Legends of The Sunset Strip

December 29, 2016 | by Erin Pedraja

The Sunset Strip is a party destination like no other—home to gangsters in the roaring 1920s, playground of Hollywood royalty then and now, and the origin of many famous brands.

In the 1920s Angelenos discovered poinsettia fields and avocado groves outside the boundary of Los Angeles and the jurisdiction of the LAPD. That lovely spot became West Hollywood. With a relaxed (to nonexistent) police presence, WeHo grew into a lawless entertainment mecca. The Strip is still a prime destination for swish music, entertainment and partying, plus superb dining, and ultra-stylish shopping.

In the 1960s much of the genesis of modern rock-n-roll happened on The Strip. To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the City of West Hollywood produced a program called ‘There’s Something Happening Here’ which includes art exhibitions and special events. Learn more

Cafe Trocadero
8610 Sunset Boulevard
Notorious gangsters Bugsy Siegel, Micky Cohen, Willie Bioff, Johnny Roselli and Tony Comero made The Strip their territory as old Hollywood greats moved in. The group frequented Café Trocadero (which still stands on The Sunset Strip), a French-themed nightclub built in 1934. Partiers included Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Bing Crosby, Lana Turner among others. The as-of-yet undiscovered Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason toured here for Amateur Hour, and high rollers played their hands at poker in the back room.

Viper Room
8852 Sunset Boulevard
In the 1940s The Melody Room opened as an intimate jazz club. Mobsters Sigel and Cohen used it as a gambling den. In 1993 Johnny Depp purchased the venue and renamed it Viper Room, after a group of musicians known for smoking weed. The Viper Room was the site of River Phoenix’s tragic Halloween overdose in the same year. Hear rising rock bands and headliners in this landmark gritty nightclub.

Sunset Tower Hotel
An art deco masterpiece by famed architect Leland A. Bryant, The Argyle Hotel, now known as Sunset Tower Hotel, was built in 1929. Howard Hughes lived in the penthouse, and housed several mistresses in the apartments. John Wayne lived here, with a cow on the balcony. Bugsy Siegel’s apartment is now the Tower Bar! Relive the old Hollywood days!

The Comedy Store
In the 1940s, several popular West Hollywood venues opened. Billy Wilkerson of the Hollywood Reporter opened Ciros—a red-hot club frequented by Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Benny and Ava Gardner. In 1972, Mitzi Shore founded The Comedy Store on the same grounds. Comedians like Jim Carrey, Howie Mandel, Michael Keaton, Ed Begley Jr. and David Letterman got their start at Amateur Night here. Letterman served as the club’s emcee for 3 years, and Richard Pryor chose The Comedy Store to make his 1972 comeback.

Sherry's Restaurant
9039 Sunset Boulevard
Also built in the 1940s, Sherry’s Restaurant is best known as the site where Bugsy Siegel’s right-hand man Mickey Cohen was gunned down in a drive by.

Rainbow Bar & Grill
9015 Sunset Boulevard
Originally known as Villa Nova, this Italian eatery served as the stars’ choice for romantic dates. In 1945 Vincente Minelli (Liza Minelli’s father) proposed to Judy Garland. Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio enjoyed a first blind date in 1953.

Bob Gibson transformed the site into Rainbow Bar & Grill—the hot spot for rock and roll royalty through the 1970s and 1980s. Everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Guns n Roses to Alice Cooper, John Lennon, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Roman Polanski partied here. John Belushi at his last meal (of lentil soup) here just before overdosing at his Chateau Marmont bungalow.

Whisky A Go Go
8901 Sunset Boulevard
Former Chicago policeman Elmer Valentine opened Whisky A Go Go in 1964. A visionary, Valentine suspended the first female DJ above the dance floor in a glass cage. He created go-go girls, dressing employees in miniskirts and short white boots to dance in cages throughout the venue. The Doors got their start here, and in 1966 became the house band. Rock legends and rising stars play here—including Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Kinks, The Who and The Byrds.

The Playboy Club
8560 Sunset Boulevard
In the mid 1960s Hugh Hefner opened this 4-story club and occupied the top floor. Lines to get in frequently wrapped around the block. The club no longer stands.

The Roxy Theatre
9009 Sunset Boulevard
In 1973, The Roxy joined The Strip and hosted top rock artists like Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Neil Young and David Bowie. In 1974, the venue hosted to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The astounding crowd gave owner Lou Adler the idea to turn the play into the movie we know and love today.

Mondrian
8440 Sunset Boulevard
In 1984, this apartment complex was converted into an avant-garde hotel, full of chrome, glass and black lacquer, modeled after Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. Elvis Costello and Keith Richards frequent the hotel bar. In 1995, Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame purchased the hotel and keeps it true to its rock n’ roll roots. The hotel’s poolside Skybar—owned by Randy Gerber (Mr. Cindy Crawford)—attracts guests like Courtney Love, Public Enemy, Guns N Roses, The Who, Smashing Pumpkins, Poison and more. Today, Sky Bar remains a popular destination for anyone who wants to spot celebrities.

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