Dudley Moore and Tony Bill Star at 72 Market Street, and the Customers Eat It Up

updated 09/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

To Dudley Moore's occupational titles of comic actor and pianist, add another one: restaurateur. As a general partner, along with film producer-director Tony Bill, Moore has opened a new eatery called 72 Market Street, named for its address in Venice, Calif. From its opening last month the place has been booked solid, thriving on customer expectations that Dudley will be on hand to work the keyboard of the big Yamaha grand that dominates the decor. And maybe pals like Liza Minnelli (an investor) will come by and break out in song.

So far, except for an impromptu concert launching the enterprise, Moore has been something of a silent partner. He will be in London over the next five months filming Santa Claus, in which he plays "the basic big elf role." Prior to taking leave, Moore vowed a prompt return to 72 Market Street. "When in L.A.," he promised more or less unequivocally, "I will, sort of, hang out there."

Meanwhile Bill, whose credits include The Sting and Going in Style, is minding the store. Its "California eclectic" menu runs from "kick-ass chili" with corn bread ($7) to roast rack of lamb ($19) and desserts like "Keyless" lime pie. There is also a full-fledged oyster bar serving up blue-points, clams, squid and scallops. There was at least one Moore concession: "Dudley likes candles on tables lit before the sun goes down," notes Bill. "We do that."

So how did a pair of middle-aged (Bill is 44; Moore, 49) showbiz stars become purveyors of cuisine? The idea got cooking in 1982 when Bill directed Moore in the film Six Weeks. "I talked about how I enjoyed playing in places where you didn't feel you were onstage," recalls Dudley, "and Tony said he had wanted for 10 years to open a place." Bill already owned the property, a onetime art gallery across the street from his combination office building, studio and private pad. "With Dudley living in the neighborhood," says Tony, "all we were missing was a place to have a beer and a bite after work." Now, presumably, the neighborhood is complete.

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