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Boxer, restaurateur Joseph Botana, 91, dies

Robert Blechl

Joseph Justo Botana, one-time contender for boxing’s featherweight

championship and owner of Burbank’s first dinner club, died Nov. 12,

1999, at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 91.

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Botana was born in the village of Frathes in northwest Spain in 1907.

He moved to New York as a teenager and, at 5 feet 7 inches and 129

pounds, found brief fame as a boxer.

“He was a little toughy,” said his daughter, Joanne. “He worked in a

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tough neighborhood and some how or other he got a trainer and became a

boxer.”

While still in his teens, Botana was a New York State boxing champion

and contender for a the featherweight championship.

After meeting and marrying Mildred Innocenti, who died in 1986, Botana

left the world of boxing and entered the restaurant business. He soon

moved to Detroit and opened a pizza shop.

It wasn’t long before he was rubbing elbows with the stars.

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Botana vacationed in Los Angeles in 1952 and liked it so much he

stayed. Two years later he opened La Paradiso, Burbank’s first supper

club.

“He petitioned the city for a dance license and was the first and only

one to get it,” Joanne Botana said. “Because it was so close to the

studios, everyone used to come in.”

Joanne said the restaurant, located in the 3800 block of Riverside

Drive, was a regular haunt for James Dean, Lucille Ball, Kim Novak, Jack

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Warner, Rock Hudson,Elizabeth Taylor and other stars of the day.

She said her dad’s temperament made him a good father and successful

restaurateur.

“He was really easygoing and very generous,” she said. “He would give

you the shirt off his back.”

Botana sold La Paradiso in 1965 to help fund Burbank’s first high-rise

medical center at 3800 Riverside Drive.

He remained active until shortly before his death, Joanne said,

rafting down the Rogue River in Oregon after his 90th birthday.

“He was a daredevil,” Joanne said. “He was game for anything. Any time

we came back, people would ask if he had a good time. He said ‘I had a

hell of a time.’

“When people say Frank Sinatra did it his way, so did my dad.”

Botana lived in Burbank for the last 10 years of his life.

He is survived by his sons Ray and Joe Jr.; daughters Joanne, Samantha

McConnell and Milly Grimes; and five grandchildren.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Finbar

Catholic Church.

The family requests no flowers. Donations can be made to the Diabetes

Foundation.


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