Miljenko “Mike” Gotovac, who became a familiar face if not a friend to many Hollywood celebrities and West Hollywood locals during his 50-plus years as a bartender at Dan Tana’s, died on Thursday of the coronavirus.
Gotovac, 76, was known for his gruff personality and sarcastic sense of humor. (“Shut up and drink,” was what he would say after pouring a drink for the regulars who came to know him well.) But the man known as the “resident curmudgeon” also was known for his warm heart and an engaging personality that brought customers back week after week (if not day after day) over the decades.
Gotovac started working at Dan Tana’s in 1968, four years after it opened. In the video posted above he is interviewed by Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles and notes that the cash register and the payphone on the wall have been at Dan Tana’s as long as he has.
While it took him a while to get really fluent in English, he quickly connected with the Dan Tana customers who sat at the bar in front of him. The celebrities he served included Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Jack Nicholson and Tony Curtis, and the Eagles, who wrote the famous “Lyin’ Eyes” at a corner table.
While some of those patrons are no longer alive, Gotovac tells Martino that over the years at Dan Tana’s “nothing has changed except “we are getting older and the prices are getting higher.”
Gotovac’s death has prompted many customers to post memories of him and their experience at Dan Tana’s.
“It’s a terrible day,” Martino said. “We’ve lost Mike Gotovac, the bartender at Dan Tana’s Restaurant. He was so much MORE than a bartender. He was a dear friend to us all and one one of the main reasons we stepped through those doors at D.T’s. The loss is way too heavy to process. I can’t imagine not seeing his face when walking in, hearing that cantankerous sense of humor he had, or watching him in his element behind the bar. “
Gotovac was born in Lećevica, Croatia on Dec. 2, 1943, to Miše and Boja Gotovac. A profile of him posted by St. Anthony Croatian Catholic Church, of which he was a member, says he “matured into a man of family, faith, and Croatian patriotism.”
“In 1964, due to the poor economic conditions in what was then Communist Yugoslavia, he become part of the wave of young Croatian men, ‘Gastarbeiters,’ that travelled to Germany for work. In 1967, he found himself on his way to Los Angeles, California, where he became a member of the tight-knit Croatian-American community.“ Gotovac was a founder of the Croatian-American Club and a broadcaster on t he Croatian Radio Program.
The profile notes that in 1973 he married Milojka (Millie), with whom he had three sons: Matija, Domagoj, and Milian.
“He had a strong constitution with a remarkable threshold for tolerating pain. As a rule, he suffered in silence. In his final fight, this strength seemed like it was going to succeed as he withstood successive attacks from his illness. However, in the end the illness had a trick that strength and will could not counter.
“He lived a full life and experienced all its joys. However, his passing is no less tragic as he was still a pillar of support for his family, and he never got the chance to fully retire, release himself from life’s obligations, and enjoy his remaining years quietly with his girls.”
Gotovac is survived by his wife and sons and granddaughters Emelia, Iva and Beatrix, brother Ivica, sisters Anka and Dragica, and numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents and sister Ivka. The family will hold a private funeral service.
Gotovac’s family has asked those who want to commemorate him to make a donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, an institution that he supported.