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

Saddle Ranch Chop House celebrated their 20th anniversary this year. 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.

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

Notorious gangsters Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen, Willie Bioff, Johnny Roselli and Tony Comero made the Strip their territory as old Hollywood greats moved in. The group frequented Cafe Trocadero, 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. The Trocadero closed in 1947.

8610 SUNSET BOULEVARD

Viper Room

In 1951, the Melody Room opened as an intimate jazz club but back in the ’40s, mobsters Siegel and Cohen used it as a gambling den. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was a club called the Central. In 1993, Johnny Depp purchased the venue and renamed it Viper Room, after a group of musicians known for smoking weed. That same year, the club was the site of River Phoenix’s tragic Halloween overdose. Today, you can still 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, opened in 1931. Howard Hughes lived in the penthouse, and housed several mistresses in the apartments. John Wayne reportedly once brought a cow up to his apartment. Bugsy Siegel’s ground floor apartment is now the Tower Bar, a glamorous spot to enjoy a cocktail and relive old Hollywood.

8358 SUNSET BOULEVARD
SUNSETTOWERHOTEL.COM

The Comedy Store

Several popular West Hollywood venues opened on the Strip in the 1940s. Billy Wilkerson of the Hollywood Reporter opened Ciro’s , 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,., and David Letterman got their start at Amateur Night here. Letterman served as the club’s emcee for three years, and Richard Pryor chose The Comedy Store to make his 1972 comeback. The Comedy Store is still open, holding comedy events every night of the year.

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 shot and almost killed in a drive by. This address is now home to the nightclub 1 OAK, which opened in 2014.

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 at the restaurant in 1952. In 1972, Mario Maglieri, Elmer Valentine and Phil Tanzini transformed the site into Rainbow Bar & Grill—the hot spot for rock and roll royalty through the 1970s and 1980s. Everyone from to Guns N’ Roses to Alice Cooper, John Lennon, The Who, and Led Zeppelin partied here. In 1982, John Belushi ate 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 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 played here—including Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Kinks, The Who and The Byrds. The legendary club continues to rock, and all ages are welcome.

8901 SUNSET BOULEVARD
WHISKYAGOGO.COM

The Playboy Club (now Hills Penthouse)

In the mid-1960s, Hugh Hefner opened this four-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 , David Bowie, and Bob Marley & The Wailers. In 1974, the venue hosted the first American run of the Rocky Horror Picture Show on its stage. The astounding crowd gave owner Lou Adler the idea to turn the play into the movie we know and love today. The Roxy is still open today, and the intimate venue is a great place to see live music.

9009 SUNSET BOULEVARD
THEROXY.COM

Mondrian Los Angeles

Built in 1959 as an apartment complex, the building was converted into an avant-garde hotel. It reopened in 1985, full of chrome, glass, and black lacquer, modeled after the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian . Elvis Costello and Keith Richards have been known to frequent the hotel bar. In 1995, Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame purchased the hotel, keeping it true to its rock ‘n’ roll roots. The hotel’s poolside lounge Skybar—has attracted such celebrity guests as Courtney Love, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, The Who, Smashing Pumpkins, and Poison. Today, Skybar remains a popular destination for anyone who wants to spot celebrities.

8440 SUNSET BOULEVARD
MONDRIANLOSANGELES.COM

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