Plans were unveiled this week for redeveloping the former Garden of Allah Hotel property on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The plans show a couple of high-rise buildings, including a 16 story tower. Here’s the project description from the developer’s website:
TagGarden of Allah
It gave one a sense of security to know that you could wake up at the Garden about 10 a.m., phone Schwab’s and be certain that a bottle of Jack Daniels would arrive at your villa by the time you hung up.
– A former Garden of Allah resident recalling the convenience of getting deliveries from Schwab’s Drug Store, which was stood across Crescent Heights Blvd. from the hotel.
The Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) has revived its free monthly Sunday Salon series. For their first program, they invite you to South Broadway, to the mezzanine of Les Noces du Figaro, which was recently opened by the family behind Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz. This handsome space was formerly Schaber’s Cafeteria (Charles F. Plummer, 1928), and the mezzanine features wonderful views of the Los Angeles Theatre.
The Salon’s theme [on Sunday, June 30, 2013, at noon] will be Jazz Age Los Angeles, and the two talks (45 minutes each) will focus on that theme at the intersection of Crescent Heights and Sunset Blvd…
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.
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 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.
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
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
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 Woody Allen’s 1985 film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” one of the characters in the film within the film — a black-and-white drawing-room comedy-romance from Hollywood’s golden age — breaks through the fourth wall and emerges from the screen so he can experience the real world.
A new, ongoing series of novels written by Martin Turnbull and set at the Garden of Allah Hotel in Hollywood do just the opposite. They transport readers through the literary fourth wall back in time so they can experience life as it may have been in Hollywood’s golden era.
Relying on rigorous period research and a powerful imagination, Turnbull has created a fully realized, unromanticized vision of this bygone world. In The Garden on Sunset, the first in the series, we get the glitz and glamour inside the Movie Colony as well as the grit and grime of the grim world outside the Colony’s imaginary gates.
My dear fellow Flynnians,
I just finished the 1970 edition of Sheilah Graham’s book, “The Garden of Allah” [in which she describes Errol Flynn’s life at the hotel].
Former Garden owner Frank Ehrhart recalled that Errol had a strict regimen: At 12:30 p.m., his secretary would set up a bottle of champagne and two glasses on a table among the chaise lounges by the pool.
An hour later, Flynn would appear wearing a blue blazer with white or grey pants and an ascot and mingle with his friends and neighbors who were lounging by the pool.
Before too long, he would approach a beautiful young woman and ask, “My child, will you have a glass of champagne?”
By then all eyes were on them wondering how long it would take Errol to get the girl into his villa.
“High blood pressure, cheeriness at breakfast, a mellowing political philosophy, and an inability to drink more than half a bottle of proof spirits at cocktail time without falling over the fire irons all suggest dark wings hovering overhead and the impending midnight croak of the raven.”
– Lucius Beebe, frequent Garden of Allah Hotel resident
Sheilah Graham’s The Garden of Allah, a history of the famed hotel that anchored the eastern end of the Sunset Strip, is a must for any reading list on the history of Hollywood’s golden age in general and the Strip specifically. Graham unfolds the story of the hotel in roughly chronological order, but she was a gossip columnist, so the book reads like a series of columns, many of which focus on gossip and anecdotes (a number of which involve society people who are long forgotten) — rather than a comprehensive history of the hotel.
More Hollywood gossip glorified by all the beautiful people that were, and since columnist Graham is usually just grateful to have known them all, she rarely indulges in tit for tattletale. The Garden of Allah, originally Alla Nazimova’s home, was converted into the main house (you were nobody if you stayed there) and twenty-five villas back in 1926. It seems to have offered opulence, poor maid service, late afternoon and all night festivities and an open “”liquor closet.”” It would be hard to say whether anyone has been left out of the hotel register–it would seem not–but Miss Graham concentrates on that benign presence, Robert Benchley (two chapters), one of course on “Scott” [Fitzgerald] who didn’t really belong there, a less kindly inset on Dorothy Parker, with later comers Bogart, Sinatra, Faulkner, etc. closing the book before the Garden of Allah became just a residence for hookers and a tatty specter of its former self. The book will be illustrated and it will be read even if much of it is a reprise from what’s around in the public domain.
The Garden of Allah was published in 1970 and is out of print, but used hardbacks are widely available, including from Alibris.