TagJane Jones

Sunset Strip Nightclub Owner Jane Jones in 1938 B-Movie, ‘Port of Missing Girls’

Jane Jones singing in "Port of Missing Girls"

Jane Jones singing in “Port of Missing Girls”

This blurry still is from the video of the B movie “Port of Lost Girls,” from 1938 — see the video below the fold. The film offers a rare view of Jane Jones, proprietor of Jane Jones’ Little Club at 8740 Sunset Blvd., one of two lesbian-centric nightclubs on the Sunset Strip — the other was Cafe Internationale, at 8711 Sunset Blvd., owned by Elmer and Tess Wheeler — mentioned in Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics and Lipstick Lesbians, by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons.

Faderman and Timmons describe the womens’ nightclubs on the as “in the tradition of the upscale nightclub, and they promoted an exotic glamour, much like the lesbian bars of Weimar Berlin.” Jones, they said, “was a big woman with a basso profundo voice who’d been a signer in movie musicals.”

(Read more about Jane Jones’ Little Club here and the closing of Tess Wheeler’s Cafe Internationale by the Navy during World War II here.)

Here’s the movie:

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1936: Upscale Lesbian Nightclub

Jane Jones as she appeared in "Port of Lost Girls" in 1938; inset: newspaper ad for her nightclub on the Sunset Strip

Jane Jones as she appeared in “Port of Lost Girls” in 1938; inset: newspaper ad for her nightclub on the Sunset Strip

Bars catering to gay women were rare in the first half of the 20th century, but there were at least two on the Sunset Strip that were open in tandem for a while — Jane Jones’ Little Club, at 8730 Sunset Blvd. [map showing approximate site], which operated from 1936 to 1939, and Cafe Internationale, across the street at 8711 Sunset [map], which opened around 1936 and closed in 1942. (Read more about Cafe Internationale and its owner, Tess Wheeler, here.) Both clubs were shut down by the state liquor board, although for different reasons.

According to GAY LA: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, “The eponymous Jane Jones was a big woman with a basso profundo voice who’d been a singer in movie musicals.” (See Jones’ performance acting and singing in “The Port of Missing Girls, from 1938, here.)

Jane Jones was born in Pennsylvania, made her singing debut at age five in Colorado, and moved to Los Angeles in 1916, at age 27. The next year, she married Lloyd A. MacBeth. She later joined the Orpheum Circuit and was soon a popular vaudeville act. In the 1920s, Jones left the circuit and began appearing nightly at the famous Vernon Country Club, south of Downtown Los Angeles. Jones, a large woman, appeared on the same bill with two male comic singers, advertised collectively as “the half ton of melody.” A news release from the club read, “In keeping with [club manager] Bill Paine’s theory of gaiety that entertainment should carry some ‘weight,’ Miss Jones tops the scales at 235 pounds of personality and harmony…”

After Jane Jones’s Little Club opened on the Strip in May 1936, an item in the Times noted that “Jane Jones’ new night spot is getting a big play from the film colonites.” Although there’s no online record of her divorce from Lloyd MacBeth, around this time, if not before, Jane apparently married the club’s co-owner, Raymond P. Babcock.

In September 1939, the club was raided by the sheriff’s vice squad. According to the Times, “Quietly entering the cafe with five deputies, Capt. George Contreras, head of the sheriff’s vice squad, dispersed the orchestra and 50 well-dressed guests before making the arrests. Capt. Contreras reported that liquor assertedly was being sold after legal hours.” The club’s liquor license was revoked two months later.

Jones never ventured into the nightclub business again. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, she appeared in 12 films, according to IMDB.com, including the 1938 “Port of Missing Girls,” which can be viewed here online. Jones also continued to perform in nightclubs, including the Melody Room on the Strip and many other venues around town.

When she died in January 1962 at age 73, the Times identified her as Jane Jones Babcock and said she “sang for many years on the Orpheum and Pantages vaudeville circuits and appeared in a number of motion picture musicals”–and that she had been the proprietor of Jane Jones’ Little Club on the Sunset Strip. The obituary said she had been ill for five months and died at the home she shared with her aunt, Mrs. Sally Hadler, at 327 N. Sycamore Ave.