If you wanted to hang out with Jerry Brown, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Webb, J.D. Souther or Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Lucy Casado’s Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe across the street from Paramount Pictures in Hollywood was for years the place to be.
But the landmark Mexican restaurant was quiet Wednesday with the news that Casado — who brought those celebrities and dozens of other political and rock stars together — had died. She was 91.
Lucy’s was where a young and handsome Gov. Jerry Brown met Ronstadt, launching a 1970s tabloid romance that put the famous pair on the cover of Newsweek magazine.
The now 79-year-old fourth-term governor recalled those heady, younger days and said he was “deeply saddened by the passing of Lucy Casado.”
“She was friends to the famous and to those who lived nearby and to politicians of both parties,” Brown said. “I spent many wonderful and memorable evenings at Lucy’s El Adobe.”
Henley, a founding member of the Eagles, said he always felt at home with Casado at the Melrose Avenue restaurant.
“Lucy Casado was a mother figure to much of the L.A. singer-songwriter community,” he said after learning of her death at her mid-Wilshire home Tuesday night.
“Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she and her husband, Frank, along with their children, welcomed our rag-tag band of troubadours into their little restaurant on Melrose Avenue,” Henley said.
“It was a cozy, candlelit watering hole, where politics, food and music were often the topics of discussion, over a savory plate of mole poblano, washed down with the best margaritas in town. Lucy was as passionate as she was compassionate — a tough-but-tender little ball of fire from El Paso, Texas, who, like so many of us, made the pilgrimage to the City of Angels,” he said. “She encouraged us in our struggling days and she delighted in our successes. We were all her children and we will miss her.”
Presidential hopefuls, including then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Sens. Robert Kennedy and Robert Dole and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, all conferred with Lucy while dining at the restaurant.
She and her late husband helped create the Mexican American Political Association and, according to one friend, no major political figure in Los Angeles traveled around the city without having Lucy’s El Adobe on his or her itinerary.
Casado, who was born in El Paso, Texas, had wanted to become a doctor but, instead, she learned to cook. She once said, “My dream was to have a place where everyone was welcome, where the food was fresh and handmade, the prices reasonable and the customers were genuinely cared for as if they were family.”
She also was known for making her voice heard.
“Lucy was passionate about what she saw as a biased and even hostile attitude toward immigrants from south of the border and even toward Latinos who were born in the United States,” recalled one longtime friend. “At one point, she delivered a speech in which she declared, `We are not foreigners in this land.’ And she got a standing ovation.”
Casado regularly opened her restaurant to her “dear Tibetan monks.” One friend recalled that when one of her sons was seriously injured in an auto accident, Casado knelt down to pray and said she saw a vision of monks chanting beneath a beautiful sky. She said she captured their spirit in her arms and “poured it over James,” who made a full recovery.
In 2007, the Los Angeles City Council named an intersection near the El Adobe Cafe and Paramount Pictures “I Love Lucy Square,” honoring both Casado and Lucille Ball.
She is survived by her daughter Patricia and two sons, Frank James and Darryl.
Funeral services were pending, and the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Casado’s chosen charity, Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter Los Angeles, 645 W. 9th St., Suite 110-419, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
— City News Service
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