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Churchill painting vanishes from Santa Monica pub

August 1, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Winston_churchill_portrait Talk about lack of decency.

A thief has made off with a painting of Sir Winston Churchill that hung for decades at Ye Old King’s Head Pub, the quintessential English pub on Santa Monica Boulevard in Santa Monica, proprietors say.

The culprit purloined the enormous oil painting of the legendary British leader at the very moment pub patrons and staff were most vulnerable: business hours between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

“They just took it off the wall and walked out with it,” said Dusty Kerr, King’s Head’s manager.

Kerr and a number of regulars interviewed on Sunday morning couldn’t quite pin down when it was stolen. Ten days ago, maybe? The establishment has also chosen not to involve the police – no theft report has been filed – although a reward has been offered for its return. (Nobody could recall just how much that was Sunday morning.)

Still, Kerr said, “it’s the talk of the town. Where’s Winston gone?”

The painting, came over from England when original owner, Phil Elwell, opened the pub 35 years ago and put it on the main wall of the restaurant’s dining room. It portrayed Churchill, serious and pugnacious, above a cloud and a stark cityscape. Behind him hung a torn Union Jack, upside down, symbolizing the danger the country faced during World War II.

It stood there for generations, presiding over diners as they savored plates of bangers & mash, kidney pie and fish and chips.

So it’s not surprising that even days after the theft, King’s Head staff can scarcely conceal their grief.
“We’re very upset,” said employee Debbie Malone. “Everyone used to comment on it all the time, didn’t they?”

Kerr agreed.

“We’re looking for another one,” she said. “We may try EBay.”

-- Sam Quinones

Photo: The missing portrait of Winston Churchill. Credit: Courtesy of Ye Old Kings Head Pub.