The source of this photo of William Powell and Carole Lombard dancing at Ciro’s says that it was taken in 1940, which would have been seven years after Powell and Lombard divorced and a year or so into her marriage to Clark Gable. She died two years later in a plane crash.
In its five decades at the epicenter of the movie industry’s comings and goings on the Sunset Strip, Schwab’s Drug Store was a lot of things — a movie industry meeting place, restaurant, soda fountain, liquor store, tourist attraction and, oh yeah, a pharmacy.
But there was one thing Schwab’s was not. Despite the persistent myth otherwise, it was not where Lana Turner was discovered.
Here’s the myth: In January 1937, 16-year-old Judy Turner ditched high school to grab a Coke at Schwab’s. Mervyn Le Roy, the famous movie director, happened to be seated at the counter that day. He couldn’t help noticing the attractive young lady. Sure, she was wearing a tight sweater but what really got the director’s attention was Judy’s wholesome beauty. The director introduced himself and offered her a screen test. The test was boffo, and the studio offered her a contract on the spot. Judy changed her name to Lana and, after making a movie or two, she was Lana Turner, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
In August 1945, just weeks before World War II ended, the finest restaurants and nightclubs on the Sunset Strip were indicted by a federal grand jury for violating the meat rationing laws.
Among those questioned by investigators and by the grand jury were representatives of:
- The Players, 8225 Sunset
- St. Donat’s, 8351 Sunset
- The Marquis, 8420 Sunset
- Ciro’s, 8433 Sunset
- Temple of Heaven, 8711 Sunset
- Cafe Gala, 8795 Sunset
- Bubilchki, 8846 Sunset
- The Little Gypsy, 8917 Sunset
- Trocadero, 8610 Sunset
- Restaurant La Rue, 8633 Sunset
- Villa Nova, 9015 Sunset
- Bit of Sweden, 9051 or 9031 Sunset
It is unclear what became of these charges, but it’s likely they were dropped after victory was declared on Sept. 2.
By the time his career ended, Frank Sinatra had become the avatar of 1960s’ “Rat Pack” cool. An American original. An institution.
His career took off in the early years of World War II when his smooth, mournful crooning thrilled socks off of bobby-soxers. But within a very few years, his career suddenly veered into the weeds.
Part of the problem was that smoking and booze had deepened his voice. Once known as “The Voice,” he was derided as “The Gargle.”
It didn’t help that he kept popping up in the headlines, and not in a good way. In 1946, on a visit to Cuba, Sinatra was seen shaking hands with the mobster, Lucky Luciano. In 1947, he briefly left his wife and children, Nancy, age seven, and Frank Jr., age four, for Lana Turner. His former bobby-soxer fans, now entering their twenties, were appalled.
But at Ciro’s on April 9, 1947, Sinatra caused another uproar when he was arrested after taking a swing at columnist Lee Mortimer.
Here’s how the incident was described Modern Television & Radio in December 1948, by Barry Ulanov, editor of Metronome Magazine:
In 1951, Ciro’s owner Herman Hover booked Lili St. Cyr, a high-class stripper, to perform in his world-renown venue, making St. Cyr the first stripper to headline on the Sunset Strip.
Part of St. Cyr’s act was to come out onto the stage–which featured a giant, ornately designed bathtub–wearing a mink coat and little else. She would take off the coat, revealing herself to be completely nude, and then step into the bathtub. But one night not long after she opened at Ciro’s–a night when the audience was packed with movie stars–before she could step into the bathtub and finish her act, West Hollywood sheriff’s deputies swarmed the stage. St. Cyr and Hover were arrested, hauled out of Ciro’s and booked.
The arrests made the front pages of the newspapers the next day, which was apparently Hover’s objective all along. Later, when St. Cyr’s case came to trial, prosecutors abruptly dropped the charges when her lawyers prevailed in their request to let her perform the act in the courtroom for the jury.
Louis Adlon, son of the proprietor of Berlin’s Hotel Adlon opened Hollywood’s first iteration of Ciro’s in 1934. Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the club was informally part of a chain with locations in London, Paris and Berlin. The Hollywood Ciro’s was not a success, apparently, because it soon folded.
A year after the Hollywood Boulevard Ciro’s opened, the building at 8433 Sunset Blvd. [map] that would later house the Sunset Strip’s Ciro’s was completed. The first tenant was Club Seville, where the gimmick was a dance floor made from sheets of glass over a giant aquarium. But dancing on fish proved not to be popular, and the club closed within a year.
In 1940, seven years after he successfully launched Cafe Trocadero down the street in Sunset Plaza, Hollywood Reporter publisher, Billy Wilkerson, acquired the former Club Seville building, redesigned the interior in his trademark Hollywood style and opened a new Ciro’s in the space on January 31.
Wilkerson created Ciro’s as a “celebrities only” club, but by the summer of 1942, he had lost interest in Ciro’s. In November, he leased it to Herman Hover, who reconfigured the layout and opened it up to the public as well as the stars. In June, the building was nearly destroyed by fire. It was closed for four months, after which Hover purchased the building from Wilkerson.
In the post-war era, Ciro’s became notorious as a venue for celebrity brawling. There were so many fights that Hover said he was considering replacing the dance floor with a boxing ring. He also declared a limit of three brawls per customer. One of the most infamous of these was in 1951, when famed actor Franchot Tone approached gossip columnist Florabel Muir at her table and spat in her face.
That same year, as a publicity stunt, Hover put high-class stripper Lili St. Cyr on the bill. The stunt worked. As she was doing her act one night, sheriff’s deputies emerged from the crowd, stopped the act and arrested St. Cyr and Hover. The story became front-page news for weeks afterwards.
Hover was forced into bankruptcy in late 1957, and eventually lost the club. The venue became a rock club in the 1960s, and in 1972 opened as the Comedy Store, which is there today and thriving.