Ebell Magical History Tour: Stories from the Vault

from Phyllis Hansen, Club Historian

October 30, 2020

With the Archives office closed these past months, I have reached out to members and staff for stories, past and present, in what I was going to title Fun Facts. Random as they are, I soon realized not all are really factual, as you’ll read, and one is not exactly fun. I do think they are all interesting, nostalgic reminders of the campus we are all missing so much.

‘Tis the Season…for the Paranormal
Does the Ebell have ghosts? Some say it is so. Believe if you will, but our Houseman Sal has offers a photo he shot with his cell phone, about 10 p.m. about 8 years ago. Do you see an image of an older gentleman from the past in our courtyard by the Fountain of Honor? And General Manager Philip shares his story of an experience in the special events office when he was there alone, but not feeling alone, and turned his head to see the head of a balding man. After a second look, it was gone. He also tells of a former houseman who was on the stairs to the basement when he felt a tug on his leg by what he thought was a child. He fell, and broke a leg! What I find intriguing by these stories that none of the purported ghosts were women in our women’s club!

How Many Rooms? What’s Your Guess?
In 1928, a year after our current campus was built, our then club president was said to have stated we have 68 rooms! More recently we have a report stating 88 of them. Perhaps some spaces were reconfigured, or the theater counted among them, but regardless, it’s a lot. Who has the ambition to do some counting when we are able to inhabit again?

History Did Not Repeat Itself
It was 1992, and the National Guard was deployed to Los Angeles during the civil unrest that ravaged the city. Guess where they parked their 5-ton camouflage trucks and Humvees? Yes, in the Ebell east parking lot. When one of our past presidents, Kay Balue, shared this photo late last spring, neither of us expected the National Guard would return—but not to the Ebell.

Fifty-plus years of filming at the Ebell
We have been the location for many films, television shows and commercials during this time. Our website offers a list. But picture, if you will, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis strolling through our grand rooms! It happened (well, in fiction) in 2017 during the shoot by FX for the Feud mini series, based on the rift between these two film legends, starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. The story goes FX used “just about every room in the club for the shoot to re-create the feel of old Hollywood. (Not all 88, I am sure!) Studio head Jack Warner’s office was the President’s Tearoom. The theater and one of our banquet rooms is in the series pilot episode. Even a hospital scene was shot in our corridors. I am told director Ryan Murphy enjoys shooting at our building because of the great opportunity for wide-angle shots.

2020 History Being Made at “Studio Ebell”
Though we won’t be celebrating the holidays at our building this year, we will be able to see it decorated in holiday splendor on the small screen! Several studios have been at work on the premises this October, so much so that our staff is marketing us as “Studio Ebell.” Hallmark donned our Lounge in grand apparel for its hour-long preview of its Countdown to Christmas series, and the photos our staff shared are truly festive. Ebell staff will long remember this season of filming during extreme health safety measures. They, too, have to get tested for the virus with each new film shoot. Yet, it’s nice knowing our club is once again a flurry of activity.

Phyllis Hansen