Launching Tonight at La Colombe Philly, A Beautiful New Photography Book, Hollywood Café

Hollywood Café captures silver-screen stars’ passion for coffee in gorgeous vintage photographs; book signing tonight at La Colombe Philly


Journalists tend to appreciate coffee ”think ass-busting deadlines, late-breaking news, and the like. But for newspaper film writers, coffee means something else entirely, and I speak from experience: as the film writer for The Oakland Tribune before my coffee-journalism career began, I wouldn’t attend a screening unless armed with a fresh Americano. For back-to-back screenings, and the occasional  three screenings in a row, I’d bring a thermos.

Lucky for Steven Rea, film writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, he both loves coffee and is surrounded by some of the best of it. Philadelphia is a virtual hotbed for specialty coffee these days.

Author Steven Rea will sign copies of his book, Hollywood Café, at a special event tonight at La Colombe in Philly from 5-7 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Author Steven Rea will sign copies of his book, Hollywood Café, at a special event tonight at La Colombe in Philly from 5-7 p.m. Free and open to the public.

“I’ve been a customer of La Colombe’s since [founders] Todd [Carmichael] and J.P. [Iberti] opened their first café (with a roaster in one corner) in Philadelphia way-back-when,” says Steven. “My wife and I were among the first customers to walk through their door. They changed coffee culture in Philadelphia (and then beyond) in huge ways.”

La Colombe  and Steven’s many  other favorite cafés in the city ”Menagerie Coffee, Shot Tower, High Point, Elixr, Rival Bros, Ultimo Coffee, Bodhi, Chapterhouse, Volo, and Joe among them ”played a particularly significant role in Stevens’s life over the past few years. Not only did they help him stay caffeinated between screenings, they also inspired him as he worked on his book, Hollywood Café: Coffee With the Stars, a beautiful hardcover photography book featuring a collection of vintage photos unlike any before it. Nearly 200 stars are captured enjoying coffee from the Silent Film Era through the 1980s in the book. Among them: Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Bette David, and more.

Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor on the set of  "Knights of the Roundtable."
Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor on the set of “Knights of the Roundtable.” MGM 1953. Courtesy Schiffer Publishing.

Steven will be signing copies of the book at a launch party this evening  at La Colombe Fishtown, 1335 Frankfort Ave., Philadelphia, from 5 “7 p.m. Anyone who buys a book gets a free drink ”coffee, beer, or rum.

“I’m a huge coffee lover and a huge movie lover. [I] have been consuming both since I was a kid ”well, coffee since I was a teenager, anyway,” Steven told me.

Besides writing about movies for the city’s biggest newspaper, Steven ”an avid cyclist ”is the author of Hollywood Rides A Bike: Cycling With the Stars. He also pens a popular Tumblr blog on  the subject.

“I had a lot of fun with my first book,” Steven told me when I asked about the inspiration for Hollywood Café. “The process of collecting and curating themed photographs from Hollywood’s halcyon days was something that I really took to. The pleasure in discovering, say, a photo of David Niven drinking hand-pour from a Chemex decades before third-wave coffee culture ever existed, that gives me a kind of dorky thrill… and I just love the different stories a photo of an actor or actress with a cup of coffee can tell (romance, noir, comedy, you name it).”  

Bob Hope and Lana Turner in "Bachelor in Paradise," 1961.
Bob Hope and Lana Turner in “Bachelor in Paradise.” MGM 1961. Courtesy Schiffer Publishing.

Steven has a unique perspective on coffee given his understanding of the role that coffee played in the second wave, and his interest in coffee now at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth wave.  “Coffee has been a huge part of people’s lives all along, not just now,” he says. “It has changed, certainly ”those shots of giant coffee urns on the backlot craft services tables, that stuff can’t be good, can it? But the idea of castmates, or colleagues, or friends, or lovers sharing coffee is a constant. There are also images here that document now-defunct roasters and sellers, like Coffee Dan in L.A., Chase & Sanborn, which was once one   of the country’s biggest coffee brands, and I love how all the way back to the ˜20s, the ˜30s, ˜40s,  coffee was being fetishized, personalized. Barbara Stanwyck’s coffee mug ( œBarbara Stanwyck  Actress ”Tragedy Done While You Wait ) ”how cool is that?”

Hollywood Café: Coffee With The Stars  is available on Amazon now.

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