The Queens Arms was a spectacular, Disneyland-like sight along Ventura Boulevard between Hayvenhurst and Libbit avenues. It was opened in 1956 by co-owners Chris and John Skoby.
Skoby's Drive In in Burbank was the duo's first restaurant, and the Queens Arms, their fourth. I spoke with Lou Skoby, my friend since junior high, about the origin and success of the Queens Arms.
His father, Chris Skoby, had planned the restaurant based on his visits to Europe during the 1940s, when he fell in love with the architecture. He found a designer who was active in the film industry.
"The main interior designer of the Queens Arms was Martin Obzina, who was a top art director for Alfred Hitchcock on many of his films," Lou Skoby said.
From my own childhood visits to the restaurant, I vividly recall it looking like the inside of the Addams family house.
There was a full-size knight in armor in the foyer and elaborate Renaissance-themed murals on the walls. I could picture a court jester coming in to perform for us when viewing these murals, but often had to settle for my Uncle Jack's latest comedy shtick.
"The most popular dish was the Flaming Sword, a brochette of beef, which was served on an actual sword and set ablaze tableside," said Skoby.
Many celebrities dined at the Queens Arms during its heyday, including Encino residents Dick Van Dyke and Steve Allen. Allen once spoke at an anti-nuclear rally at the restaurant, and many protesters picketed outside.
Many top-notch entertainers performed in the Queens Arms lounge during the restaurant's halcyon period. I went to see Gary Lewis of Gary Lewis and the Playboys perform there in 1974. Hearing hits like "This Diamond Ring" and "Green Grass" performed live in my own neighborhood was quite a thrill for this 14-year-old, sipping a Shirley Temple and trying to look cool in a clip-on tie.
As the Brady Bunch-inspired 1970s decade rolled on, the Queens Arms fell on harder times.
"Before Proposition 13, property tax was very high," said Skoby. "Also the unions were very tough to deal with and the large staff of the restaurant was costly."
So, in 1975 the Queens Arms closed its drawbridge for the final time, but actually lived on, for a short time, as the Spaghetti Castle, a family-oriented restaurant with cheaper fare that never really took off.
The Queens Arms site on Ventura, now occupied by a market, was taken over for several years by Terry York Chevrolet, which was next door on the corner of Hayvenhurst for many years.
I remember seeing the spires of the castle towers behind the houses on Moorpark Street to the north and seeing the restaurant lit up at night whenever my family would drive by.
Lou Skoby and some of our buddies went to lunch at the Queens Arms after our Mulholland Junior High School graduation in June 1975. I remember having Rouqefort dressing on my salad, tossed at the table, for the first time. The restaurant made being a '60s Encino kid really special for me.