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.
This is a clip of a performance by Eddie LeBaron and his band performing in a scene from the 1944 movie, “Trocadero.” In 1943,LeBaron, whose real name was Eduardo Albaclini de Gastine, and his brother Albert, leased the building at 8610 Sunset Blvd. on the Strip that three years earlier had housed Billy Wilkerson’s Cafe Trocadero and opened a club they called the Trocadero, which featured Latin music and dancing. They sold the club a year later when LeBaron was drafted and left to serve in World War II.
LeBaron, who came from an aristocratic Latin American family, did not have to work. He was married to Burnice Smith, a multimillionaire heiress to the Smith-Corona typewriter fortune.
Left: Ted Healy (in hat) with the Three Stooges; top right: Wallace Beery; bottom: Pat DiCicco
The premise of The Fixers: Eiddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine, by E. J. Fleming, is that in the days when the movie studios dominated the Los Angeles economy studio executives used their influence with city officials, including law enforcement, to protect their stars — the studios’ biggest assets — when the stars got into trouble. The “fixers” were studio executives who were charged with cleaning up these messes, even if the clean-up involved tampering with evidence, as is believed to have happened in numerous sensational cases, including the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and the purported suicides both of Jean Harlow’s husband Paul Bern, a studio executive himself, and Thelma Todd, the comedic actress and nightclub entrepreneur, just to name a few.
Fleming covers these and many other famous Hollywood crimes and scandals, focusing on how MGM fixers Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling interfered with investigations and engineered coverups. Most of the incidents he covers are familiar stories in the Hollywood hagiography, even if the coverups and skullduggery behind them are not. One that is not as well known, however, is the story of the death in December 1937 of comedian Ted Healy, a vaudevillian and successful supporting player in movies who earned a place in the slapstick comedy hall of fame by inventing of the Three Stooges.
Top: Looking south at the Trocadero at 8610 Sunset Blvd. from Sunset Plaza drive, in a photo taken after 1944; bottom: a newly built row of Sunset Plaza shops that occupies the same lot today
Here’s another angle showing the Trocadero looking east:
This map of Hollywood was apparently taken from a tourist guidebook. Unfortunately, the page shown here, Plate 59, is all that was available online, based on a quick but thorough scour.
As the map key notes, items indicated with letters refer to “pleasure resorts.” The first of these, A. La Boheme Cafe, is not shown on this map because it was located at 8614 Sunset Blvd. [map], four miles west of Hollywood and Vine, in the Sunset Plaza section of the Sunset Strip. Cafe LaBoheme — which for a while featured entertainment by Karyl Norman, a cross-dressing star of what was known as the “Pansy Craze” — was closed during Prohibition. Later, Hollywood Reporter publisher Billy Wilkerson acquired the space and reconfigured into the Trocadero Cafe, which, in the 1930s and ’40s, was one of the most famous night clubs in the world.
Many of the spots shown here are still standing eight decades after this map was published: