Arts & Culture

Legendary Sunset Strip Hot Spots, Past and Present

West Hollywood’s nightlife started in the 1920s—and it’s still going strong


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.

Saddle Ranch Chop House

September marks the 20th anniversary of the Saddle Ranch Chop House. And what a ride it’s been!

Featured on many hit TV shows, the Western-themed spot and its signature mechanical bull have earned a special place in pop culture. Rather not ride? Relax and listen to the Saddle Ranch Fiddlers while you eat. Steaks, ribs, s’mores and cocktail carafes are menu highlights.

On Sept. 18, from 9 p.m. to close, the anniversary party will feature a DJ, raffles, giveaways, and more. Reserve your table to join the celebration.

8371 SUNSET BOULEVARD
THESADDLERANCH.COM

Carney’s

“You Ain’t Had Nothing Yet!” reads a Carney’s billboard. And eating delicious burgers or hot dogs inside a renovated train car is something you’re never gonna forget. Just ask the countless customers who’ve been downing the classic American fare since 1975.

Celebrity fans include giants like Jay Leno and the late, great French entertainer Johnny Hallyday. With such an eye-catching exterior, it’s a natural that Carney’s is also in demand for brand events with the likes of Nickelodeon and Coach.

8351 SUNSET BOULEVARD
CARNEYTRAIN.COM

Café Trocadero (now Sunset Trocadero)

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.

8610 SUNSET BOULEVARD

Viper Room

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.

8852 SUNSET BOULEVARD
VIPERROOM.COM

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!

8358 SUNSET BOULEVARD
SUNSETTOWERHOTEL.COM

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Where every scandal that ever happened, happened.

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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.

8433 SUNSET BOULEVARD
THECOMEDYSTORE.COM

Sherry’s Restaurant (now 1 OAK)

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.

9039 SUNSET BOULEVARD

Rainbow Bar & Grill

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.

9015 SUNSET BOULEVARD
RAINBOWBARANDGRILL.COM

Whisky A Go Go

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.

8901 SUNSET BOULEVARD
WHISKYAGOGO.COM

The Playboy Club (now Hills Penthouse)

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.

8560 SUNSET BOULEVARD

The Roxy Theatre

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.

9009 SUNSET BOULEVARD
THEROXY.COM

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Damn, we look GOOOOOOD 👀

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Mondrian Los Angeles

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.

8440 SUNSET BOULEVARD
MONDRIANLOSANGELES.COM

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Let's make some memories tonight 📸: @marco.esq

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