‘Bar Rescue’: Upland’s ‘Brokedown Palace’


Without cable, I needed a place to watch the “Bar Rescue” episode Sunday about The Palace in Upland. So I chose San Biagio’s N.Y. Pizza, which is directly across Seventh Street from the bar. In fact, the TV crew had used an empty storefront next to Biagio’s as their office during the taping back in March.

Watching the show there was a slightly unreal experience. As seen in the photo above, you could watch the episode on one wall-mounted TV (that’s some of the Palace staff on the screen) and then look out the window to see the Palace itself, the orange-tan building in the background.

Pizzeria owner Biagio Pavia watched much of the episode with me. It was late afternoon, before the dinner crowd. The enthusiastic Pavia tried to encourage a customer near the TV to watch; he claimed not to be interested, although he did chime in at times. Another couple professed polite interest.

People are so jaded in Southern California. A neighboring business is on national television right at that instant and they’re like, shrug.

Pavia, though, was curious, keeping up a running commentary of questions and comments, many of the “What is that?” variety, while I was trying to listen and take notes. I had to explain at times that what was on the screen was a commercial.

Anyway, the Palace was run by two brothers-in-law who didn’t get along, surveillance of the kitchen showed cross-contamination, the decor and vibe didn’t seem very Middle Eastern and the bartenders didn’t know how to pour a drink, or even grip a bottle properly.

The bar needed so much work, the “stress test” took place off-site, at Pomona’s Stein Haus, allowing the TV crew a full 36 hours to remake the Palace. The stress test was a disaster, with pita bread coming out of the kitchen hard as a rock and the bartenders completely overwhelmed. One was fired on the spot. Host Jon Taffer cut it short.

“You are the worst team we’ve ever seen!” Taffer shouted in frustration. Of course, reality TV hypes up the drama, as well as the results, and by the end, the brothers are friends again, the staff knows its business, the decor is lovely and business is up.

Pavia exclaimed, “They change everything, look!” as the new decor was unveiled.

I’m looking, I’m looking.

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‘Bar Rescue’ now in Upland


A hookah bar at 1276 W. Seventh St. in Upland is the latest site for a makeover by the “Bar Rescue” reality-TV series. The Palace, which has had several names over the years, is undergoing its “stress test” tonight (Wednesday) before closing under its current look. After the show’s usual blitz remodel, the new look will be unveiled Saturday.

It was just Sunday that the episode aired about Pomona’s Friar Tuck’s, now Stein Haus. But that one was taped last December. Nice to have them back in the 909, and so soon.

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Column: ‘Mad Men’ cooks up a Burger Chef scene in the 909


Friday’s column resurrects a bit of hamburger history (the best kind of history?) to talk about Burger Chef, which reappeared courtesy of the 909 in an episode of “Mad Men.” After that is an item about my vacation in St. Louis (the St. Tropez of the Midwest?) and a few Culture Corner briefs.

Above is Burger Chef as it appeared on “Mad Men,” from the site IndieWire; below is a vintage Burger Chef, location unknown, from the French Fry Diary blog.


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‘Dexter’ at ONT


Sunday’s series finale for Showtime’s “Dexter” included a scene in which, as I understand it, the titular serial killer, played by Michael C. Hall, left Miami’s airport. As you can see, Miami was played by LA/Ontario International Airport.

As an Entertainment Weekly blog post describes it: “Dex and Hannah leave the airport and get to his SUV, which has a rather amazingly great parking space right outside the terminal.” Close-by parking? That’s ONT all right!

(I took a photo of Joani Finwall’s Instagram photo. She wrote: “I do believe part of the series finale of Dexter was filmed in the IE! Looks like ONT in the background.”)

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Carson’s Carnac and Mount Baldy

Reader John Bredehoft brings to our attention one of Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent skits from the “Tonight Show” with a local angle. For the uninitiated, Carson would pose as a great seer who would accept a sealed envelope from sidekick Ed McMahon, hold it to his forehead and offer up the answer. Then, “Jeopardy”-style, he would open the envelope and read the question or lead-in.

In this May 21, 1974 segment (see the clip here), one joke involves Mount Baldy and starts about 3:15 in, but the whole thing, at 7 minutes, is fun to watch.

Sample: “UCLA.”

Question: “What happens when there isn’t any smog.”


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Cucamonga and ‘The Californians’

In the latest “Californians” sketch on Saturday Night Live, the character Stuart says of an old friend: “We used to go sandsailing together. I’d get up at 6 a.m., take the 118 east to the 405 north, get on the 5 and then take that to the 210 all the way out to Ranchooo Cuuucamonga.” SNL has been good about including us in this geographic survey of SoCal; a previous sketch cited Chino. Watch the whole sketch here. Thanks to reader Alicia Keetle for bringing this to my attention.

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Huell Howser charmed, amazed with his local stops

The iconic TV host, who died Sunday night at age 67, made many stops in the Inland Valley in his travels. I chatted up some who met him for Wednesday’s column.

His archives are online at Chapman University’s website, where you can search by topic or city or watch clips.

Two local stops that didn’t make my column were at the Pomona Public Library, where he did a well-remembered segment on the Goddess of Pomona statue circa 1989, and Glendora’s Donut Man, a 1999 episode set to air again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on KCET.

Share your memories or comments about Howser below.

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