Talk about the tale wagging the pup.
Quite frankly, the owner of the landmark Tail O’ the Pup hadn’t expected the story of the upcoming closure of his West Hollywood hot dog stand to be bandied about so soon. And with the word out, he certainly wasn’t viewing his next meeting with his landlord with much relish.
That’s because Dennis Blake is still negotiating with the owners of the San Vicente Boulevard site on which his distinctive, hot dog-shaped eatery sits to move it to a permanent location.
“We haven’t told anybody. We haven’t told anybody,” Blake said, saying it twice Wednesday for emphasis. “We don’t want to burn any bridges at this point. Landlords can be nasty if they want to be. But they have some other property they want us to move to.”
Blake fielded a steady stream of inquiries from news outlets after an Internet message board operated by food lovers reported that the stand was “being destroyed by a developer.” The thought of the loss of another Los Angeles fast-food icon was hard to digest.
It turns out that a hot dog-munching customer heard a snippet of conversation and raced to his keyboard to write:
“Stopped by the Tail this afternoon & I overheard Dennis Blake, the owner with his father, Eddie Blake, telling a diner that he is being forced to close in 30 days,” wrote the anonymous “Westside Chub” on the Chowhound message board.
“Maybe they can find another location to move the Pup just as they did the last time. Does anybody have an idea or location for these guys? Let’s save the Pup.”
Actually, Regent Properties Inc. had already found a spot for the Pup in Westwood Village -- unless someone rocks the boat before the deal goes through, said Blake, 53, of Westchester. “It’s at a Broxton Avenue parking lot, near Weyburn Avenue. It could really work out well. There are a lot of things to work out though.”
Blake and his 81-year-old father, who retired from the stand in July, acquired the 59-year-old stand in 1978. They oversaw its relocation in 1986 after it was moved from its original site at nearby La Cienega Boulevard and Beverly Place to make way for a luxury hotel. The pair stored the 17-foot-wide hot dog facade, constructed from stucco-covered chicken wire, at an Alhambra wrecking yard for about a year before renting space on land owned by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Beverly Hills-based Regent Properties bought the site about two years ago, Blake said. It plans to develop condominiums and a retirement community for gays and lesbians, he said.
Executives at Regent did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday about their hot dog relocation plans. But customers said they would follow the Pup wherever it goes. “I’ve been coming here maybe 25 years, and I’ll keep coming,” said David Arnold, a Redondo Beach police officer who lives in Santa Monica.
Fine-art photographer Jesse Diamond, son of singer Neil Diamond and a 30-year Pup patron, said the proposed move was fine with him: He lives in Westwood. “This place won’t permanently disappear. There will be a new location for it,” Diamond said confidently.
Blake hopes so. But he said he wished the Internet gossiper had talked to him first.
Eavesdropping over a hot dog doesn’t cut the mustard.