Until I moved to Summerland, Ca last July one year ago, Junior’s Deli had been my go to place for breakfast almost every day of the week, for so many years I can’t really remember. The terrific tasting food got me off to a good start to face the work day. The owner Marvin Saul would always stop by my table. A warm hello, and if I was in a breakfast meeting, followed by, “Hope I’m not interrupting you.” “How’s the food?'” And “please say hello to Marcia” (my wife).
Marvin was from Atlantic City, NJ, and as a kid I had spent many wonderful summers there. We could talk about the Traymore Hotel, The Steel Pier, Captain Stearns Restaurant, Hackney’s Restaurant, Knife & Fork Restaurant, Miss America Pageant, and The Boardwalk (a very different boardwalk than what’s portrayed in the wonderful HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” (In the future, I will have lots more to say about these fabulous places, because Atlantic City played such an important part in my life while I was growing up.)
Some years ago, on Ebay I purchased an “official” large “gold” key to Atlantic City, packaged in a red velvet display box. Needless to say, Marvin was thrilled with my gift and displayed the “official key” in his home.
I found out about Marvin’s passing while working at Kinetic Post in Detroit, supervising the Final Edit of the feature film “Margarine Wars.”
My wife Marcia drove down to Los Angeles and delivered a sympathy card to the office in Junior’s Deli because I wanted his two sons, John and David, to know how much I cared about their father. You could say “I loved this man, Marvin,” and I know I am not alone when I express this heart-felt feeling.
Junior’s was a hangout for many Hollywood notables, among then longtime patron and filmmaker Mel Brooks, who has frequented Junior’s for decades, and in a Los Angeles Times interview said ‘He was really an incredible host. It’s a great big restaurant, but he’d treat it like his own dining room at home. He was so sweet and wonderful, albeit a little pushy on the soup. He’d always come to our table with a new soup, and we had to try it or we’d hurt his feelings’
Marvin Saul was a uranium miner who had gone bust when he flipped a coin in the late 1950s to decide where to strike out next from Utah. Heads meant Los Angeles; tails Dallas.
Heads, and generations of future deli-goers on the Westside, won out.
With 35 cents in his pocket, Saul arrived in Los Angeles, did odd jobs and by 1957 had cobbled together $300 to open a small sandwich shop. Two years later, he established Junior’s, an eight-table delicatessen that grew “into a sort of IBM of the bagel and blintz world,” the Wall Street Journal reported in 1990.
At the time, Saul explained the restaurant’s success by saying, “I try to give people great food and a little schmaltz.”
Saul, who had continued to work three days a week at the Westwood eatery, died of a heart attack Dec. 8 at his home in Encino, said his son David. He was 82.
In Detroit, for lunch today I”m having a lox and bagel sandwich — a Junior’s staple. So, in this absurd world, in an absurd way, I am paying tribute to my dear friend Marvin Saul.
Detroit Style: Lox & Cream Cheese on a Bagel. “But it doesn’t compare with a Junior’s sandwich.”