Berkeley's Blake Wake Revives Memories
as Telegraph Braces for Another Closing;
Bona Fide Hippies Dance to Dixieland

By Ted Friedman
Saturday February 12, 2011 - 09:50:00 PM

Reporters and cameramen outnumbered dancing (historic) hippy celebrants as Larry Blakes on Telegraph Avenue was laid to rest Saturday. Cause of death may have been suicide. 

Blake's ailing business survivors on Teley are calling their doctors as La Fiesta, a mainstay on the Ave. for 50 years, just announced its impending sale. 

Blake's survived several ownership changes in three decades. But recent changes, perceived declines in food and service, and a south of Market nightclub scene may have contributed to its own three-strikes demise. 

While a weeping chorus of Teley businessmen complains often and loudly of conditions on Telegraph, Blake's, with its raucous early morning crowds blocking the sidewalk, may have shot itself through the head. 

La Fiesta had moved a few years ago from its historic site at Teley and Haste to its catering site only a stone's throw away on Haste, but according to a source close to the owner, the daily operation of the business had become too much for its elderly owner. 

Blake's, founded in 1940, is survived by such elder businesses as the Med,'56; Moe's,'56; the Print Mint,'65; Lhasa Karnak, '70; Bill's Clothes,'61; Annapurna,'67; Jim the Tailor, 62; and Fondue Fred's circa '70 at the former C.J.'s Garage. 

As the Spirit of '29 Dixieland band drew on-lookers, the wake swelled to as much as 20 at its peak. Lynn Danielle, 67, the wake's organizer recalled her parents taking her to Blake's when she was only eight. She noted that U.C. alumni visiting campus from afar would first stop at Blake's before "setting a foot on campus." 

Larry Blake, Blake's founder, who died in retirement in 1992, was recalled as an impresario, who rented an elephant and trainer to "walk" across the Bay Bridge adorned with the sign: "if you haven't been to Blake's, you haven't been to Berkeley." 

Danielle recalled that Blake originally hired student waiters with what today would be called, “ ‘tude," who wore outlandish clothes and had their way with the customers. The sawdust-covered rathskeller floors were innovative at the time. 

According to Danielle, Blake prepared his famous Caesar Salad every day for years, based on his own "secret" recipe. 

According to the S.F. Chronicle, the "rathskeller" was Larry Blake's trademark, a subterranean beer hall where some of the Bay Area's best blues, jazz and R&B bands performed over the decades. The whole Berkeley clan gathered there, from Abbie Hoffman to Joe Kapp, from graduate students to campus janitors." 

As the last famous Teley businesses die off--Sather Gate Jeweler's, site of filming on "The Graduate, 1969" was the most recent casualty--Berkeleyans are wondering where are the Larry Blakes of the future. 


Ted Friedman had a beer in the Blake's rathskeller in '63.