Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


LET’S CELEBRATE PRINCE Michael Romanoff; he, of the famed Beverly Hills restaurant.

For those keeping track of such things, this is in my on-going (albeit far from contiguous) celebration of noted restauranteurs: Fernand Point and Howard Johnson were legit; Prince Michael Romanoff was not. On the other hand, the name Romanoff’s certainly sounded a lot more fur-lined than Geguzin’s.


Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obolensky Romanoff, nephew of Tsar Nicholas II, aka Harry F. Gerguson, born Hershel Geguzin, 1890–1971. Lithuianian-American restauranteur, con artist and actor. Image from

In a sense, Prince Michael Romanoff’s entire life was play acting. Born Hershel Geguzin in Lithuania, he came to New York City at the age of 10 in 1900. In time he became Harry F. Gerguson, a Brooklyn, New York, pants presser. Then his imagination, not to say his reputation, soared. Indeed, in Romanoff’s own assessment, “No one has ever discovered the truth about me–not even myself.”

For a while, Gerguson claimed to be the son of British Prime Minister William Gladstone (who, if true, would have fathered him at age 80). In 1927, he moved to California with the impressive moniker of a nephew of Tsar Nicholas II, lucky enough to have fled the Russian Revolution.

A dapper man, just a tad over five foot, Prince Michael sported spats, a walking stick, a mustache and an impeccable Oxford accent. During a life-long career of grifting, in 1940 he opened Romanoff’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills. One of his grifts was accomplishing this largely on other people’s money. Another was making his Rodeo Drive restaurant the in-place for Hollywood types in the 1940s and 1950s.


Romanoff’s, 240 Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills. This, other images and great tidbits from Martin Turnbull.

Martin Turnbull, author of a series of “Hollywood’s Garden of Allah” novels, wrote, “Only in a town built on the wispy foundations of ballyhoos, baloney and bull could a man like Michael Romanoff open a restaurant like Romanoff’s and actually get away with it for over twenty years.”


Its menu offered delectables such as filet mignon, frog legs, tomatoes stuffed with crab and Strawberries Romanoff. Actually, Prince Michael swiped this last speciality from Escoffier, who called it Strawberries Americaine.

On the other hand, Noodles Romanoff was the restaurant’s creation. Stouffer’s Top of the Rock Restaurant in Chicago inherited it after Romanoff’s closed up shop on New Year’s Eve 1962.

In the 1940s and 1950s, though, Romanoff’s and Prince Michael were all the rage. Actor and fellow rogue David Niven was a close friend. Humphrey Bogart had his own special table there.


Prince Michael shares a laugh with Humphrey Bogart. Bogie’s bowtie was an inside joke responding to the restaurant’s tie requirement. Image from

During this Golden Age of radio, Prince Michael made appearances on popular shows such as “The Jack Benny Program,” “Duffy’s Tavern,” “You Bet Your Life” and “The Charlie McCarthy Show.”


Sophia Loren, left, and Jayne Mansfield at Romanoff’s, 1957.

SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics” recently featured Prince Michael as a guest of Edgar Bergen and his wooden pal Charlie. The episode is also available as a free download from Old Time Radio Downloads.

The repartee was great. On hearing that Romanoff’s serves grouse from Scotland, Charlie asks, “So, have you been to Scotland?” Prince Michael responds, in rich Oxford tones, “Only the Yard.”

Charlie comments on Prince Michael’s cufflinks. “Yes,” he says, “those are from the Royal Crown and this ring is from the Royal Seal.” “And on your vest?” Charlie asks. “That’s Royal Pudding.”

He’s asked, “Is Romanoff’s exclusive?” The Prince responds, “Exclusive?? Why, they’ve thrown me out on several occasions.”

Time magazine, November 6, 1950, said of Prince Michael Romanoff, “he cashed in on the fact that he is one of the few genuine, 24-carat phonies in a city where thin plating has often been known to pose for the real thing.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Larry Crane
    October 3, 2016

    HA!! GREAT STORY DENNIS. What’s not to love about the City of Angelish.

  2. Christopher Lister
    August 30, 2018

    I can tell from the tone of your piece that you never actually met my uncle Mike. If you had, you would realize that he was far more than guilty make him out to be. Did he break the law and take advantage of people in his younger years? It certainly seems that way, although I would urge you to remember that no matter how flat one makes a pancake, it still has two sides. But this was a thing of the past once he opened the first restaurant. In fact, when I knew him, he was honest and generous to a fault.

    When I was a little boy, I used to spend my birthday with uncle Mike. I learned later that this was at his request. He did not have to do this, he wanted to. And I looked forward to it more than Christmas! He would go to extraordinary lengths to make me happy.

    Russian royalty? Highly unlikely. But he will always be a prince in my eyes…

    • Franky Murray Brown
      August 20, 2019

      Hi Christopher,

      My name’s Franky Murray Brown and I’m a documentary filmmaker from London, UK. I’m working on a film about Marilyn Monroe and am currently doing research into Romanoff’s restaurant.

      I’d love to chat to you for research about your uncle Michael Romanoff and aunt Gloria. It would be great also to tell you more about our ideas for the documentary and hear your thoughts.

      Any chat would completely confidential and just for research. If you’d be happy to talk, my email is

      Thanks very much,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: