Back to The Source: Michael Dare remembers the only hip cult-based vegetarian restaurant on the Sunset Strip

By on January 29, 2016

The Source has been in the news a little bit lately, ever since director Todd Haynes told Indiewire he is “conceiving a limited series based on events that really occurred in the early ’70s in L.A. based on the ‘The Source Family’ documentary.”

There’s no other real details yet — no date or network has been set yet, although it’s likely it’ll end up on HBO, who already have a relationship with Haynes — but until then, we have the 2013 documentary and scenes from films like this one, from Paul Mazursky’s 1970 film Alex in Wonderland — featuring Donald Sutherland and Andre Philippe — which was shot the original Source Restaurant, located at 8301 Sunset Blvd., in Los Angeles. Father Yod and Ahom Aquarian of the Source Family appear in the background at the end after singer-songwriter Timothy Garon breaks out into song.

Today, our contributor Michael Dare takes a look back at the time when when he was on a “hot date” (his description), dining at The Source, and he noticed a table where a bunch of familiar faces were looking over at him, and laughing.

Michael Dare:

What’s your favorite restaurant? No, really, it’s important, go ahead, pick one, let’s say Dave’s Diner? Good. Nice place, I presume.

What would you think if one of Hollywood’s foremost directors was going to make a miniseries about Dave’s Diner. I mean their hash browns weren’t THAT good, were they?

It’s not often Hollywood tackles the enormity of the history of a restaurant, one might think they’d do something more high end, like Musso & Franks, but no, The Source is perfect source material for the ultimate 60s overwrought melodrama, covering a wide range of subjects that Todd Haynes has repeatedly dealt with in other decades, mirroring the film-making of those decades in the storytelling.

If he does the same with the 60s, and who doubts he won’t, this could be pretty good.

The basics are simple. A man named Jim Baker opened a fabulous vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Blvd. with outdoor tables and a big parking lot. It didn’t need to advertise. It was in-between everything, and everyone who drove past it went WTF is that, pulled in, and had their very first iced hibiscus tea. It was a big hit.

Then one day the man Jim Baker became the guru Father Yod, everyone had to wear white (sort of ridiculous if you’re operating a juicer), the men wore turbans, the salads flowed, and with the relentless flow of homeless teens on the strip willing to do anything for a free meal and a place to crash, the cult grew.

Let’s nip that knee-jerk reaction to the word “cult” in the bud right now. Charles Manson gave cults a bad rap, which is one reason I look forward to a film about a cult whose worst crime was the service was occasionally slow.

There is no reason to think badly of The Source just because it was a cult. You think Emeril doesn’t have a cult, that restaurant owners aren’t the kings of their domains, so let’s put this in perspective.

The Source wasn’t even the only hip cult-based vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles.

It’s not often one can pinpoint a moment of space and time as accurately as this, but I was on my way to work when I heard on the radio that Jimi Hendrix had died, September 18, 1970. I was a busboy at Warren Stagg’s vegetarian restaurant at Fairfax and 3rd CHECK VEGETARIAN called H.E.L.P. (Health Education Love Peace), consisting of followers of Yogi Bhajan CHECK CULT-BASED, of which I was one, since it came with a complimentary gig.

I was pointed to a table and told to bring them water, which I did. It was David Carradine and Barbara Hershey CHECK HIP.

In 1977, The Source outsourced its hipness to Hollywood when Woody Allen filmed a scene there in Annie Hall where he ordered something funny that wasn’t actually on the menu.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the story. I’ll let the movie do that.

Alex in Wonderland is a great film (Mazursky’s I Love You Alice B. Toklas has some great scenes of the strip in the 60s too, he wrote it, and The Source was on the way to Tower Records and their rises mirrored each other).

Throughout its lifetime, The Source maintained its ambiance, there were pillows, you could lounge about, even in 1984, when I had my own little life-changing adventure.

I was on a hot date. She was beautiful, I was…, well, looking better than I am now. She was a vegetarian so I took her to The Source. We sat inside. We tried to talk but there were some assholes at a corner table who were being loud and obnoxious and spoiling the moment.

They were laughing uproariously, I was thinking of complaining to the waiter, when suddenly we overheard one of them say “even non-bulimics will be barfing in the aisles.” There was no doubt about it. It was a quote from one of my reviews in the LA Weekly that week. They were talking about ME.

Upon closer examination, it was Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Mare Winningham, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Michelle Manning (a co-producer on The Breakfast Club and a bunch of other movies), and some other friends. They had just come from shooting St. Elmo’s Fire during which they sat around the set all day reading my reviews to each other. I was their favorite film critic.

At some point they noticed our stares and I couldn’t help myself. I pointed to yours truly and said “Michael Dare.”

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(Check out this gallery of just a handful of Michael Dare’s huge Polaroid collection, taken by the author himself)

They jumped out of their seats and surrounded our table. Here’s a dating tip. Have a bunch of movie stars run up to you and be more excited about meeting you than you are about meeting them. Not only did my dream date work out, but me and the movie stars, we exchanged numbers, became pals, went bowling, hung out on other sets, wrote screenplays together, and I even ended up doing Demi and Bruce’s Christmas cards, all thanks to that date at the Source.

But here’s the important thing. They had something on the menu called Cheese and Walnut Loaf that was more memorable than Emilio Estevez in Maximum Overdrive and the recipe has disappeared from the planet.

I hereby declare that if Todd Haynes movie about The Source has the recipe for their cheese and walnut loaf, it will be the best movie ever made.

Turns out one of my Facebook friends, Isis Aguarian, worked in the kitchen and swears it’s day-old whole wheat bread, mushrooms, onions, olives, cheddar cheese, green peppers, pimentos, raw milk, egg yolk, walnuts and Fontana sauce. Including the Xmas card, which is a whole other story.

Here’s some additional thoughts from Michael:

I hated Rob Lowe before I met him. He was just too good looking. It had to be easy, too easy, to get ahead in Hollywood, or anywhere on earth, with that punim. He was gorgeous in The Outsiders but so was everyone else so he just blended in. Oh God let him be an idiot, I must have been thinking, it can’t be possible he’s warm and funny and smart and knowledgeable AND the most good looking, I mean that skin, I’m looking at Demi Moore and can’t figure out whose is better, let’s just divide the category into male and female.

Finding this out about him, that he was WAY smarter than anyone he had ever portrayed in film, should have made me hate him more but even back then, he was way too much the real deal to ever take him lightly.

We went bowling, and by we I mean all of us, there was a regular time at the Hollywood Lanes, if you showed up, you showed up, and it was absolutely blue collar. No shop talk, they didn’t want my opinion of films, they just wanted to bowl, and so did I, even though I’m lousy, and it was nice, leisurely, and comfortable, bowling with the stars.

So the phone rings, it’s Rob Lowe, he’s shooting a new film called Square Dance, and today would be a good day to come visit. It was a local lot and he had a nice trailer outside a soundstage.

Turned out he wasn’t shooting that day. What was I doing there? His character in Square Dance was the incredibly good looking village idiot with but one talent, he could play a mean fiddle. Incredibly good looking? Check. Village idiot? Check. Play a mean fiddle? Rob Lowe didn’t have a clue. Unless he could figure it out REAL quick, someone else was going to have to be his fingers on the screen. He picked David Lindley, who showed up to give Rob his lesson.

Wow. Rob knew I played guitar. He thought to himself Who can I invite over to watch David Lindley give me a fiddle lesson who would be totally tripped out, and it was me, not a publicity stunt, I’ve never mentioned it to anyone before because it was personal, it was so cool, and genuinely one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me out of the blue.

First Rob learned the basics, how to hold it and look like he was really playing in long shots where no one could really tell. Then came the good stuff. Rob learned to play with his left while David was his right, then he learned to play with his right while David was his left, putting both of them through major contortions.

I did not leave. I was very entertained. I watched the whole thing. I was getting a vicarious fiddle lesson, and wrestling match, from David Lindley, and don’t you wish right now I had my smart phone with me way back in 1986.

I’m so glad I have this picture of him looking right at me way back then. Who knew? A lot of people strive to be like that. Rob Lowe doesn’t. He is like that.

Demi Moore:

Of course meeting movie stars is cool, but it’s usually because yo discover they’re just normal people who happen to have a high profile job. Not so Demi Moore. Turned out she lived a block away so she’d come by and hang. One time I was playing piano when she showed up so she just sat next to me and said “keep playing.”

I don’t remember what I played. All I remember is Demi Moore was sitting right next to me on the piano bench, we were touching, I could feel her heat, and when I looked at her neck and face, inches away, she was no longer an actress but a Goddess, simply the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, the silver screen did not do her justice, I needed to touch her to confirm she was real, and it took every bit of self-control to keep playing and not start pawing and drooling and begging.

She and Emilio Estevez were an item at the time and she had told him to meet her at my place, so damn, he showed up and I took a shot of them together (check out the Polaroid gallery above).

Turned out to be a problem years later when I was doing a show of my Polaroids for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Demi was no longer with Emilio so she didn’t want this shot on display. How about one with the current love of her life?

And so I was invited to spend the afternoon with Bruce Willis, Demi, and the newly born Rumer in their house up on Mulholland. They had another agenda. Nobody had seen their daughter. No one. Not a single picture had sneaked out. They wanted to send out Christmas cards with pictures of the family, but they knew the picture would end up in the press unless… it was taken by Michael Dare. Not even People would be interested in a picture of the Willises with their faces smooshed up.

I literally could have gotten at least $100,000 from the National Enquirer for a picture of Rumer Willis. I didn’t do that. I accepted $500 from Bruce Willis. I did the stupid right thing instead of the smart wrong thing because I didn’t want to betray the trust of Bruce and Demi, two people I barely knew but goddam, who wants Bruce Willis pissed off at them? Cool guy. Invited me to the set of Die Hard II, introduced me around, didn’t mind that I turned him into Satan.

Photo by Michael Dare 13

Bruce on the set of Die Hard II, which explains the fake bruise above his eyebrow – photo by Michael Dare (courtesy of Michael Dare)

And now when I dream of Demi Moore, I picture her pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair and the baby right in front of me with a dollar sign tattooed on her forehead. What was wrong with me?

Rumer’s now a star on her own and nobody gives a shit about her baby pictures. Perspective. Looking back, I see my fatal flaw. Don’t do things for money and you don’t end up with any.

About Michael Dare

You may know Michael Dare as film critic and journalist for the LA Weekly, LA Times, Billboard, Interview, and the National Lampoon. Turns out he also studied with Lee Strasberg, jammed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, went to Disneyland with Eugene Ionesco, and got Timothy Leary for a birthday present. He was the Playboy Advisor on the Playboy Channel, wrote for Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs, and Scott Bakula played him in a CBS movie-of-the-week about his misadventures in Hollywood called The Bachelor's Baby. He was John Cassavetes' dialogue coach on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, has a close-up in Up in Smoke, sang the news on KROQ, and is responsible for one of the biggest April Fools Day pranks of all time. The only reason we believe one word of this is he has actual photographic evidence, thousands of warped Polaroids that are finally seeing the light of day.
  • Laura Garon

    Thank you, Michael Dare for being the first person to mention Tim Garon’s name!

  • Mike Goodman

    I worked at H.E.L.P. from 1970 till they closed in ’72 but then reopened on Sunset blvd. at the CrossRoads for I think less than a year.I also worked at the Source for less than a year.There were many people in the music industry that came into H.E.L.P. Because back then there was not to many places opened 24-7

  • Jerry Brickley

    Was Mare Winningham one of Father Yod’s wives?
    I saw a “family” picture with a dozen or so wives, one in front left looks like Mare Winningham.