SUNSET STRIP HISTORY
Sunset Strip is legendary worldwide. Its allure of yesteryear -- a time when it was known as the playground to old-guard Hollywood elite like Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and the home of infamous nightclubs and bars like Ciros and Macombo has evolved and escalated into a preferred destination in the worlds entertainment center, both for locals and world travelers, alike.
The Strip offers a premier collection of boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, nightclubs, and upscale retail shopping, consistently featured in the world's best lists, luring an eclectic crowd from all corners.
Since the Strip was located outside of the city of Los Angeles and policed by the LA County Sheriff in the early years, there was a more relaxed attitude toward law enforcement which helped it become one of the hottest entertainment spots in the country.
The boutiques and restaurants became the center of The Sunset Strip, rivaling other premiere nearby shopping destinations like Rodeo Drive and Hollywood & Vine.
The historic Sunset Tower Hotel (a.k.a Argyle Hotel was designed in 1929 by architect Leland A. Bryant and some still consider it one of the most important art deco structures in Los Angeles. Howard Hughes used to occupy the penthouse. Many remember John Wayne keeping a cow on the balcony of his Tower apartment. In the early eighties, there were plans to demolish the building but the London-based St. James Club paid $46 million for the property. The Tower Bar, which recently opened in the newly renovated Sunset Tower hotel, used to be Bugsy Siegel'sSiegel's 1930s apartment.
The Melody Room, an intimate jazz bar during the 1940s, is rumored to have served as an illicit gambling den for notorious gangsters, Mickey Cohen, and Bugsy Siegel. The world-famous music venue Viper Room now occupies the space.
Where The Comedy Store currently stands is the location for the famous Ciros opened in 1940. It was one of the hottest clubs around at the time. The names that frequented Ciros were a who who's who of American entertainment, starting at the very top with Frank Sinatra and stars like Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, George Burns, and Jack Benny. Like many of the hot nightclubs of the Sunset Strip, the club suffered in the 50s because it could not compete with the money that Las Vegas casinos offered to top acts and entertainers.
Where the 1 Oak Club is today In the 1940s, a place called Sherry'sSherry's Restaurant stood. Mickey Cohen, known once as Bugsy Siegel'sSiegel's right-hand man, was shot there in 1948.
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their first blind date at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in 1953 when it was still the Villa Nova. Vincente Minelli, Liza'sLiza's father, proposed to Judy Garland at the restaurant in 1945.
Whisky A Go-Go was opened in the 1960s by a former Chicago cop named Elmer Valentine. He modeled the discotheque after a club he had seen in Paris and suspended the 1st female DJ in a glass cage above the dance floor. Go-Go girls were born when he put women in mini-skirts and short white boots in cages around the club. Goldie Hawn was employed as a Go-go-dancer before Rowan and Martin'sMartin's laugh-in. Johnny River'sRiver was the live-action when it first opened, and Jim Morrison and the Doors became the house band in 1966. The Who, the Kinks, the Byrds, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Jimi Hendrix all also played at the Whisky.
Jim Morrison of the Doors balanced on a railing on top of the tallest building on the Strip, 9000 Sunset, while filming a scene for the movie HWY (1969).
The Rainbow Bar & Grill has been full of rock n roll history since Bob Gibson opened it in 1972. Frequent rocker guests were the Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Alice Cooper, Guns n Roses, and Roman Polanski. John Lennon'sLennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce was also commonly seen outside the Rainbow. John Belushi ate his last meal of Lentil Soup at the Rainbow Bar & Grill before he went back to his Chateau Marmont bungalow and overdosed.
The Comedy Store was founded in 1972 by Mitzi Shore, who still owns the club. Many famous comedians started here at amateur night, such as Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton, Ed Begley Jr., Howie Mandel, and David Letterman (who was also the emcee for three years after his debut). Richard Pryor staged his 1972 comeback here and recorded three live albums at the Store.
The Roxy has been on Sunset since 1973. Bruce Springsteen gave a breakthrough concert here in 1975. Other major Roxy performances include David Bowie, Neil Young, and Prince. In 1974, The Roxy became home to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and its popularity prompted owner Lou Adler to turn the successful play into a movie. Lou Adler, produced the Cheech and Chong album.
The Mondrian was converted from a 1950s apartment complex to a hotel in 1984, which was styled as an homage to the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian with its black lacquer, chrome, and glass exterior. The hotel attracted rock stars like Keith Richards and Elvis Costello, who practically lived at the hotel bar.
The Sky Bar, at the Mondrian, attracts the rock and roll crowd, including members from the Smashing Pumpkins, Guns N Roses, Public Enemy, Hole (with Courtney Love), The Who, Poison, the Cranberries, Gypsy Kings, and others.
In 1993, Johnny Depp transformed Central into the hip and famous Viper Room, which he named after a group of pot-smoking musicians who called themselves Vipers. Actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside of the Viper on Halloween night in 1993.
Book Soup, near Sunset and Fountain, used to be the site of a mortuary but is now one of the most famous bookstores for celebrity book signings and sightings. Some of the stars who have signed their works at the Store include Howard Stern, Mia Farrow, Mark Wahlberg, Loni Anderson, and Johnny Carson'sCarson's sidekick, Ed McMahon. Other stars like Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Thora Birch, David Bowie, Alec Baldwin, Joan Collins, and Jackie Collins have been spotted browsing there numerous times.
Today The Sunset Strip, or just The Strip, stretches 1.6 miles through the heart of the City of West Hollywood, ending at Beverly Hills, Sierra Drive. Starline'sStarline's Celebrity Homes, Grand City Tour, Hop On Hop Off all include a drive-through or stop on Sunset Strip. The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, restaurants, or live music at one of the many famous nightclubs are the most popular things to do.