Just around the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, there is a funky oll’ place that its Googie decor and vintage interior somehow seems so familiar even though you are sure you’ve never had a meal there.That funky oll’ place is Johnie’s Coffee Shop and you’ve seen its interior dozens of times in several iconic movies.
Johnie’s opened in 1956 as Romeo’s Times Square. Romeo’s was in business a few years, becoming Ram’s in the early 1960s, and Johnie’s shortly thereafter.
“Johnie’s” is spelled in massive neon lights and flashing incandescent light bulbs on the building’s striped roof. The roof sits on rock columns, sloping down toward the back of the restaurant, ending in a sharp decline that gives the illusion of movement like a spaceship ready to take off. Alan Hess, author of two books on Googie architecture, said, “Johnie’s, and the style it represents, tells us as much about that period in L.A. history as the bungalows of Pasadena told us about the 1900s or the missions told us about 19th century Southern California.” He also noted that “The building embodies all of the changes in L.A.: becoming suburban, auto-oriented, also becoming a city of the future.”
Johnie’s is located across from the May Co. department store, one of Los Angeles’ best examples of Streamline Modern architecture, on the Miracle Mile. The May Co. building is now part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Architects Louis Armét and Eldon Davis of Armét & Davis designed the building, contributing to their reputation as the premier designers of Space Age or Googie coffee shops—including the landmarkPann’s coffee shop in Ladera Heights, Norms Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard, and several Bob’s Big Boy restaurants.
So here is a short list of some of the iconic movies that used Johny’s Coffee shop as a movie set:
The restaurant is perhaps best known as the setting for the opening of the 1988 cult film Miracle Mile, in which a patron learns that a nuclear war is about to begin.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
American History X-1988
The restaurant also appeared in a 1999 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers music video, “Swingin’;” in a 2003 Reba McEntire music video, “Somebody;” and extensively in Sean Kingston’s music video “Beautiful Girls.”Unfortunately, as the time passed by movie directors were less interested in having a Googie vibe dinner in their movies, so the business declined.Johnie’s was purchased in 1994 by the Gold family, founders of the 99 Cents Only Stores, and closed in 2000. The family leases the Johnie’s parking lot to the Wilshire Boulevard 99 Cents Only outlet two doors away.Johnie’s was declared a historical landmark by the Los Angeles City Council on November 27, 2013.