The Grand Café has an interesting history, both as a bar and as a restaurant. Thebeerchaser was joined in his recent visit by some lawyers from the Schwabe Williamson law firm’s Product Liability Group – a group of “Boeing 747 pilots,” if one considers former US Supreme Court Chief Justice, Warren Burger’s description of the judicial system: “The courtrooms of America, all too often have Piper Cub advocates trying to handle the controls of Boeing 747 litigation.”
The Grand is now a partnership and Portland luminary, athlete, bar-owner-entrepreneur (Peters’ Inn and The Habit), independent candidate for governor and former prison inmate, Frank Peters, is officially the “chef.”
“The Grand owns me,” according to Peters, who agreed to show up that night and give our group what turned out to be an interesting tour of this historic venue – one with which he’s been associated for eighteen years. According to Francesca, one of bartender/managers, “Frank still shows up at 5:00 A.M. each morning. He doesn’t bar-tend anymore and has mellowed in the last few years!”
Based on some research help from former Oregonian history columnist, John Terry, and recollection by Peters, the original incarnation of The Grand was known as The Union Avenue Social Club (UASC). It dates back to 1926 when “The Club” was at the corner of Union Ave and SE Russell St. and was probably a speakeasy.
After Prohibition, it moved from Union Ave to the present site on Grand Avenue. The UASC was revived by Lee Hamblin, (he liked the name) owner of The Pantry – a well-known eatery on NE Broadway. The next owner was John Asparro in 1966, and according to Frank, later by famous Portland restaurateur, Horst Mager, of Der Rheinlander, Tivoli Gardens, Couch Street Fish House, L’Omelette, Brasserie Montmarte, etc. fame.
The UASC ultimately flamed-out economically because a fine-dining establishment on the East Side wouldn’t attract patrons. As one patron stated, “I found the ambiance opulent, the food mediocre and the prices unconscionable. Never went back.”
This restaurant review from the Women’s Editor in the March 17,1975, of The Oregonian may give some insight :
“Is it as expensive as people say? Does it really offer 20 different coffee drinks…..? Yes, it is expensive. And the special coffees that emanate from the tremendous imported brass espresso machine behind the bar (still there!!) seem endless…..”
“Lee Hamblin…..after careful renovation and redecoration opened the UASC, perhaps the most frankly posh place in Portland to eat……Sophisticated cuisine, interior décor and service were the criteria……”
“The linens were snowy, the crystal and china monogrammed and fresh roses and candles adorned each table. Such a meal cost $26 (remember that is a 1975 price!) per person not including cocktails, wine and after-dinner drinks….Yet as the owner suggests, if money is a serious factor, it likely would be best to dine elsewhere.”
The bar’s interior reflects its rich history and Frank’s distinct personality – also chronicled in his self-published memoir, “The Frank Peters’ Catalog” written in the Oregon State Prison (where he was rumored to have had an office and a secretary).
After spending 30 months in prison – six of it in the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland – he had to rebuild his life from scratch. He performed his community service at the Washington Park Zoo, shoveling elephant manure. He also attended culinary school and earned his certificate from the American Culinary Federation. His long association with the Grand Café followed.
Frank’s quirky personality and always creative intellect, may best be gleaned by some of the following anecdotes:
While in the State Prison, he formed The Götterdämmerung Society for the purpose of having the inmate members watch Richard Wagner’s Opera, “Ring of the Nibelung.”
He promoted the event in the prison newsletter with the following: “Seventeen hours of gods, dwarfs, giants, love, betrayal and redemption — a real Oregon State Penitentiary Soap Opera”.……The inmates met in Peters’ cell (D-533) several times before the opera was actually broadcast (on OPB) so they could bone up on a few of the plot twists” (From September 2, 1990 Oregonian column by Margie Boule)
While managing the Portland Mavericks minor league baseball team, to protest an umpire’s call during a game in Seattle, he stole first base–literally–and hid it in his hotel room. At another game, he rotated the team through the innings so every player played every position.
During his gubernatorial campaign, one of his ideas was to have F-4 Phantom jets from the Oregon National Guard buzz Japanese boats that were trawling in Oregon waters and driving down hauls for local fishermen. His campaign slogan was, “A Vote for Frank Peters is a Vote for America.”
In 1994, the Grand Café held a karaoke contest judged by the Honorable Steven Gallagher–the same judge who sentenced Peters to prison.
Frank was an outstanding athlete both at Oregon State and afterwards. He and teammates, Terry Baker, Mel Counts, Jimmy Jarvis, et.al. on the 1962-3 OSU basketball team made it to the NCAA Final Four with a 22-9 record – “We sailed under the radar until Terry returned from the Liberty Bowl in January and then he led our team to March Madness.”
He also played AAU basketball at Claudia’s and then the East Bank Saloon where he played for international AAU championships. He remembers getting a call in a bar in Key West, Florida from Claudia’s idiosyncratic coach, Walt Spitznagel, pressuring him to show up for the next game. (Bartender after answering phone: “Hey, anybody in this place play basketball in Portland, Oregon?”)
He even played briefly (“I was a ‘cup-of-coffee’ – for the Orioles – that’s how long I was up in the Majors…”) for the Baltimore Orioles and showed me a letter – he gets about two per month from collectors – with his Rookie baseball card enclosed asking for his autograph.
The basement of the Grand is devoted to one of its traditions – Salsa Dancing and Andrea’s Cha Cha Club Wednesday through Saturday nights. Our group even had its own Salsa dance lesson. “We sell Fun,” stated Peters, “And Salsa dancing is not defined by age,” – our group may have validated this premise! Andrea, the originator of the Cha Cha Club and one of the partners in the Grand, personally leads the dancing lessons from 9 – 10 PM Wednesday through Saturday night.
The walls leading to the intriguing Cha Cha Club in the basement are filled with additional mementos and photos of Marilyn Monroe.
The Grand has karaoke every night and salsa dancing – you can even get a lesson – see link to the website for the schedule. There is pub food and a good selection of drinks and beer typical of most bars, but being able to drink those beers in a building which is more than 100 years old and in which the atmosphere evokes memories of old Portland, is definitely worth a visit – or two.
And ask Frank to give you a tour. He ended this one with his “motivation speech” in which he asked rhetorically, “Do you want to be a victim or a hero? You decide.”
I have a feeling that there was not much of a cerebral debate on this question by each lawyer to whom it was directed.
Some More About Frank Peters…….
Frank Peters has always been and remains a character. Those who listened to his recent interview on Dwight Jaynes’ (according to Frank and confirmed by The Godfather – the one-time President of the two-member Frank Peters’ Fan Club when Dwight worked for the Portland Beavers) “Posting Up” program on Comcast SportsNet NW, can gain insight on his personal philosophy and how it was changed by his life experience.
When I asked about whether it made him angry that part of his prison sentence was for marijuana growing and distribution – a line-of-work that might as of January, 2013, make him an entrepreneur in the states of Washington or Colorado, he stated, “I’m not mad – I broke the law at that time.” He also talked about how proud he is of his granddaughter, who is an excellent high school volleyball player at one of the PIL Schools.
Peters’ book – about 50+ pages – an eclectic collection of quotes, observations and anecdotes in a loose-leaf binder with a picture of him campaigning for Governor in Eastern Oregon – warrants additional consideration. Thebeerchaser offers these quotes as examples of why it was an interesting read. (There are no page numbers so they are not cited.)
On Portland in the Golden ’70’s — and then the ’80’s
My studio (apartment) at the Sovereign was on the 2nd floor, overlooking the main drag on the corner of Broadway and Madison. Two large eagles flanked my one large window giving the effect of a speaking balcony. The Sovereign was a class hotel in the 1920’s, and now it is a historic building with tile bathrooms. The walls are sound proof with high ceilings.
On one side lived a violinist with Maybury’s (Peters’ nickname for Portland) symphony, on the other, a premier rock & roll sound system operator. The Sovereign (was) is home for people on their way up. Restaurant Managers, students, young professionals, etc. Eleven floors of unusually unique people – no kids, no dogs allowed.
My problems began the day the lights were turned out at Peters Inn and my other restaurants. I went thru several bankruptcies and loss of identity – ‘Occupational Hazard, No Occupation at all.’ – Song by Jimmy Buffett….The ‘80’s found ‘No Game Today,’ ‘No More Mavericks,’ ‘Frank Peters Bar-less’ and ‘No inexperience required.’
Marijuana is called weed, grass, ganja, bud or hemp. It’s a plant representing many things to many people. It’s made of stems, roots, seeds, smell & leaves. It is used for rope, sails, medicine and sweet dreams…..It grows as tall as a 2 story house, or as dwarfed as a basset hound…..As a green plant, it’s the base of the food chain.
On Time in the Multnomah County Justice Center
On the inside looking out, or is it the outside looking in? Surrounded by people, yet so alone. From the eighth floor, I observe people on the street taking care of business, and the construction progress of the new store “Saks Fifth Avenue. This is the project that replaced my restaurant, Peters Inn. Not a happy day.
On Prison Life in the Oregon State Penitentiary
Well, I served 30 months – to the day, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I am a better person. I do not recommend prison; however, if it is necessary the time can be well spent elsewhere.
I was in Salem, with a new set of goals and objectives – Survival. The title of Willamette Week’s article was ‘Sex, Lies and Video Tape.’ It could have been worse. Salem was a good place for me to be.
I still don’t know if I have a minimum (sentence) – I don’t know what I have. How can I complain when there are over 300 lifers, with many never getting out – very heavy. I signed up for school. I scored grade level 12 on my tests (English, which is a foreign language to me, held my score down) typical of an OSU graduate….
My life, physically and socially has been on a severe downhill slide for the last six months. Can it get worse? It seems worse, but at least I know my sentence and I feel a little better. Then I look carefully at my neighbors; tattoos, weight lifter arms and repeat offender attitudes. I proceed with caution, great caution and keep my mouth shut as the mood loosens with light conversation.
Then I hear from an immense Black inmate. ‘Hey Peters, remember me, you kicked me out of your club. You sure are white.’ ‘Well,” I say, ‘I’ve been kicked out of my own club so don’t feel bad.’
“Frank, I would like to ask you to do something for us, but I don’t know how to ask,” explained Grizz, ‘Just ask,’ said Buzz. Grizz gives Bud a dirty look and says, ‘O.K., O.K. – Frank, will you play softball for us? We are in third place, and our goal is to make the playoffs. We are the Marauders, sponsored by the Lifers….’ I look at Bud, Bill and Grizz, then I look at the other four hundred plus inmates and made my decision on the spot. I played for the Marauders. We won the second half and made the playoffs, I proceeded to go to prison on a softball scholarship. It was fun and the only way to go.
According to Maslow; we seek freedom from fear, food and shelter, love and belonging, ego and self-actualization. This doesn’t leave a prison person many choices. Food and shelter are the only absolutes. Where should my plan focus? After a few games (mental footwork) with inmates and guards, I decided to self-actualize. In my mind, self-actualization is borderline fantasy, and everyone in prison lives fantasy.
If your mind is on the outside, you believe friends and lovers remain faithful and big paying jobs will be available. Maybe your mother in truth is faithful – ‘even Hitler had a mother.’ If your mind is on the inside, you do sports, walk the yard, pump pig iron, chase the bag or take big deals.
Self-actualization is self-development, NOT people or system development. I decided to make prison an adventure. A plan of self-actualization and a plan to live fantasy. A practical reality plan to live in Fantasyland. Oregon State Penitentiary.
PRESS RELEASE – FRANK PETERS #53381- cont. 08/14/90
…Behind the scenes, Peters dispenses a new brand of counseling to younger inmates. He challenges rather than gives gratuitous advice, challenges them to find their own path to a better life after prison. Challenges them to seek their own answers, and put their experience to proper use on the ‘outside.’ Whether this approach will save one from a repeat prison term or not, no one will likely ever know. But it is unique and innovative method that seems at least to spark some favorable response…..
Philosophically Peters declares he’s learned one thing, ‘The person wasn’t bad, their thinking was bad.’ Peters declines to reveal just how he plans this (1,000 hours of community service) but indicates that ‘the real value is to make an overall contribution to the quality of life, something worthy of his energies. If the journey doesn’t change you, why bother to leave home?’
On the Campaign for Governor
‘Never be neutral in a conflict, whoever wins must destroy the uncommitted’ (Machiavelli, year 1539). This leaves little room for an independent in power politics. The game plan was to run a ‘state-wide’ campaign with credibility and open the door for other non-party candidates. We hoped to split Democratic & Republican votes at all levels and make deals….It destroys the ‘good old boy politics’ and political party ladder. It opens the door for real democracy.
Any concerned person can participate. Events did not work in our favor. Four years we campaigned…..in small towns throughout Oregon…..‘A vote for Frank Peters is a vote for America.’ They never knew how close we came to killing their political Dinosaur….The possibilities were awesome….We were serious – Machiavelli serious.