Memories of the Little Shrimp


Robert Reed with his dogs.

Robert Reed with his dogs.


As I get older I remember things from my past. Things I need to write down lest I forget them forever. My recent post about Laud Humphrey reminded me of another meeting I had with a famous celebrity, Robert Reed. You know him as Mr. Brady.  

I searched the internet before writing this tale to see what others might have already contributed to this subject. I found National Enquirer stories reporting that he was a lonely private man who paid for sex and paid for people to keep quiet about it afterwards. I found that he was a mean drunk, picked up young surfer boys in Laguna Beach and took them home to Pasadena. I also found that he was a loving father and his daughter and grandson were with him when he died. Somewhere in the middle ground of all of this is the Robert Reed that I met once at the Little Shrimp. 

As a side note, the Little Shrimp was known as a place where young men picked up rich men, although I didn’t know it at the time of this encounter. 

I had been to the beach that day, the gay beach of a thousand steps. I am not sure if they call it that today, the bar we met at is gone and so possibly is this beach. Anyway it was a beach that allows gay boys to be themselves and romp in the waves with little or nothing on. After a hot day in the sun we would head back to the road (Pacific Coast Highway) and go to several bars that were in town to have a drink and cool off before heading home. One had a small dance floor and was called the “Boom Boom Room”. 

On this particular day I went to the beach alone. I borrowed a roommate’s thong bikini but was not brave enough to take my shorts off. I covered it with a pair of cut off 501’s that were slit to the waist and fringed up to the white pockets in the front, a very dated look for that time period, and very stereotypical. My t-shit had been modified  to be sleeveless, slit up the sides, and cropped at the waist. As I remember it now I was really trampy looking. But I still didn’t match the Enquirer description of a blonde surfer boy said to be Robert’s type. 

Instead of going to the Boom Boom Room that afternoon I decided to go up the street to the Little Shrimp. The Little Shrimp had windows that looked out on the water and a bar along one wall, but it was mainly a restaurant. There were several guys playing dice at the bar and shooting shots so I joined in the fun. I don’t know how long it was before Robert came along, but I do know that I had not eaten all day and was pretty drunk. 

This man came in with curly hair and a mustache. He was nicely dressed with a sweater tied round his neck and white slacks and was seated at a table for two all by himself. He spotted me before I saw him. He sent over a server to invite me to his table. I sat down with him and he offered to buy me dinner. I kindly refused, but I agreed to sit and talk with him while he had his meal (and continued to drink of course!). He was a very nice man. He asked me questions.  I told him I was a journalism graduate and continued to bore him with my simple life.  He didn’t act bored though.  He was attentive to the conversation. When he was finished eating we parted ways. He went home and I went down to the Boom Boom Room. I don’t even think he asked me to go with him. Maybe I wasn’t his type or maybe I refused. Either way he was a gentleman, a very handsome gentleman and I told him so. I didn’t mention his stardom. I am sure I flirted him and commented on his beautiful eyes, they were so blue.   

Knowing what I know now about AIDS, I am lucky to be alive today and tell my stories of adventurous youth.  In these early days of the epidemic, references to the AIDS virus in the cause of death were often omitted. In Robert Reed’s case the press had a field day with his past. I choose not to remember him that way and certainly my past is not stellar. I think I have survived all this time so that I can tell their tales on a more human level with compassion and honesty. My only regret is not getting to know some of them better. 

Good night Mr. Reed and may you always have someone to keep you company. Robert died of colon cancer in 1992. 

The Coast Inn -- The Boom Boom Room was inside this historic hotel.

I found this historic picture of the  Coast Inn which closed in 2007.  Alas the Little Shrimp is also no more. It has been turned into a Mexican resturant and looks nothing like my memories.

8 Responses to “Memories of the Little Shrimp”

  1. that was touching; thank you.
    I commend you for writing things down. I come from a family of geneologists, and they always always write down things, even if it is obvious; as in a generation or so it will be forgotten without being written down. This includes names and dates and places on the back of photographs.

  2. Brilliant! thank you for sharing your memory of him…..none of us ever know our family or loved ones…….i cannot fathom having to live a lie & be victim to the exploiters…..little moments like this are treasures………memories keep them alive!

  3. steve crippen Says:

    As a former employee of Mike Michaels from 1980 to 1990 I to have very fond memoried of the little shrimp also very fond memories of doing slot of crazy things there many of “stars” there also. The memories I will cherish forever.

  4. Greetings and Thank you. Yes, I also have lived the same journey- when I arrived from England. The 1,000 step Beach IS still there but is also known as ‘west beach’ The only gay bar ‘Main street’ survives and they told me the BOOM BOOM ROOM SHALL BE OPENING AGAIN. TO PAY THE MORGAGE (ONE SUFFICES) all the rooms are rented out. But downstairs all locked down.

    Went to little shrimp just yesterday as wanted to see the change since it was Woodies, after the little Shrimp. I recall a ‘Don’ either owned or Managed it (rip). Like you say, I could not even locate the ‘Loo’ so many changes……. thank you for recalling my memories, bye the way – does anyone remember when a Disc Jockey each weekend would bring a small transmitter to 1,00 stairs / West beach…. and we would all listen to the FM broadcast on our outdated (now) SONY CASSETTE/FM Radio sets.

  5. […] people are searching on some key word and my blog post shows up.  Today it was my post on “The Little Shrimp“.    You may remember this piece about Robert […]

  6. Do you remember the ghastly 3-D wharf scene on the wall near the side door painted with flourescent paint? I also recall the red cottage cheese ceilings with glitter. All of this pre-dates Woody’s. The nights Martha Raye came in and played the piano was magical. She sang all night long and drank all of us under the bar.

  7. Well I was the Chef of The Little Shrimp From 1967-1992.
    Then retired from there and moved on to the Ca. Desert as a Chef for Pomona First Bank, Had many good times at The Little Shrimp

  8. For those who may remember him, my friend Billie Courtright passed away yesterday. He played at The Little Shrimp piano bar for many years.

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