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THE SUNSET STRIP
NOTE TO READERS: This is mostly a walking tour of what is often called Hollywood's playground: the Sunset Strip. This tour also includes a few homes in the hills north of the Strip which are best reachable by car.
1. FORMER SITE OF SCHWAB'S PHARMACY, 8024 Sunset Boulevard (southeast corner of Crescent Heights)
Schwab's was the most famous drugstore in America, partly because its owner, pharmacist Leon Schwab, kept claiming that Lana Turner was "discovered" sitting on a stool at the soda fountain in his store. Turner herself has said on several occasions that there is no truth to the story, and it appears the tale was concocted by Schwab to lure customers to the store.
There is, at least, truth to the story that in its heyday Schwab's was a popular hangout for writers and actors looking for work. In the movie Sunset Boulevard, William Holden called it "a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room." Schwab filled prescriptions for studio executives and claimed he told them about some of the young budding actors who he thought were star material.
While Lana Turner was not discovered there, one regular, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, did have a heart attack there while buying cigarettes. The pharmacy was torn down in 1988 to make room for a block-long shopping complex now anchored by Virgin Records.
2. FORMER SITE OF THE GARDEN OF ALLAH, 8152 Sunset Boulevard
Remember the song "Big Yellow Taxi," in which Joni Mitchell sang about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot? That was a reference to the tearing down of the Garden of Allah, another famous Hollywood landmark which once stood on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, directly across the street from Schwab's. The apartment/hotel was what one writer called the unofficial epicenter of Hollywood social activity during the 1930s and 1940s, with Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, David Niven, Errol Flynn, the Marx Brothers, Robert Benchley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tallulah Bankhead, Clara Bow, Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, and Leopold Stokowski among the major celebrities who were Garden residents at one time or another.
According to Bruce Torrence, author of Hollywood: The First 100 Years: "It was not uncommon to see tourists and movie fans lining the sidewalk just to get a glimpse of their favorite star." Torrence called the Garden's inhabitants "a fast-living, hard-drinking, high-rolling lot who burned out fast and took the Garden with them." In 1950 the Garden was sold to Lytton Savings and Loan, which tore it down and built its home office at the site. The site is now a minimall and a branch of Great Western Bank.
3. "ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE" STATUE, 8218 Sunset Boulevard
A 15-foot tall plaster statue of the famous moose and squirrel stands in front of a converted house, which was once owned by Fess Parker, TV's "Davy Crockett," and later served as the offices of Jay Ward Productions, the animation company that created "Rocky and Bullwinkle." In the courtyard of the building, there is also a small courtyard which, in a lighthearted spoof of Mann's Chinese Theater, bears the signatures of June Foray (the voices of both Rocky and Natasha) and, strangely enough, the elbowprints of the cartoon's writers.
Today the building is owned by Hollywood Hounds, a doggie day care center whose guests, People magazine reports, "can enjoy such top-drawer canine services as $35 shiatsu massages, $50 'pawdicures' and a line of metal-studded leatherware. If their owners are willing to pay for it, they can also celebrate life passages such as birthdays, `muttrimonies' and `bark mitzvahs.'"
4. CHATEAU MARMONT, 8221 Sunset Boulevard
When celebrities visiting Los Angeles want to be seen, they often go to the Beverly Hills Hotel. When they wish to keep out of the limelight they often stay at the Marmont.
In his book Life at the Marmont, co-authored with Fred E. Basten, former owner Raymond L. Sarlot noted that the Marmont remains "one of [Hollywood's] best kept secrets, much to the joy of its celebrated clientele. Not too many years ago a Newsday journalist cornered Jill Clayburgh sipping coffee at [the hotel's coffee shop]. Following the usual career questions, she was asked to comment about her stay at the Marmont. 'Oh, don't mention the hotel,' she said, crinkling her face. 'Then all the tourists will come.' A moment later, Clayburgh was on her way, but not before leaving the journalist with a final thought. 'If you must say something about this place, say it's terrible. Please say it's terrible.'
The fact that tourists have not discovered the hotel yet is one of the reasons why stars like Marilyn Monroe, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Roman Polanski, Greta Garbo, Keanu Reeves, and Sarah Jessica Parker have all stayed for extended periods.
One former guest, John Belushi, did attract crowds when he died of a drug overdose on March 4, 1982, in bungalow 3. In the movie The Doors Val Kilmer, playing Jim Morrison, was seen trying to leap out of a sixth-floor penthouse.
5. CAJUN BISTRO, 8301 Sunset Boulevard (at Sweetzer)
This restaurant was formerly the Source, where Diane Keaton dumped Woody Allen in Annie Hall.
6. MANSION OWNED BY JOHNNY DEPP (high on the hillside just west of Sweetzer Avenue)
When actor Johnny Depp bought this 29-room mansion in 1995, some entertainment magazines reported that it was once owned by Bela Lugosi and that the Munchkins stayed there during the filming of The Filming of Oz. Hollywood historian Laurie Jacobson insists that neither claim is correct, and that the castle only looks like the type of home the one-time Dracula star might have lived in.
In fact, the castle was once owned by Hersee Moody Carson, the childless widow of a multimillionaire, and it was called the "Castle of the Fairy Lady" because she used to hold parties there for orphans on major holidays during the 1930s and 1940s. Before Depp shelled out $2.3 million for the gated estate, it was owned by divorce attorney Michael Mitchelson, who lost it in a bankruptcy after being convicted of tax fraud.
What you can see from Sunset, behind thick foliage, is the backside of the mansion. The front entrance is on North Sweetzer Avenue.
7. THE ARGYLE, 8358 Sunset Boulevard
This luxury hotel was once the Sunset Towers, the home to Hollywood stars such as John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Howard Hughes, Roger Moore, and the Gabor sisters. One resident, gangster Bugsy Siegel, was reportedly asked to leave after he was arrested for placing bets at the hotel.
The building itself is an intriguing 13-story Art Deco tower emblazoned with mythological creatures, zeppelins, airplanes, and Adam and Eve.
The club is occasionally used as a film location and has served as the outside of the Voltaire Restaurant in Pretty Woman, John Travolta's hotel room in Get Shorty, Stuart Margolin's apartment in Guilty by Suspicion, and Richard Crenna's apartment in the short-lived TV series "Pros and Cons." Tim Robbins was pitched a story idea at the Argyle poolside in The Player.
8. LIBERACE'S LAST HOME, 8433 Harold Way (between Kings and Queens Road)
Liberace lived in this 28-room mansion from 1961 to 1979. He told his biographer Bob Thomas, author of Liberace: "I tried to turn this place into a museum. In one month we had seventeen thousand reservations. But the neighbors complained" about traffic from the tourists. Liberace's museum was instead built in Las Vegas.
9. HYATT WEST HOLLYWOOD ON SUNSET, 8401 Sunset Boulevard (at Kings Road)
In the 1960s and 1970s, when the hotel was the Continental Hyatt House, and a favorite of rock and rollers, the hotel was better known as "The Riot House." According to Art Fein's L.A. Musical History Tour book, "Led Zeppelin rented as many as six floors here for their carryings on. Their partying set a standard that has never been equaled, with orgies, motorcycles in the halls, and stories yet untold." Fein also reports that the Doors' "Jim Morrison lived here until he was evicted by management for hanging out a window by his fingertips, dangling over the pavement." Little Richard lived here through much of the 1980s and 1990s.
10. HOUSE OF BLUES, 8430 Sunset Boulevard (at Olive)
Investors in this nightclub include Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd. Musical acts range from classic and alternative rock to blues, country, and reggae.
11. THE COMEDY STORE, 8433 Sunset Boulevard
One of Los Angeles' premier comedy clubs, the Comedy Store has featured performances from every important comedian. The names of its headliners are vaunted on its outside walls. This was once the site of Ciro's, one of Hollywood's most popular nightclubs during the 1940s and 1950s.
12. PIAZZA DEL SOL, 8439 Sunset Boulevard
This Spanish Revival apartment building was designated a historic landmark because of its beauty, not because of its notorious history. During the 1930s, this was the site of Lee Francis' "House of Francis," the classiest brothel on the Sunset Strip. The building now houses the offices of several production companies, the names of which most people would not recognize, and the brothels are now located in private homes above the Strip.
13. MONDRIAN HOTEL, 8440 Sunset Boulevard (at Queens Road)
This classy hotel caters to celebrities in the music, entertainment, and fashion industries. Members of Guns and Roses, The Who, Hole (including Courtney Love), the Smashing Pumpkins, the Cranberries, Public Enemy, Gipsy Kings, and Poison have stayed here, as have many actors. In the movie Doc Hollywood, Michael J. Fox stayed in room 1110. The hotel's nightclub, "Sky Bar," which provides panoramic views of the city, is so popular that hotel employees refer to it as "celebrity central."
14. SITE OF "77 SUNSET STRIP," 8532 Sunset Boulevard
Although fans of the popular 1950s TV series would never recognize it today, the front door of the Tiffany Theater is where Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Roger Smith played private eyes at the fictitious address "77 Sunset Strip." The restaurant next to their offices, Dino's Lodge, which was once owned by Dean Martinis also gone. It has been replaced by an office building housing Casablanca Records. Fans of the show will remember Edd "Kookie" Byrnes parking cars at Dino's Lodge.
15. APARTMENT AT 1326 LONDONDERRY VIEW (one block north of Sunset, off Londonderry Place)
Actress Jane Wyman lived in apartment 5 here in the late 1930s, just three blocks from Ronald Reagan's house at 1128 Cory Avenue. After they married on January 26, 1940, Reagan moved in with her. However, the apartment proved to be too small after their first daughter, Maureen, was born, and the Reagans built a house at nearby 9137 Cordell Drive (covered later on the tour).
16. SUNSET PLAZA
This is a two-block cluster of hip outdoor cafes, boutiques, hair salons, and other stores whose prices rival those of Rodeo Drive's. It is one of the best people-watching places in town.
(NOTE: Tourists often ask how to get to the top of the mountain above the Sunset Strip to get some of the most commanding views of the Strip and the city below. It is possible to get there by taking a side trip up Sunset Plaza Drive. Just follow it continuously for about fifteen minutes, as Sunset Plaza Drive becomes Appian Way at the crest of the mountain. Then make a right onto Stanley Hills, and another right on Lookout Mountain, which dead-ends at Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Turn right on Laurel Canyon if you want to return to the Strip. This is not my favorite tour through the Hollywood Hills, the homes are not as unique or as impressive as they are elsewhere in the Hills, but the trip is worth trying once.)
17. LE DOME RESTAURANT, 8720 Sunset Boulevard
People magazine calls "the mammoth circular bar at Le Dome is one of L.A.'s best meet-and-mate spots. Here Sylvester Stallone often wooed Brigitte Nielsen, Rod Stewart met Rachel Hunter and Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith rekindled romance." Author Jackie Collins calls Le Dome "definitely THE place to have that power lunch."
18. SHOREHAM TOWERS, 8787 Shoreham Drive (at Horn)
David Lee Roth and Neil Sedaka are among the celebrity residents of this condominium complex. A house that Humphrey Bogart shared with Mayo Method, his second wife, once stood on this site.
Art Linkletter's daughter Diane, after taking LSD, jumped to her death from a sixth-floor apartment here in 1969. Ballet star turned actor Alexander Godunov died in his condo here of alcohol abuse in 1995.
19. TOWER RECORDS, 8801 Sunset Boulevard
The store, which is often featured in national news stories about the record business, was held up by Jane Fonda and George Segal in the feature film Fun With Dick and Jane.
20. THE VIPER ROOM, 8852 Sunset Boulevard
On October 31, 1993, 23-year-old River Phoenix died of a drug overdose outside this nightclub owned by Johnny Depp. Depp told an interviewer he named the club "after a group of musicians who called themselves Vipers. They were reefer heads and they helped start modern music." In the 1940s, the club was known as the Melody Room and was a notorious hangout for Los Angeles mobsters.
21. THE WHISKY, 8901 Sunset Boulevard (at Clark Street)
This was the West Coast's first discotheque. "Go-go" dancing was born here.
22. THE ROXY, 9009 Sunset Boulevard
The Roxy is one of Los Angeles' top music clubs and showcases for new talent. Although nearby restaurants claim otherwise, John Belushi had his last supper here at On The Rox, an exclusive private club above the Roxy.
23. RAINBOW BAR AND GRILL, 9015 Sunset Boulevard
Vincente Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe met her future husband, Joe DiMaggio, on a blind date, when the Grill's predecessor, the Villa Nova Restaurant, was here.
24. HOUSE AT 9137 CORDELL DRIVE (north of Doheny Drive)
Ronald Reagan lived here with his first wife, Jane Wyman, from 1941 until their divorce in 1948. According to Anne Edwards' biography Early Reagan, he separated from Wyman several times during 1947 and 1948, and during two of those separations he moved into the Garden of Allah. After the house was sold, Reagan moved back to an apartment at 1326 Londonderry View. (After marrying Nancy Davis in 1952, Reagan moved into Nancy's apartment in Brentwood, and then they bought a house in Pacific Palisades. See page 76.)
25. FORMER MADONNA HOME, 9045 Oriole Way
Madonna bought this gated three-bedroom house for $3 million in 1989 from Allen Questron, the former president and CEO of Neiman Marcus, and sold it for $2 million during California's 1994 real estate slump.
26. BLUE JAY WAY (side street off Oriole Drive)
In his book L.A. Musical History Tour, Art Fein reports that "George Harrison rented a house on this street in 1968, just before the Beatles recorded Magical Mystery Tour. Their publicist Derek Taylor had such difficulty finding the place in the fog one night that Harrison penned 'Blue Jay Way,' a dreamy paean to it, which emerged on that album. The street might still be hard to find, because residents report that the street sign is frequently stolen by Beatle(klepto)-maniacs."
27. HOUSE AT 1654 DOHENY DRIVE
This three-story Spanish house is famous for two reasons. According to her memoir Madame 90210, Hollywood madam Alex Adams operated a brothel here for several years before her 1988 arrest. The house was subsequently rented by actress Shannen Doherty during the years she starred on "Beverly Hills 90210." According to a lawsuit filed by her former landlord, Doherty trashed the home and left in the dead of night owing $14,000 in overdue rent.
28. SIERRA TOWERS, 9255 Doheny Drive
Jack Webb lived and died in this exclusive high-rise condominium complex. Actor Peter Lawford also lived here in the late 1960s and early 1970s, after he sold his beach house in Santa Monica. Lawford moved out of Sierra Towers after the 6.4 earthquake that shook Los Angeles on February 9, 1971, reportedly because he did not like the way the building swayed in the quake.
(NOTE: Tourists who wish to combine the Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills tours can do so by continuing west on Doheny. Hillcrest Drive which is where the Beverly Hills tour in this book starts is just two blocks west of Sierra Towers on Doheny. See page 19.)
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