There were dozens of nightclubs operating at various times along the Sunset Strip in its “Hollywood era,” the period from the 1920s through the ’50s. Among them, however, three were so popular with celebrities that they achieved household-name status nationwide and became famous around the world: Cafe Trocadero, Ciro’s and Mocambo. The first two clubs, Cafe Trocadero – “the Troc” – and Ciro’s were launched by Billy Wilkerson, a nightclub impresario and the founder and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter.
The building that would house the Troc had been occupied by La Boheme, a cafe at 8614 Sunset in Sunset Plaza. La Boheme was closed by authorities in early 1934 because it had offered both cross-dressing performers on stage and illegal backroom gambling downstairs. (It had also sold liquor illegally but Prohibition had ended that year.)
The location was ideal for the celebrities Wilkerson intended to attract. It was in Sunset Plaza on the Strip [map], about halfway between Beverly Hills, where they lived, and Hollywood, where they worked.
Billy Wilkerson acquired the building, remodeled the interior in his trademark Hollywood Regency Moderne style and readied it for a grand opening on Sept. 17, 1934. The name was a reference to Trocadero Plaza at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Wilkerson’s favorite town.
The Troc soon became the top A-list place to be seen in Hollywood – movie stars could be assured Wilkerson would publish photographs taken at the club in THR’s next issue. Wilkerson viewed the club as the special reserve of the rich and famous. He did not book Billy Wilkerson was an inveterate gambler, so set up a room in the back of the lower floor for high-stakes games.