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'Lit Fest' at King Eddy Saloon celebrates bar's bookish history

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, July 16, 2012, at 10:28AM
king Eddy Andres Aguila/KPCC

A Lit Fest will take place this Thursday at the King Eddy Saloon in downtown LA.

As Downtown's King Eddy Saloon inches closer to its closing date, a series of events celebrating the dive bar's historical and cultural significance in Los Angeles continues with a literary event this Thursday.

Lit Fest, put on by the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA), features the son of the historic local novelist John Fante, reading from his memoir about growing up with his father; "Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving." Dan Fante will be joined by writers Jonathan Shaw and Ruben Ortega at the event that begins at 8 p.m. and goes until 9:30.

The King Eddy's impending closure is not just the end of an era for the watering hole, but has widespread cultural implications as well, according to a statement from LAVA:

This news (of the closure) has been received with great concern by the many people who consider this last Skid Row bar to be an essential part of the cultural and social life of downtown Los Angeles, as well as a place of pilgrimage for fans of the great Los Angeles novelist John Fante, whose anti-hero Arturo Bandini famously squandered his first royalty check on the b-girls of the King Eddy's basement speakeasy.

The King Eddy's involvement in literary history is evidenced by the writers who used to frequent the dive bar -- as well as those who are rumored to have done so.

According to the bar's longtime manager Bill Roller, Charles Bukowski used to visit the bar near Skid Row during the early 1990s, where he would sit in a booth writing notes and drinking coffee.

"When he came in here, he was just a normal customer - nothing outstanding about it," Roller told Blogdowntown last month. "(Bukowski) was a good man."

Richard Schave, the host of this week's literary event and the co-founder of a company that leads a Bukowski tour, said the bar is important to the history of many L.A. writers, but doesn't believe Bukowski used to go there because there's no solid evidence of it.

"Basically every bar in Los Angeles will tell you that they had Bukowski visit," he told Blogdowntown in June.

Schave did confirm that John Fante used to frequent the dive bar though, and so included it in his well-known novel, Ask the Dust.

This Thursday's event follows a few weeks after a film screening took place at the King Eddy, featuring a 23-minute-movie by Alina Skrzeszewska about the Downtown bar's regulars.

Lit Fest is free but guests must register online on LAVA's website.

The King Eddy is located at 131 East 5th Street

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