Marc Canter "Reckless Road" talks the Deli, Zappa & Gn’R!
Marc Canter sits with Gn’R doing this legendary photo shoot.
Marc Canter penned "Reckless Road" – now he talks to Metal Sludge about his family deli history & music from Elvis Presley to Guns N’ Roses!
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Contributor
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Rock and roll is not just about great bands and great music, it’s also about great places in hang out, especially in Los Angeles, the rock capital of the world.
For the longest time, a top rock and roll hangout, besides the Rainbow of course, has been Canter’s Deli on Fairfax Avenue a few blocks off the Sunset Strip – for decades the only decent 24-hour eatery near Hollywood.
After a evening filled with sex, drugs in rock and roll, it was always nice to enjoy Canter’s trademark soups, pastrami and baked goods as the morning sun beckoned.
From Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe to Ringo Starr to Muhammad Ali to Led Zeppelin to Van Halen to Prince to Guns N’ Roses (the deli’s pet band when they were just starting up), they’ve all been regulars at the famed restaurant founded in 1924 before eventually moving to its current spot in 1948.
Marc Canter, the youngest family descendent who’s been working at Canter’s all his life, is a huge rock fan, not to mention a noted live photographer and author of the book Reckless Road, which chronicles Canter’s life with Guns N’ Roses and the band’s meteoric rise to fame.
Canter was Slash’s best friend growing up, but even more so, Canter always believed in Guns N’ Roses, even backing the band financially in the beginning before the group eventually signed with Geffen and sold millions of records.
In this exclusive interview, joined in by legendary scenemaker Rodney Bingenheimer – who happened to being hanging out at Canter’s that night – Mark talks in Part 1 about how the Jewish deli has become synonymous with the music industry in-crowd all these years. In Part 2, it’s all about Guns N’ Roses, and Metal Sludge readers are going to LOVE some brand new details about the band – then and now.
METAL SLUDGE: Canter’s has been around a long time. What’s the secret to success?
Marc Canter: Well, it was the original 24-hour place. There were only one or two others, and they were downtown, and we were in Hollywood. We catered to a lot of film industry folk. They’d work till 10 at night, and come, or they’d go out and have fun, then come here at 1 or 2 in the morning. Plus, CBS was across the street, and there was a big Jewish crowd.
METAL SLUDGE: And really good food, too. What’s always been the most popular items?
Marc Canter: A lot of corned beef and pastrami, lox on a bagel, matzo ball soup. We gave a Matzo ball the size of a baseball, and that was our gimmick – the biggest matzo balls. In the 60s, it was sort of a hippie haven. I remember my grandpa installed special lights so no one could smoke pot in the dark corners, because that wouldn’t be good for business. But every morning, the bakery, everything that had sugar in it, was sold out by the morning. There would always be a few things leftover, but never anything with sugar in it. [laughs]
METAL SLUDGE: Who would come in during the early days?
Marc Canter: Well, in like ’58 and ’59, Elvis Presley would play the old Pan Pacific Auditorium, and everyone would come here after. Jeff Beck still comes here. I bumped into him the other day, and he was saying how after the Yardbirds would play the Whisky, and back then he and the guys would always come to Canter’s. It was a great place, a lot of rock and roll bands.
You can ask Rodney Bingenheimer, you know Rodney on the Roq. He’s right over there [pointing]. He has his own table, he comes in every night. [Rodney Bingenheimer joins].
Metal Sludge: Rodney, you come here every night? That’s weird, I remember you used to come to Denny’s on Sunset every day at 1 p.m. But there’s no more Denny’s.
Rodney Bingenheimer: Yeah, I like the barley soup. You know what they say: All roads lead to Canter’s.
Metal Sludge: Who have you seen here?
Bingenheimer: Echo & The Bunnymen, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles. I used to meet Susanna Hoffs right there [points]. Nick Cage had his first date with Lisa Marie Presley here. Michael Jackson, I remember he was here in 1982 but he was hiding.
Metal Sludge: What about Van Halen?
Marc Canter: Van Halen used to come on a daily basis, especially David Lee Roth. David Lee Roth is a really good tipper.
Metal Sludge: Really? Who else is a good tipper?
Marc Canter: Ace Frehley. He’s the best. Last time he was here, his bill was 56 dollars, and he tipped to make it 112. He could have left a $100 bill, but he made a point to give double the check. That’s the ultimate, especially when you consider he kind of got the short end of the stick in Kiss.
Metal Sludge: What about the others in Kiss?
Marc Canter: Gene Simmons comes all the time, but he never sits in the restaurant. He always orders stuff to go, stuff from the bakery, and picks it up. Yeah, he was here all the time but never sits down. I haven’t seen him in two or three years though, but I’m not always here at night anymore.
Metal Sludge: This is very interesting stuff. Was there ever a big star who ran out without paying their bill?
Marc Canter: Rodney Dangerfield. But he didn’t mean to, he was just too drunk. He ate, he had his check in his hand, then he ordered some stuff from the (takeout) deli, he paid for that food, but he walked out with the check. He got all the way to his car, and the waitress tracked him down, and he was like, “Sorry about that, here’s 50 bucks.”
Metal Sludge: What about the healing powers of chicken soup. Do you believe in it?
Marc Canter: Absolutely. The first thing is the placebo effect, because so much of it is psychological. If you think chicken soup is good for you and it’s going to make you feel better, then of course your brain is going to do that. But second, if you’re tired, or if you’re sore, chicken soup is comfort food. Maybe there’s no medical evidence, but it works. I mean, doctors from Cedars come in here and get it, so maybe it’s not just myth.
Metal Sludge: Has the paparazzi ever been an issue here?
Mark Canter: Mick Jagger once got caught by the front door here. He was just passing by and maybe he ducked in here to hide, but when he got here, he ordered a chicken soup and a cup of tea. I think the only one we’ve ever had to use the backdoor for was Taylor Swift. With twitter and all that stuff, sometimes they just have you. It was weird.
Metal Sludge: Canter’s does have a lot of history.
Marc Canter: Yeah, I think it really came alive in the 60s. A lot of people were afraid of hippies, but we gave them respect. Ray Manzarek from the Doors told me some great stories from back in the day. And Gary Busey, I bumped into him recently, and he told me he signed his first record deal in 1966 at Canter’s.
The best was Frank Zappa. He would come in late at night with three or four people, and the party at his table would build. An hour or two into it, some of the guys from the Turtles would come in, or Mamas and Papas. And the table would keep revolving, and Frank would leave and come back the next day, and his table would still be going but with different people, and he would sit back down again.
Rodney Bingenheimer: I was here. I remember a lot of this stuff. Kim Fowley and Andy Dick. I was here with Kato Kaelin, from the O.J. Simpson case, and the song came on, “Hey Joe, What’s that glove in your hand.” I’ve been here with Dylan, both Dylans, Bob Dylan and Jacob Dylan from the Wallflowers.
Metal Sludge: OK, we’re going to save the Guns N’ Roses part for Part 2, ‘cause we know you were a key part of the early rise of Guns N’ Roses and that the band spent a lot of time at this restaurant and ate a lot of meals here. But real quick, every guy in Guns N’ Roses, what was their favorite thing to order, their favorite entrée that they ordered every time?
Marc Canter: OK. Well, Slash used to always, always, always have the pastrami, but now he only has corned beef. Axl would always order tuna sandwich or sometimes pastrami. Steve Adler always ordered pastrami “Brooklyn-style,” which means cole slaw and Russian dressing on the sandwich. Duff was always the barley soup. Sometimes he got other entrees, like burgers or a few other things, but he always has the barley soup. Izzy I don’t remember, but I think pastrami. They all like pastrami because sometimes, they wouldn’t come in but I would bring them a bag of sandwiches, and it was always a bag of pastrami sandwiches. Pastrami, they never turned it down. That much I know for sure.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
In the mean time, order the bookReckless Road direct from Marc Canter himself.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached [email protected]