Category: WEHO Vice

The Clover Club seen from the intersection of La Cienega c. 1939. (Photo courtesy of L.A. Public Library)

The Sunset Strip Was Once a Gamblers’ Playground. Could Its Future Be a Return to the Past?

With a slew of new upscale hotels coming to the Sunset Strip and the number of visitors to the boulevard set to rise, the challenge for the Strip’s hospitality businesses is to ensure that these affluent new visitors find the sort of nightlife they seek on the Strip, rather than driving off to restaurants and nightclubs in Hollywood or Beverly Hills. One solution is to revive the business for which the Strip became world famous nearly in 1930s – a lucrative form of entertainment that could generate millions in new tax revenue every year: Gambling.… Read the rest

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Bloody Gang Violence on the Sunset Strip in 1949 Repeats Itself in 2014

The attempted murder of a rap mogul Suge Knight in a Sunset Strip nightclub early Sunday morning has striking parallels to another even more brazen — and more historically significant — assassination attempt against a powerful underworld figure on the Strip 65 years earlier.

Most striking is the fact that both shootings occurred at the same address, 9039 Sunset Blvd. Today it is the location of 1 Oak, an upscale live entertainment venue. In 1949 Sherry’s, a nightspot that was popular with movie stars and mobsters, occupied the site.(One… Read the rest

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Millionaire Producer Howard Hughes’ Racism Triggers Emotional Collapse in a West Hollywood Screening Room

Movie producer Howard Hughes, then America’s most famous millionaire, spent his last years in the throes of what many believe was an untreated obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was also a virulent racist. One night in the spring of 1958, after learning that the all-black cast of “Porgy and Bess” had used his screening room at the Goldwyn studio (The Lot today), he moved to Nosseck’s screening room at 9102 Sunset Blvd.[map] on the Strip.

He stayed there for weeks, screening movies and consuming nothing but milk, Hershey bars, pecans and Poland water.… Read the rest

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High-Class Stripper Lili St. Cyr Arrested after Performance at Ciro’s

In 1951, Ciro’s owner Herman Hover booked Lili St. Cyr, a high-class stripper, to perform in his world-renown venue, making St. Cyr the first stripper to headline on the Sunset Strip.

Part of St. Cyr’s act was to come out onto the stage–which featured a giant, ornately designed bathtub–wearing a mink coat and little else. She would take off the coat, revealing herself to be completely nude, and then step into the bathtub. But one night not long after she opened at Ciro’s–a night when the audience was packed with movie stars–before she could step into the bathtub and finish her act, West Hollywood sheriff’s deputies swarmed the stage.… Read the rest

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Mickey Cohen Moves Vice Operations Headquarters to the Strip

Mickey Cohen assumed control of the East Coast syndicate’s interests in Southern California not long after the assassination of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, in June 1947. Later that year he moved the headquarters of his multi-million dollar underworld empire into a storefront building on the Strip at 8804 Sunset Blvd. [map]. He also installed three of his legit businesses in the building’s street-level storefronts: Michael’s Haberdashery, Courtley Jewelers and his tailor’s shop.

Cohen had many enemies, of course, including rival local gangsters as well as officers inside the LAPD, a few of whom were corrupt and had been shaking him down for years.… Read the rest

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Arrest of Hollywood Madam Brenda Allen Leaves ‘Hollywood Agog’

On the morning of May 5, 1948, dozens of powerful Angelenos — movie stars, moguls and other movers and shakers — must have done spit takes with their coffee upon opening the Los Angeles Times and seeing this headline: “Names Found in Vice Raid Set Hollywood Agog.” The report that followed contained potentially career-killing news: During a raid on the bordello Hollywood madam Brenda Allen operated at 8436 Harold Way above the Sunset Strip [map], police had confiscated a box of index cards containing the names, contact info and sexual predilections of about 250 men whom the Times article described as “notables of the film colony.”… Read the rest

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Battle of the Balcony: The Mother of All Celebrity Brawls

The mother of all celebrity brawls occurred on the balcony of bandleader Tommy Dorsey’s apartment at 1220 Sunset Plaza Drive* off the Strip in the wee hours of Aug. 5, 1944. The primary combatants in what came to be known as “the Battle of the Balcony” were Dorsey and Jon Hall, an action star who had recently played the lead in a Kit Carson biopic. Dorsey had been drinking for the better part of eight hours–he and his wife, the actress Patricia Dane, had spent the evening nightclubbing on the Strip celebrating her 26th birthday and were ending the night at their place with a nightcap party, which was just winding down when the fight broke out.… Read the rest

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Bugsy Busted on Bookmaking Charge at Sunset Tower

On May 25, 1944, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the infamous gangster, was arrested in the luxurious Sunset Tower Apartments building on the rather penny-ante charge of bookmaking. The vice detectives found Bugsy in the apartment of his associate, Allen Smiley, playing cards with Bugsy’s brother-in-law, Solly Solloway, and the A-list tough guy actor, George Raft. Detectives had been listening in on phone calls as Bugsy placed bets at tracks back east. A search of the apartment turned up betting slips bearing the names of Hollywood stars as well as a list of names said to be local bookies.… Read the rest

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Wrong Door Raid: The Celebrity Scandal That Irked Sinatra, Made a Fool of DiMaggio – All at Marilyn Monroe’s Expense

On a quiet night in November 1954, Florence Kotz awoke to the sound of someone taking an ax to her kitchen door. Kotz — a 39-year-old secretary who lived alone on a quiet, West Hollywood-adjacent street — heard glass shatter and wood splinter as the door gave way, but before she could get up, turn on a light or do anything except scream for help, her inner sanctum was breached.

“I was terrified,” Kotz said later. “The place was full of men.… Read the rest

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