This shot from a 1949 film may well be the last existing photograph of the building that housed the world-famous Trocadero nightclub on the Sunset Strip.
Located at 8610 Sunset in the Strip’s Sunset Plaza section, Hollywood Reporter founder and publisher Billy Wilkerson opened Cafe Trocadero in 1934. Wilkerson was a compulsive gambler and the ground floor of the building (below the street level shown here) was devoted to high-stakes gaming. He sold the club in 1938 to Nola Hahn, who ran Wilkerson’s gambling operations. Hahn sold it within months to showman and former movie producer Felix Young, who, like Wilkerson, was a compulsive gambler and doubtless continued the illegal gaming operations downstairs.
Felix Young closed Cafe Trocadero in October 1939 during a lease dispute with the landlord. It briefly reopened in December, just long enough to host the after-party for the Hollywood premiere of “Gone with the Wind.” Young — who was initially a partner in Mocambo when it opened in January 1941 — put the company into bankruptcy in the spring of 1940, after which the building was stripped of all its furnishings. It sat empty for three years. Early on, it was vandalized; later it was considered to be the site of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences museum — which today, some 70 years on, is finally being built a few miles away at Wilshire and Fairfax avenues.
In 1944, Latin bandleader Eddie LeBaron opened a new club there which he called “The Trocadero.” It was a hit but after LeBaron was drafted to serve in World War II, his brother sold the club to another gambling impresario, George Goldie. The new Trocadero went through a succession of owners — at one time it was managed by Glenn Billingsley, whose actress wife Barbara later played June Cleaver, the mom on “Leave It to Beaver” — before closing its doors for good in early 1947. The building was later demolished and for decades a large gaping empty space fronted by a wall occupied the site.
The screen capture at the top of the page is from the 1949 film, “The Crooked Way,” and shows what appears to be a construction barrier around the front of the Trocadero. This barrier could have been part of a renovation of the building, perhaps a short-lived conversion into retail space, or it could have been erected in advance of the demolition. A new storefront building occupies the space today.
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