Earlier this week, we learned the sad news that Liz Newstat, manager of Chevalier’s Books has passed away. A resident of the Hancock Park area, Newstat had a varied career including being the heart and soul of the bookstore for many years during the tenure of several different owners. Her near encyclopedic knowledge of books and genuine interest in matching readers with writers made shopping at Chevalier’s very special.
In 2014, when current owners Bert Deixler and Daryl Holter purchased the book store, Holter asked Newstat to manage the shop, recalled Erica Luttrell, a longtime staff member who served as co-manager of the store with Newstat until she left in 2017. Luttrell was in her twenties when she starting working at the store in between stretches of acting and voice work. Together, she and Newstat were charged with breathing new life and energy into the beloved neighborhood store. Sharing the workload of selecting books for the shop, meeting with publishers, planning author events and running the day to day operation of the store, Luttrell recalled it was a ton of work, but wonderful to work with Newstat.
“Liz was a very fast reader,” said Luttrell, “I always envied that.”
This writer always appreciated that Newstat made me feel a legitimate part of the community of authors, even though the book I wrote on Larchmont Blvd., was a pictorial history, nothing like a novel of great consequence or significant work of non-fiction. Nonetheless, she always included me in guest author events in the store to promote reading.
“Her enthusiasm for authors was genuine,” said Luttrell. “Liz was 100 precent herself all the time; she wasn’t even capable of pretending.”
Hancock Park resident and author Julia Claiborne Johnson told the Buzz that in her latest book, “Better Luck Next Time,” due out in January, there’s a triumvirate of characters who hang out together: Liz, Theresa and Martha, named after the real life Liz, Theresa and Martha who were Johnson’s solid buddies at Chevalier’s when her first book, “Be Frank With Me,” came out.
Newstat will be missed by many.
The Chevalier’s Bookstore family shared this message with customers this weekend announcing the passing of Newstat:
It is with a stone in our heart and a lump in our throat that we inform you that Liz, the Chevalier’s manager—and its crutch and soul and nagging conscience—has passed away.
There is no way to describe Elizabeth Clare Newstat other than through literature. When Liz came to Chevalier’s she had more stories than any of the books on our shelves. Her taste was capricious and endless, and she filled the store in kind: provocative fiction, terrifying thrillers, discarded classics and the most beautifully illustrated kids books you’ve ever seen. She fought for the authors she believed in and every book she pressed into your hands would become your new favorite.
Her drivers license claims she was 5’4” (but only in her signature platform sandals), a force to be reckoned with whether she was behind the counter or shuffling along Larchmont Boulevard—most likely decked out in her favorite t-shirt emblazoned with Bartleby’s ‘I Would Prefer Not To.’ What she did prefer was calamari, American Spirits cigarettes, sweetened iced lattes, white wine and brie, Karl Ove Knausgaard, her bookstore staff, her incredible son Orson—and when you’d put on Otis Redding we’d be damned if she didn’t start dancing around the store.
If you’ve ever been to Chevalier’s, consider yourself lucky. Every book on that shelf was handpicked by Liz, a Los Angeles icon who knew even better than you did what you should be reading (even if it wasn’t what you wanted). She wanted everyone to do more, ask more, be more, love more. And, most of all, read more.
As we close our current location and begin another chapter in our new home at 133 N Larchmont next year, we will carry Liz’s spirit with us. Hopefully she won’t hate it too much.
Bert, Darryl, Theresa, Xixi, Dan, Kelcie
and all of the Chevalier’s staff—old and new
The staff also shared this wonderful poem by Newstat, as well as her graphic icon, as she preferred not to be photographed.
The Bookstore: A Poem
by Elizabeth Newstat
March 5, 2010
At work I get attached to strangers
Who are dying
Whose dogs are dying
Who have hot diamond engagement rings
Whose checks bounce
Whose cats are dying
Who bring in paper sacks
hiding whiskey bottles before the binge
Whose husbands are having quadruples
Who love Eat, Pray, Love
Who hate Eat, Pray, Love
Whose father-in-law loves Sarah Palin
Whose dog needs a wheelchair
Whose dog can’t eat wheat
(Good! No biscuit for you!)
Whose dog attacks me
Who show me their novels, scripts, poems
and make me happy
Who flirt with the beautiful young Lesbian bookseller
Who flirt with the handsome young gay bookseller
Who flirt with me for practice with the young and beautiful
Who forget the author
Who forget the title
“Begins with moon”
“Begins with the”
“Author is John”
“Author is Jane”
Who buy a book by the cover
Who buy a book by the weight
Who show me their Kindle
but buy my pick in solidarity
Who write books themselves and check shelves
“Where is my book?”
Who write books themselves and don’t check the shelves
Who are geniuses and don’t care if their book is here
Whose dogs are mellow, fat, lazy, crazy
Remember the baker in La Femme du Boulanger
I talk to the dog instead of the owner.
What a wonderful tribute. We all adored Liz for her spunk and her smarts.
Thank you – what a lovely, brilliant tribute, you totally captured Liz. I will treasure this story and her poem.