OFFBEAT: Lana Turner would love Lowell grad's new soda fountain career

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-03-28T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Lana Turner would love Lowell grad's new soda fountain careerBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

The most famous of all drug stores, from the days when a soda fountain area was a standard feature for many neighborhood pharmacies, is still Schwab's, which was a landmark at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles.

It closed 30 years ago this year, in October 1983, and five years later, on Oct. 6, 1988, was demolished to make way for a shopping complex and multiplex theater.

Today, it remains forever famous for its association as the place where actress Lana Turner was discovered. Although other sources say she was actually first noticed at the Top Hat Cafe, a stone's throw away down Sunset, Turner like many hopeful starlets, would hang out at Schwab's knowing it was a hotspot for Hollywood industry types.

It was Billy Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, in 1937, who was struck by 16-year-old Turner's beauty (and body) when he noticed her sitting on a stool at the soda fountain, and referred her to Zeppo Marx, who had long left his brothers' comedy team to work as a talent agent.

In our region, soda fountains were the norm in each community's drug store. In Hobart and Hammond, it was Walgreens. And Griffith Pharmacy, at the corner of Broad and Main streets across from the bowling alley, also sported a popular soda fountain. In Hebron, it was Buchanan's Drug Store. And in Valparaiso, Siever's Drug Store was the favorite hang out.

While at this month's International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, I was strolling by a booth when I heard my name called by a bubbly voice.

It was Brandice Maher, proving it really is "a small world," since she had spotted my ever-present press ID badge clipped to my collar.

"I know you!" she said.

"I read your column and my parents are big fans."

Maher, who graduated from Lowell High School in 2002 as Brandice Olivotto, is now married and lives in Minneapolis, and works as a field merchandising specialist for sodastream USA, Inc., headquartered in New Jersey.

Maher is working hard to bring back the day of the old-fashioned soda fountain, but with the added advantage for all of the fantastic fizzing beverage favorite concoctions of yesteryear now can be easily whipped-up right at home.

Maher, the daughter of Dan and Sandy Olivotto, who now live in Schererville, invited me over to her booth area where she served me up some of the most refreshing effervescent beverages I've sipped in quite some time, all while using the simple sodastream technology.

The system is small, compact and priced starting at $79.99, and is smaller than a coffeemaker to easily fit on the counter. The process makes carbonated water from tap water to create sparkling water in under 30 seconds, with no clean-up. The convenience of homemade soda also helps protect the environment from all the extra plastic bottles. You can even adjust the "fizz level" while adding any of the line of flavors, ranging from orange and root beer to grape, cola and countless others, including diet options.

The sodastream soda fountains are available at Target, Kohls, Bed, Bath and Beyond, JC Penney and Walmart or call (800) 763-2258 or visit

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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