Coffee Dan’s was first mentioned in the 1916 silent comedy The Heiress at Coffee Dan’s, which starred Bessie Love. The first venue opened in San Francisco and became a speakeasy in the 1920s and early 1930s. An advertisement later boasted: “There will be dancing to the tinkle of a piano, there will be songs, and it will never, never close, not even for fire, not even if the supply of ham and eggs is exhausted.”
Coffee Dan’s opened another location at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Los Angeles. Open 24 hours a day, the diner became a popular gay hangout. In one of his books, the noir crime writer John Gilmore recounts meeting two famous leading men of the era there.
“One afternoon that spring, I found myself talking with Montgomery Clift in East Hampton. Clift, I supposed, had been drinking since the previous day or earlier, but I reminded him that I’d met him in Coffee Dan’s on Hollywood Boulevard years before. It’d been the middle of the night and he’d been sitting there with Burt Lancaster and James Jones, who was decked out in Indian jewelry, and all three of them were pretty pie-eyed. Clift was nipping from a flask and acting out the scene from From Here to Eternity in which he plays the bugle.”
Coffee Dan’s, which served diner food such as waffles and eggs and hamburgers, closed down in the 1970s.