Tammi Gower, co-owner and founder of the Derby nightspot in the Los Feliz area of L.A., died Saturday from complications of cancer. She was 51.
Born Tamar Ellen Chait in Los Angeles, she founded the trendy club with her husband and longtime business partner, Tony, in April 1993, helping to revitalize the area. Club commemorated its 10th anniversary this year, with L.A. Mayor James Hahn proclaiming April 11 as “Derby Day” in L.A. and giving Tammi Gower a commendation for her contributions to the community.
Couple’s club and home have Hollywood legacies. Their Los Feliz house previously was owned by legendary filmmaker Hal Roach, and the Derby, at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd., was built by Cecil B. DeMille in 1928. It was one of five Brown Derby locations (1940-1960) and served as the exterior of Arnold’s Drive In on TV series “Happy Days” in the 1970s. It later fell into disrepair until Gower and her husband renovated it.
Their subsequent customers included stars and other showbizzers. Bands got their starts there, and guest performers included Bruce Springsteen, Cheap Trick, Brian Setzer, Roger Daltrey and Tex Beneke. Site has been featured in numerous film and TV productions in recent years, including “Swingers” and “Speed,” and used for production parties by musicvids, TV shows and films.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two brothers plus nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will take place 5-8 p.m. today at the Derby.