Gangsters, nightclubs and rock ‘n’ roll make up much of the Sunset Strip’s colorful history — along with a little-remembered tussle in 1966 that became known as “the Sunset Strip riots.”
The melee erupted as young rock fans were protesting efforts to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew and to close nightclubs that catered to them — including Pandora’s Box, at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards.
The confrontation with police also inspired musician Stephen Stills to write “For What It’s Worth,” released two months later by Stills and the band he was in, Buffalo Springfield.
“Riot is a ridiculous name,” he said in an interview. “It was a funeral for Pandora’s Box. But it looked like a revolution.”
The club, painted purple and gold, was perched on a triangular traffic island in the middle of the Strip. It drew a crowd of mostly clean-cut teenagers and twentysomethings wearing pullover sweaters and miniskirts.
Ensuing traffic jams annoyed residents and business owners, who pressured the city and county to get rid of the kids, the clubs and the congestion.
It’s unclear from Times files whether Pandora’s Box or other clubs had been closed by the time the protests began. But young rock fans interpreted efforts to enforce curfew and loitering laws as an infringement on their civil rights.
On Nov. 12, 1966, fliers were distributed along the Strip inviting people to demonstrate. And hours before the protest, “One of L.A’s rock ‘n’ roll radio stations made an announcement that there would be a rally at Pandora’s Box and cautioned people to tread carefully,” wrote Domenic Priore, author of the 2007 book “Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.”
From the Los Angeles Public Library:
“Cars travel in both directions on Sunset Boulevard, at Sweetzer Avenue, in what is now West Hollywood. Seen are homes in the Hollywood Hills, Foster and Kleiser billboards for Grant’s whiskey and Ford automobiles, and a glimpse of the Chateau Marmont (right). Photograph dated March 14, 1950.”
Here’s a view of the same area, around the same time, taken from the roof of the Sunset Tower Apartments.
Barbara Payton reached the pinnacle of Hollywood in 1950. Blonde and beautiful, her libido was robust, her taste ribald; her lovers formed a who’s who of Hollywood leading men from Bob Hope, George Raft, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Guy Madison to Tarzan — with dozens and dozens of lesser lights in between. The tabloids feasted on her liaisons. When she flouted Hollywood’s code by taking on a black lover in 1955, her career was over at age 27. She went from making $10,000 a week at Warner Brothers to utter destitution and ruin, turning tricks for $5 on Sunset Strip.
A groundbreaking true-crime series for audio platforms, HOLLYWOOD & CRIME recreates investigations into notorious crimes and scandals in early 20th-century Los Angeles. All the stories involve movie stars, the rich and famous or those who aspired to be – and all of them were front-page news nationwide in Hollywood’s golden era.
Season 1, THE BLACK DAHLIA SERIAL KILLERS, reopens the investigations into the unsolved cases of 15 women who were brutally murdered or went missing in Los Angeles in the 1940s, including the most mysterious cold case on record, the murder of Elizabeth Short, AKA the Black Dahlia.
Episode 1 will focus on the murder in 1944 of oil heiress Georgette Bauerdorf, who was killed in her apartment at the El Palacio, a block south of the Sunset Strip, at La Cienega and Fountain. Her friends last saw her when she left the Hollywood Canteen after 11 p.m. on Oct. 11. Housekeepers found her body in her bathtub the next morning. She’d been strangled and sexually assaulted. Like the Black Dahlia’s and the other dozen or so cases around that same time, Georgette Bauerdorf’s murderer has never been found.
For more info, visit HollywoodandCrimePodcast.com. Listen to the demo here:
The death of Leonard Nimoy last week was one of those rare losses to the culture that cuts across generations. As Mr. Spock, the ultra-rational, half-human, half-alien character he portrayed on “Star Trek,” Nimoy was instantly recognizable to sci-fi fans of all ages, from wizened old Boomers to hipster millenials — like the crowd who paused for a moment of silence at the Long Beach Comic Expo on Saturday, all of them giving Spock’s trademark Vulcan salute, to honor the passing of the 83-year-old actor.
While Nimoy personified Spock, the character was the invention of Gene Roddenberry, the creative genius behind “Star Trek,” a bold and imaginative wild-West adventure series set in the far reaches of the galaxies — “where no man had gone before” — that premiered in 1966, three years before the first man, Neil Armstrong, had stepped foot on the moon.
During the Sunset Strip’s early incarnation as Hollywood’s playground, the Strip was more than just an entertainment destination where the stars dined, drank and gambled, it was a desirable address. Perched on a hill above Sunset Plaza midway along the Strip, the Sunset Plaza Apartments were the westernmost and last-built luxury apartment buildings on the Strip. Three of the buildings on Sunset are still standing. Two have been repurposed as hotels — the Chateau Marmont and Sunset Tower, built in 1929 and 1931, respectively — and one, the Hacienda Park Apartments, built in 1927, is an office building now called the Piazza del Sol.
The others, including Sunset Plaza Apartments, have been demolished.
This is a section of an aerial photo of West Hollywood taken in the early 1930s that has been slightly enlarged to highlight noteworthy historic sites, including (1) the stately-looking home of Victor Ponet, an early major landowner in the area. In 1892, he purchased 280 acres in the hills above the village of Sherman (7), where he grew poinsettias and avocados. In 1906, Sunset Boulevard was extended westward from the Hollywood city limits to Ponet’s estate when land to the east of his property was developed into a residential neighborhood called Hacienda Park. That same year, Ponet donated land and funds to build St. Victor’s Catholic Church (3) on Holloway Drive. (St. Victor’s original woodframe building was replaced with its current building in the 1960s.) Within the next few years, the Sunset extension was graded all the way west to the Beverly Hills city limits, completing the 1.5 mile route that would become the Sunset Strip.
Here’s an item, interesting in retrospect, by Sylvia Kahn from the January 1942 edition of Modern Screen:
It’ll be a great for Hollywood when John Carroll takes plumpish, black-eyed Virginia Hill to be his blushing bride. If the pair do bounce to the altar, John will bring into the Movietown family the most fantastic personality it has known since Bogus Prince Romanoff was in his prime.
At 23, Virginia Hill is a woman of mystery. Her wealth is inestimable and untraceable, though it is surmised her three marriages (the first occurred when she was 14) might have had something to do with it. Her extravagances are notorious. At $1,000 evening gown [$16,000 today], the gem of Designer Irene’s fall collection, draped her body only three or four times before she gave it to a friend. Other gowns for which she pays from $100 to $400 are often discarded without being worn at all.
Her parties are reminiscent of something that went out with the Romans. Starting with two or three couples, Virginia frequently finds herself winding up the night hosting a mob of fifty. One evening she rented the Mocambo and its entire staff for a shindig. Conservative estimates say that little social cost her well over $3,000.
It’s always cash on the line for Virginia Hill. She travels with gobs of it tied in a rubber band. She’s never used a checkbook even to pay bills for her Chicago apartment, her New York and Hollywood hotel suites, automobile upkeep, maid and secretary.
There’s no denying, Husband Number Four will have to step fast to keep pace with the mad, exciting Miss Hill. But if anyone can do it, John Carroll is the boy. He’s not exactly a rest cure himself.
John Carroll was a popular actor who had appeared in over 25 films by January 1942 — his best-remembered performance, with John Wayne in “Flying Tigers,” would be released in October that year. Six-foot-four and ruggedly handsome — he was often compared to Clark Gable — he had a reputation at the time for playing the field.