The first half of the decade of the 90’s represented something of a peak for the B&B. During the period from 1990 through 1994, membership was high, ranging from 17 to 20 active members. In addition to convening its regular monthly meetings, the club had a busy schedule of beer busts, sponsoring four or more busts a year, hitting seven beer busts in 1993. In addition, in October of 1993, the B&B, in collaboration with the Regiment of the Black and Tans and the Corps of Rangers, staged the “Annual Review Dinner” for the AUA (American Uniform Association), which convened its annual meeting in Los Angeles that year. The dinner took place at the Bel Age Hotel at 1020 North Vicente Avenue in West Hollywood. 240 men in dress uniforms showed up for the dinner, including AUA members from the East Coast. Neil Cowan recalls that a memorable feature of this event was that: “Jim Newman emptied one of his warehouses and searched under his many beds and filled an adjacent room with perhaps the greatest and finest collection of uniforms ever seen. Although Jim is too short to be a Horse Guard, his brilliant display of British spit and polish was one of the many highlights. He had paid for the room and trucked up the collection at his own idea and expense.”
During this era, the club sponsored two big blowout holiday parties. In 1990, the holiday party took place in the Grace Ford Salvatori Room of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The officers of the Corps of Rangers and the Regiment of the Black and Tans were the B&B’s invited guests at this event. The event included cocktails, a sit-down dinner, installation of officers, and entertainment by Sharon McKnight. In the words of the 1993 club history:
We had been planning to use the Founders’ Room at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown Los Angeles for our Twentieth Anniversary Party, but due to a Pediatric AIDS fundraiser, we were bumped. When we finally got to use the Room, the ever-alert Black and Tans had already used the room to good advantage. Never ones to hold a grudge, we chose the Grace Ford Salvatori Room at the top of the Pavilion, overlooking the Fountain courtyard and pulled out all the stops for party giving. One hundred thirty-three men turned out for our spread of cocktails, Tomato Bisque en croute, Chick A La Something and a concert by Sharon McKnight.
In that era when the rivalry between clubs to outdo each other with events was intense, Jim Neuman was pleased to recall that one of the officers of the Regiment of the Black and Tans who was a guest at the event stood up at the microphone and said this is the best event ever, guys, “We give up.”
The grandest event that the B&B ever put on was by all reports the 1993 holiday party, which was also the club’s 25th anniversary celebration. This party took place at the Ebell Club on Wilshire Boulevard, a woman’s club housed in an historic and noble Italian renaissance style structure that dates from the 1920s. The party took place in the entrance hall that features a two-story-high ceiling and a dramatic double stairway that descends from the second floor. The grandeur and elegance of the event can undoubtedly be attributed to a large degree to the direction of Neil Cowan, who in addition to being a uniform enthusiast, is a successful architect and noted bon vivant. He assured that the room was lavishly decorated. Neil recalls that: “The room was spectacular, and I dragooned two of my tall Texas friends into helping me with the decor. I had 12 black floor lamps with the bowl on top. I took out one section, so we had two rows of tables with 4’ tall ėpergnes (ornate tiered centerpieces used to display fruit or flowers) crammed with red dendrobium orchids and black ti leaves, all uplighted.” The Jubilee, as it was styled in the event’s program, included cocktails, a four-course sit-down dinner, installation of officers, and a “bagatelle of entertainment” by Sharon McKnight. The officers who were there recall that they made their entrances by walking one by one down the dramatic stairways into the dining area to the tune of “A Pretty Girl is Like Melody” and then taking their assigned seats dispersed among the guests.
From 1995 through 1999, the club’s level of activity appears to have tapered off. During that time, relatively few new members joined the club, and membership dipped to below 15. Club meetings continued on a regular basis, but the number of beer busts averaged only about two a year. In 1997 and 1998, the holiday parties consisted of parties sponsored jointly with the Corps of Rangers and the Regiment of the Black and Tans that took place in Van de Kamp Hall at Descanso Gardens.
A major development in the late 1990s was the formation of the San Francisco Division in 1998. This new division was started by Butch Freeman and George Fouras, two B&B members who had relocated to San Francisco. They recruited, and eventually found, enough uniform men to justify the formation of a new branch of the club. At that time, it was decided that the California B&B Corps would function as two separate but cooperating units, with a “Los Angeles ‘Headquarters’ Division” based in Southern California and a “San Francisco Division” based in Northern California. In 1999, the club constitution was amended to reflect this arrangement.
Although their frequency tapered off somewhat in the late 1990s, the beer busts continued to be an important way for the LA Division to stimulate interest in uniforms and interact with the larger leather community. The flyers for the bar events nearly always included the tag line: “Men Are Encouraged to Wear a Uniform.” In the 1980s and 1990s before changes in the alcohol laws, the beer busts were different than they are now in that club members were able to circulate around the bar with pitchers of beer to refill patrons’ glasses. Jim Neman recalls: “In the old days, before the ABC clamped down, the groups would pour the beer themselves. We would go up to the bar, two fisted, and they would fill from the tap, and then we would walk through the crowd and pour beer for all of the patrons, and it was wonderful because you had this instant connection to people. I mean, here you had the beer, they wanted the beer, and many of us, so many of us, got tricks out of those events, where you would meet people, and well then, what are you doing after the beer bust, and boom, boom, boom, you’d go off and... “
December 14, 1993. The B&B 25th Anniversary Dinner at the Wilshire Ebell Club in Los Angeles.
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