One of the first famous athletes to become a restaurateur
My friend, the Los Angeles historian Bruce Henstell, not only let me look through his incredible trove of vintage menus - he also gave me notes on some of the restaurants. This is one of my favorites.
Damon Runyon dubbed fighter Max Rosenbloom “Slapsie Maxie” because he had a habit of slapping opponents with an open glove. Maxie won 36 professional matches and became World Light Heavyweight Champion in 1930. His innovative boxing style involved ducking and dodging and being in constant motion in the ring. Rare in its time, it impressed trainer Cus D’Amato who dubbed it the “peek-a-boo style” and later taught it to Muhammad Ali.
“Rosenbloom,” D’Amato said, “was probably the cleverest fighter I've ever seen, defensively. You just couldn't hit the man. He developed a sort of a radar, a sense of anticipation of blows, and ability to react to that, and act on it.”
In 1933 Maxie defeated German champion, Adolph Heuser at Madison Square Garden. According to The New York Times, that was the reason Germany decided to ban German fighters from matches with Jews.
Maxie retired from the ring in the late thirties to begin a new career as a character actor and Hollywood celebrity. He performed in over 100 films; you can get a glimpse of him in action in the short The Champs Step Out. And if you’re a fan of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, Maxie’s in that too.
Not satisfied with simply being an actor, Maxie went on to become a restaurateur as well. In 1943 he opened a restaurant and nightclub on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. The club featured an act by Maxie himself; Phil Harris and his Orchestra provided music for dancing. Admission was $1.50 on weekdays, $2 on weekends.
Damon Runyon on Slapsie Maxie:
“His place is a small night club and Mr. Rosenbloom is most of his own entertainment. He gets up on a little stage and goes through a routine that includes an imitation of Harry Richman, with all the waiters heckling him. It is quite funny and the inmates of Hollywood insist to visitors that “Slapsie Maxie’s” is one place they simply must see...Mr Rosenbloom was accounted a somewhat eccentric character when he was in his prize fighting heyday. Indeed even when he was at his best he was thought be be shy a few marbles, as the saying is, but that was because they did not understand Mr. Rosenbloom. He was of a joyous, carefree nature that could not be bonded by conventionality.” (Dayton Herald 09 May 1939).