memorable visit.
“After she left, my mom said she thought I had been embellishing Mrs. Unruh’s greatness,” Austin shares, “and she now realized she was even greater than I stated.”
Unruh, to refresh your memory, was paramour and then wife of Jesse Unruh, a Democratic power broker in California who died in 1987. Photos of him or her with various political celebrities adorned a wall at the Buckhorn. In one, Chris stood next to Jimmy Carter.
Penny Korechoff watched Unruh at the Buckhorn a few times but more routinely saw her at Casa de Pizza in Korechoff’s city of residence, Granada Hills. Unruh and guitarist Mort Marker performed at the pizzeria monthly for many years starting in 2012.
Over the years Unruh and Marker got to know Korechoff and her husband, Victor, even inviting the couple to their wedding at the Buckhorn, which they were proud to accept. Chris Unruh was not necessarily forthcoming with personal information, however. “We looked her up on the internet to find her first name,” Korechoff tells me.
Yet it was a warm relationship regardless. One evening at Casa de Pizza, Korechoff mentioned to Unruh that their grandson’s fifth birthday was coming up. At next month’s performance, the Korechoffs approached their regular table to find a 12-by-16 painting by Unruh awaiting them as a birthday gift.
Their grandson, now 13, still displays the painting on his bedroom wall. I guess she really was the Fabulous Mrs. Unruh.
Reasons to challah
Before calling it a day — “Sunrise, Sunset”? — on the topic of Jewish delis, let me excerpt some of the kibitzing.
Hillel Cohn, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Emanu El, which relocated from San Bernardino to Redlands in 2010, tells me San Bernardino, too, once had a Jewish deli. Keyser’s Deli operated downtown through the 1960s and was a favorite of downtown merchants.
“The owner was Yetta Keyser and she was joined in operating the restaurant by her son-in-law Arnold Schapiro,” Cohn reports. “Yetta also did catering at the synagogue for many Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs.”
A few far-flung readers in the San Fernando Valley flung their comments my way as well.
Recently moving to West Hills, Eric C. Bauman was amazed to find a Jewish deli, Country Deli and Restaurant, in Chatsworth, and now eats there weekly. The menu, he says, ranges “from hand-sliced lox, to matzo ball soup, matzo brei, brisket, corned beef, pastrami, even a N.Y.-style charbroiled burger… you get the idea.” I do, and it sounds delicious.
Sylvia Weiser Wendel was pleased to see the attention on Mort’s Deli in Tarzana.
“You didn’t mention that next door to Mort’s is the fabulous Bea’s Bakery, a non-kosher Jewish bakery that is one of the best in the world, as far as I’m concerned — and I was born in NYC,” she says. “We currently live in the deli-and-strudel desert known as Santa Clarita.”
Mort’s recently changed hands, customer Jules Feir of Sherman Oaks alerts me, saying the food, already good, “has gotten better and better.” He recommends the brisket.
Finally, Maxine Simons, age 95, who admits she’s “very WASP-y,” nevertheless has been eating and loving Jewish food since age 20. She recently went to Canter’s for the first time since the 1950s.
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Taking in the atmosphere and the motherly (and grandmotherly) waitresses, all seemingly unchanged from her last visit decades ago, Simons actually began to cry at her table.
Then, after wiping her eyes, she took home $100 worth of goods from its bakery.
After reading here that Cal Poly Pomona had demolished a distinguished piece of architecture, the eight-story CLA Building, rather than spend the money to fix its problems, reader Jack Caselles of Claremont mused: “One wonders what would happen if the directors of Cal Poly owned the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, three tottering edifices. Email email@example.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.