The story about “Babs”, I remember hearing from my father … Quentin Eathorne (1919- 2006)
Les and Sam Gruber opened the London Chop House in 1938 in the basement of the Murphy Telegraph Building. It was the top restaurant in Detroit and world-renowned. Everyone who was anyone dined at the “Chopper”. In its heyday, Henry Ford 2nd or Aretha Franklin might have been seen holding court in richly-leathered Booth One, the table reserved for elite patrons. People came as much to gawk as to eat. Men were required to wear ties, women forbidden to wear trousers. And of course for all you golfers, Jack Nicklaus dropped in for dinner after the first round of a golf tournament in Dearborn
The Gruber brothers opened the London Chop House North, directly across the street to handle the overflow of patrons, and the Caucus Club was born in 1952. The London Chop House, for 53 years an unofficial eating club for the Motor City’s powerful and celebrated, served lunch for the last time in June of 1991 and then closed its doors, a victim of shifting dining habits and changing demographics. The Chop House, in the end, did not give up easily. The restaurant’s management, saddled with heavy losses caused by the lack of patrons, announced that it was “moth balling” the chestnut-paneled restaurant two blocks from the Detroit River and would consider reopening only if economic conditions improved. The restaurant had closed for six months in 1989. After new investors sank $1 million into renovation, it reopened under new management. When the refurbished interior failed to attract customers, the menu was made more affordable, promotional dinners and wine-tastings were held and the dress code was relaxed. Few believe that the owners, a group of local investors, will spend still more money and effort. “The people who used to eat there in the 1960’s and 1970’s aren’t around anymore,” said Molly Abraham, restaurant critic for The Detroit Free Press. “It’s thought of as a civic monument, and people don’t like to eat at a civic monument.”
The sister restaurant to the London Chop House has always been dark and clubby. Always busy at lunch. Judges, lawyers, Ad-Exec’s, Stockbrokers, Bankers and Downtowners know it as the place to make and celebrate a deal! The Caucus Club has had many celebrities cross its door.
My father thought one of the most famous celebrities would have to be Barbra Streisand who sang in the back room in 1961. Brought here from New York, the Caucus Club was one of Streisand first paying jobs. She was young and inexperienced performer. “Watching her was like watching the first brush strokes in a picture, she was creating herself.” Les Gruber said. Nineteen year old Streisand left Detroit to return to NYC for an appearance on The Jack Paar Show, and the rest is history!
It is an interesting aside to make comment about Barbra’s name. It first started as a typo on the list of performers at the Bon Soir; somebody misspelled her name leaving out the extra ‘a’ A flyer was taken by a reviewer who spelled her name as it appeared on the flyer, writing a glowing review of this new singer. At the time of this tv appearance marked beginning of the transition of her name to Barbra, though she still legally spelled her name Barbara and you will notice Orson addresses her as Barbara. A year later she legally changed her name for the release of her first album recording.
How do you explain what it feels like to get on the stage and make poetry that you know sinks into the hearts and souls of people who are unable to express it?” –