WEST HOLLYWOOD — The established watering holes to the famous in this town could suddenly be eclipsed.
“I think there is room in this town for Spago and Morton’s and Eclipse,” Bernard Erpicum said with a glint in his eye as he surveyed Peter Morton’s new spot across the street.
Erpicum was the maitre d’ at Spago for 11 years until he left last July to open the 6,500-square-foot Eclipse, a seafood restaurant in the old Morton’s space at Melrose and Robertson. Eclipse’s official opening is tonight.
“Wolfgang wished me the best,” he says.
Indeed, after 15 years at Wolfgang Puck’s side — he was a wine steward at Puck’s Ma Maison for four years before joining Spago — Erpicum can barely name one celebrity with whom he isn’t on familiar terms.
“It was like running a show,” he says, reflecting on his Spago days. “Every night, I had to be careful about studio executives and lawyers, ex-husbands, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends,” he explains. “If I sat somebody next to the other, it would have created World War III.”
Aside from orchestrating dinner nightly at the legendary Sunset Strip restaurant, Erpicum also made special gestures toward his best guests over the years. When Kelly LeBrock and husband Steven Seagal had their son, Dominick, Erpicum sent dinner for eight over to their room at Cedars Sinai. When a certain Spago aficionada underwent major surgery at the same hospital, Erpicum donated blood.
The favors were often returned. Seagal turned Erpicum on to martial arts. Three years ago, when Erpicum came down with Epstein-Barr, Anthony Quinn called him at his Bel Air home to check on him. Works by Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and Rosenquist hang in that home, presents from the owner of a Melrose Avenue gallery. Erpicum considers Rod Steiger “family” and Robert Plant “a good friend.”
While Eclipse’s glittery opening party is tonight, many of Hollywood’s power players have already been in for previews: Ray Stark, Billy Wilder, Sherry Lansing, Jacqueline Bisset, Arnold Kopelson, Bill Haber (who founded Creative Artists Agency), entertainment attorney Peter Dekom, Madonna’s manager Freddy DeMann, Harry Hamlin and Barbara and Marvin Davis.
O.J. Simpson’s attorney Robert Shapiro held court at the center table recently, and another attorney currently in the spotlight, Howard Weitzman, drafted the restaurant’s limited partnership, which is said to include Candy Spelling, Whoopi Goldberg, Joe Pesci, Ed Begley Jr. and John Paul DeJoria, owner of Paul Mitchell hair care.
Erpicum has acquired the services of executive chef Serge Falesitch, another Spago veteran, and together they have assembled a long menu that Erpicum calls “Cuisine of the Sun” — a melange of California and Provence influences.Entrees range from a dozen varieties of whole fresh fish baked in a wood-burning oven to vegetable, pasta and risotto dishes.
Still sought for his wine expertise — Erpicum built and stocked the Bel-Air Hotel’s wine cellar — he filled Eclipse’s “wine cellar” room with an enviable selection of wines from the Santa Barbara region of California.
“I’m tired of restaurants with 50 Napa Valley wines,” he said. “It’s so boring.”
Erpicum’s list has plenty of surprises in it, including a choice lot of 1991 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon from Steven Seagal’s Santa Ynez Valley winery. The bottles’ labels by Alexander Mihaylovich depict a bust of Seagal — with grapevines coming out of his ears.