The Spice of the Cocktail Life

It must of felt like along drive out to the country when White House opened on Olson Memorial Highway in the late 1940’s. The restaurant added a tiki torched cocktail lounge and Chinese cuisine in the mid-50’s. In 1960 the establishment was sold to local rug salesman, Irv Schectman. In addition to some menu changes, Schectman started booking big name jazz acts like Charlie Byrd and Roland Kirk sometimes for 10-days at a stretch. In the late 1960’s the White House featured Latin acts such as Manfredo Fest, Jose Feliciano, Cal Tjader and Sergio Mendes. Local Rocker Auggie Garcia was a fixture in the early 1970’s.

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The White House tried out a variety of novelty dining concepts. In the Mad Men days of the early ’60’s, a “Career Girl Dinner” was a choice of 3 entrees and a cocktail, for $1.95! In 1963, the restaurant opened an outdoor garden and set up charcoal grills for guests to use at their tables. Waitresses brought out trays of marinated, seasoned steaks and diners cooked for them themselves. Complete dinners went for $3.50 or $4.50 if a customer decided to have his steak cooked by a chef inside. In the early 1970’s Schectman went after what he called the cigar and mink crowd with his La Societa dell’ Elegante Pranzare Italiano. A new menu of creamy Northern Italian cuisine was featured every Monday night. Patrons were treated to 6 courses and 3 wines for under $10. The dining society continued for over 11 years and Schectman never repeated a course.

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The notorious Apartment at the White House was a downstairs members only, key club. This smaller cocktail lounge played host to a variety instrumental combos and sultry female vocalists. Schectman hired women with “well-organized figures” and referred to them as Bambi Girls. The waitress uniform upstairs was sequined, black and low cut, but in the apartment, the girls circulated in bikinis. In the mid-70’s they wore Rudi Gernreich thong swimsuits and black stockings. Bambi girls were not allowed to smoke, drink or sit down with customers.They were encouraged servers to crouch rather than bend over. Decorum was maintained decorum by avoiding slang.’Certainly’ was preferred to ‘O.K.,’ ‘gentlemen’ to ‘guys. After a long, hot, summer shift Bambi girls were sometimes spotted skinny dipping at the little swimming hole just across the tracks and up the trail in Wirth Park.

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Schectman sold the restaurant, retired and moved to California in 1983. The White House closed a couple years later and was torn down in 1991.

 

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