TagLena Horne

Felix Young, the Sunset Strip Impresario Who Killed Cafe Trocadero, Launched Mocambo and Discovered Lena Horne

A rare photo of Felix Young,1941

Felix Young was an active player on the Sunset Strip in its heyday. His most significant actions included:

  • Closing Cafe Trocadero, 8610 Sunset [site], the Strip’s most famous and popular nightspot at the time, in October 1939 during a lease dispute
  • Launching Mocambo, 8588 Sunset [site], the Strip’s third and last marquee nightclub in the Hollywood era, with agent Charlie Morrison in January 1941
  • Introducing 25-year-old Lena Horne to Hollywood at his final nightclub on the Strip, Little Troc, 9263 Sunset [site], in January 1942

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Jimmy Dolan Buys Cafe Gala in 1948, Hires Bobby Short

Bobby Short, back in the day

Jimmy Dolan bought Cafe Gala in 1948. He brought in young Bobby Short, who played the main room, as well as Eadie and Rack, who played twin pianos in the salon. Bobby Short had a following among local tastemakers, which made his shows very popular. He played the Gala until 1951, and would later say that his favorite night there was when Lena Horne came in at closing time and sang for an hour to the delight of the club’s clientele.

But Robert Clary played at Cafe Gala the next year and, in his autobiography, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes, he recalled Short was still working at the Gala in 1952:

When I finished my engagement at Bar of Music, I was hired to work the very next day by Jimmy Dolan who owned a tiny, chic club on the Sunset Strip Called Cafe Gala. It had two pianos and no microphones. I worked for Dolan a whole year. I was paid a hundred and fifty dollars a week, and never got a raise. Sometimes the checks would bounce, even when business was good, and I would complain to Dolan who always said, “Put it back; it’s good now.”

The list of people who entertained there was impressive. Bobby Short had been a fixture for years, and was still doing his marvelous tasteful show tunes. Like Bobby Short, Portia Nelson sang romantic and witty songs from Broadway shows. Felicia Sanders sang like an angel. The breathtakingly beautiful Dorothy Dandridge had her night club debut there, with an act fantastically put together by Phil Moore. She stayed at the Gala for three months, and while she was there you could not get into the place unless you ade a reservations weeks in advance. It was great for us who were working with her, because we were seen by all the important people in Hollywood.