About Playground to the Stars

Harbinger: An uber-kitschy giant showgirl twirling atop a Las Vegas casino’s billboard installed next to the Chateau Marmont in the late fifties was a sign that the end of the Sunset Strip’s glory days was at hand

Playground to the Stars explores the early history of the Sunset Strip, from its origins in 1906 when Sunset Boulevard was extended westward from Hollywood through poinsettia fields, melon patches and orange groves toward the new city of Beverly Hills to its transformation three decades later into a world-famous boulevard lined with chic shops and boutiques, art galleries, four-star restaurants, elegant hotels and world-famous nightclubs, many of which were fronts for mob-run, high-stakes gambling operations. The story of this early period — the Strip’s Hollywood era — ends in the late fifties after a bloody mob war for control of the boulevard led to a crack-down that drove the gambling and the millions it produced each year in illegal revenue off the Strip, mostly to the new Strip in Las Vegas.

The coverage coincides with a series of national and world events that directly affected Hollywood and the Strip — Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II and the anti-communist Black List — as well as the advent of the morality-based Production Code was which self-imposed on the movie studios after a series of off-camera scandals that played out on the Strip and elsewhere.

In fact, it is through the lens of the crime and scandals that transpired there that this project chronicles the Strip’s rise and fall. Many of the notorious incidents covered here involved famous people and made international headlines at the time and are still part of Hollywood lore today. Others were covered up or have been forgotten until now.

Relying on rigorous research sourced to contemporaneous sources, biographies of key players and local histories, Playground to the Stars operates on multiple levels: a book that is in progress; the website, where articles and blogs about the Strip’s history are published; outreach to groups and organizations; and historical research and consulting services.

The Book

In book form, Playground to the Stars recounts the history of the Strip chronilogically, starting with a brief early history of the area that became the Strip and West Hollywood and then following events as they played out over the first six decades of the twentieth century. The coverage of the book is outlined in the Timeline published in this website.

Playground to the Stars is represented by the James Fitzgerald Literary Agency in New York. Contact: Email

The Website

The website for Playground to the Stars publishes blog posts, articles and vintage photographs, including “the and now” shots of Sunset Strip locations. The site is connected to social media through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Outreach

Playground to the Stars author and editor Jon Ponder is available for speaking engagements and interviews about the history of the Sunset Strip, Hollywood and related topics. Contact: Email

Consulting

Ponder is also available to authors, filmmakers and others seeking expertise and research on early Hollywood in general and the Sunset Strip specifically. Contact: Email

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