TagMocambo

Rare Color Photos of the Interior of the Sunset Strip’s Mocambo Nightclub

Photo of the Mocambo’s dance floor from a January 1949 article in Modern Screen titled, “The Mocambo Affairs,” by Charlie Morrison, the nightclub’s proprietor

These photos were published in the January 1949 issue of Modern Screen magazine illustrating an article titled, “The Mocambo Affairs,” penned by the Sunset Strip nightclub’s proprietor, Charlie Morrison.

It is rare to find color photos of the club’s interior, which was designed by Tony Duquette.

Click through the following three pages to see more photos, and click the photos to see larger versions.

 

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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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Schwab’s Drug Store: Where Lana Turner Was Not Discovered

Sweater girl: Lana Turner

Sweater girl: Lana Turner

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.

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1941: The Mocambo Opens

The Mocambo

The Mocambo

Like Cafe Trocadero and Ciro’s, the Mocambo was a world-famous nightclub on the Sunset Strip catering to celebrities. Located at 8588 Sunset Blvd. [map], it opened on January 3, 1941, featuring Mexican-themed decor said to have cost over $100,000 (about $1.6 million today) and dominated by glass-walled aviaries that housed live macaws, cockatoos, parrots and other birds. (And, yes, the ASPCA objected to this arrangement.)

During its 17-year run, the Mocambo was the scene of a number of celebrity brawls. In 1941, a movie agent named William Burnside cold-cocked restaurateur Michael Romanoff there, for reasons now forgotten. “I wish they had let me go just for a minute and I would have annihilated him,” Romanoff said later. In October that year, Errol Flynn punched Los Angeles Times columnist Jimmy Fidler at Mocambo in retaliation for purported derogatory comments Fidler had made in his column.

After Frank Sinatra left the Tommy Dorsey orchestra in 1943, he made his debut as a solo act at Mocambo. The club was also at the forefront of breaking the color line during the Jim Crow era. Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald all played there in the 1940s and 1950s. Ella’s appearance in March 1955 was given a boost by her superstar fangirl, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn promised Mocambo owner Charlie Morrison that if he would book Ella, she would make sure the booking received worldwide publicity. True to her word, Marilyn was in the house every time Ella performed, and where Marilyn went, reporters followed. Ella later said that because of Marilyn’s support, after she played the Mocambo, “I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman — a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Charlie Morrison died in 1957. The Mocambo closed a year later, on June 30, 1958. Another club called the Cloister opened in the space briefly. The building was later demolished, and a retail plaza occupies the lot today.