Longtime Manager of Chasen's Passes at 89
Stanley "Ronnie" Clint, one of the last of the old-style gentlemanly Hollywood restaurant hosts, died August 17 at home in Santa Monica.
Clint was the general manager — sort of an über-maître d'hôtel, always making sure that everything ran smoothly and that guests were well-served and content — at the most famous Hollywood restaurant of its era, Chasen's.
Chasen's was opened as a barbecue stand in 1936 by former Vaudeville comedian Dave Chasen and his wife, Maude. The menu grew gradually into a definitive roster of mid-twentieth-century "continental" specialties like shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, lobster Newburg, chicken pot pie, lamb with sauce béarnaise, crêpes Suzette, and the like, and Dave's show-business connections drew a stellar clientele. W.C. Fields used to misbehave at Chasen’s; Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, liked to do stripteases on the bar. A list of other regulars reads like a checklist of Old Hollywood luminaries: Orson Welles, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Groucho Marx, Clark Gable, even — Maude liked to say — "every U.S. president since 1936 except Roosevelt." (Ronald Reagan loved the place, and celebrated his last public birthday there.)
Ronnie Clint, as everybody called him, was born in Southampton, England, and left home as a teenager to work on cruise ships, which is where he always said he learned the hospitality business. He ended up in Los Angeles as a manager at the posh Bel-Air Country Club. Dave Chasen met him there and lured him to Chasen's in 1954. In 1965, Clint was promoted to general manager.
Following Chasen's death in 1973, though Maude Chasen continued to run the place officially and was a nightly presence in the dining room, Clint became more and more the public face of the restaurant. Everybody knew him, and he knew everybody. He was soft-spoken, friendly without being familiar, and efficient — a restaurateur of the old school. He kept the restaurant going after Maude retired, helping Maude's daughter, Kay MacKay, but times had changed, and even the veteran Hollywood crowd often preferred to dine, and to see and be seen, at newer, more contemporary establishments like Spago, The Ivy, and Morton's. Clint's last job at Chasen's was to preside over its closing on April 1 of 1995.
Clint, who reminisced about his years at Chasen's in the 1997 documentary The Last Days of Chasen's, told The New York Times, shortly before the restaurant closed, how much he disliked the newer restaurants that were supplanting his own. He seemed genuinely bewildered that people didn't want to dress up anymore when going out to dinner, and said that all he was interested in was a good bar with good food. "These new places—," he told the Times, "you order food and you get a bunch of flowers on your plate."