The End of Kate Mantilini’s

Kate Mantilini’s diner in LA is closing tonight for good. I just heard the news earlier today. Apparently a dispute with the landlord (i.e., he wanted more money). It was one of the few places in LA I felt comfortable walking into. A lot of other people felt the same way, too. Most of you reading this live in Saginaw or Missoula or Perth. So you’ve probably never heard of Kate Mantilini’s, but I thought I might share this little slice of my “L.A. life” with you. I don’t live in L.A., don’t have a place to stay when I’m in L.A., but a large part of my life and work revolves around L.A. I had never even visited L.A. before my first movie was made — why would I? Even though both of my sisters moved to California ages ago, they didn’t live in L.A., so other than one trip to Orange County to take the kids to Disneyland, Los Angeles was basically “Chinatown,” “Baywatch,” “American Graffiti” and The Doors. But it soon became the place I went to get many of my movies and TV shows made, and over time, as I made close friends and got to work with some incredible people, I sorta fell in love with the place. Not enough to live there — after all, I like sky, fall colors, snow, fresh air, and a proper time zone — but I do love visiting there, driving around in the crazy traffic, cars stopping to let people cross in the middle of the street, hanging out backstage at Bill Maher’s, browsing through Book Soup, watching an old movie at the Egyptian, standing and looking down at Groucho’s star, thinking of Belushi when I pass by the Chateau. Florence and Normandy. The Ambassador Hotel. Each time I land I try to do my best Benjamin Braddock impersonation on the moving walkway to baggage claim. People out here seem, I dunno — happier? More relaxed? Too fit? Kate Mantilini’s is/was a pleasant, comfortable diner on the corner of Wilshire and Doheny, the border between the city of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Because it technically sits on the Beverly Hills side of the street, nobody calls it a “diner”, but that’s what it is. Eggs any time, fish-n-chips, meatloaf, root beer floats — it’s all there until 3 or 4 in the morning. Kate’s became the place for me to meet up with people, whether for work, or to comiserate, or maybe just for a hot turkey sandwich (White bread! In L.A.!). I had my first meal there with people who are now among my closest friends. I made the deal to do two of my movies there. Our “Sicko” premiere afterparty was there. It was also where I spent my final moments of pre-9/11 America, having some laughs in the wee morning hours with a friend who had just come from the record release party (records!) for the latest album by Megadeath. It was held in a Hollywood cemetery at midnight. I looked at my watch (a watch!), which I kept on Eastern Time, and it said “7:00am Sept. 11 2001”. We called it a night… clueless that we weren’t just calling an end to a “night.” From that point on, politically-speaking, night never lifted. And it was a year-and-a-half later, during dinner one March evening at Kate Mantilini’s, that someone came in and announced that the U.S. was at war with Iraq. A TV was turned on and the bombs were raining down on Baghdad. Nobody felt like eating — and didn’t. Larry, Tom, Terry, Jeff, Anne, Veronica, Tia, Carl, Meghan — where will we meet up now? I heard of a place called “Mao’s Kitchen” on Melrose and Fairfax. Wanna try that next time?

-michael moore

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