Source: The Man Who Invented Las Vegas.
Source: The Maybelline Story.
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.
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.
Lawrence Tierney [Wiki] made a name for himself playing the John Dillinger in the eponymous biopic, “Dillinger,” which was released in 1945. He quickly established himself as a brawler around town, including two incidents that made news in early 1946.
The first of these was late in the evening of January 19. According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident occurred when a party was winding down at the home of John Decker, 51, whom the Times described as a “portrait artist, bon vivant, companion of the late John Barrymore and crony of Hollywood’s famed.” Decker lived at 1215 Alta Loma Road [map].
The principal combatants were Tierney, 27, and William Kent, whose stepfather owned Mocambo, the famous nightclub a block or two up the hill on the Sunset Strip. Also on hand were actors Jack LaRue and William Mowbray, 50, and Diana Barrymore, 25, daughter of John Barrymore (and great-aunt of Drew), as well her cousin Sammy Colt, the son of Ethel Barrymore.
Here’s Tierney’s take on the incident, as told to the Times:
“Kent was insulting and obnoxious to me. He told me that ‘anyone who likes Errol Flynn is no good.’ I didn’t particularly like or dislike Mr. Flynn. I just met him for the first time that night. He was at the party, too. I didn’t strike Kent, but I wish I had now. Anyway he taunted me as I was leaving the party and then he struck at me. We came to grips and then rolled around the ground. About that time, Larue came out on his way home, saw us and as he tried to separate us he fell to the ground. That was when he hurt himself.”
William Kent’s version:
Diana Barrymore said she got involved after Tierney hit her cousin, Sammy:
“Tierney was insulting to a girlfriend of mine at the party. I guess he thinks he’s Dillinger off screen, too. Anyway, he was ill-mannered and rude. He said to me, “Oh you want to fight, huh?” and I told him, “No, I had enough fighting during four and a half years with the RAF and the U.S. Army.” Anyway, he waited for me outside and the jumped me.
“Jack LaRue came out, saw us rolling around and tried to mediate it. He’s a friend of Tierney. Somehow he was knocked down and his head hit the running board of a car.”
“Mr. Tierney was hitting quite a few people. Then he hit my cousin [Sammy Colt]. I became rather angry. He hit Sammy very hard and it was all very bloody, you know. So I slapped Mr. Tierney. That’s all. What did Mr. Tierney do? Why, he just looked at me and then went on to fight Mr. LaRue. It was really an unfair advantage for Mr. Tierney since LaRue’s a bit older.”
The British actor Alan Mowbray took LaRue to West Hollywood Emergency Hospital, where a cut on the back of his head was treated.
Host John Decker told the Times:
“All I know is there are fights around here all the time — almost every night. There are so many of them that I don’t even pay any attention to them — too many night clubs around this neighborhood, I guess…
“Certainly there was drinking. What would a party be without drinking? I had a party here and everybody came early. When the last of our guests left shortly after 3 o’clock there was some sort of scuffle outside. I went to bed.”
In spite of everything, Decker told the Times, “We had a nice party, though.”
About a month later, on Feb. 21, 1946, the Times reported that Tierney was being sued for $7,600 in damages for injuries sustained by Paul E. de Loqueyessie, a French national, who claimed that Tierney attacked him “maliciously and without provocation” around 3 a.m. at the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica Blvds., which is about three blocks southeast of Decker’s apartment.
A month after the incident at La Cienega and Santa Monica, the Times reported, that “[Tierney] was arrested last Saturday night near the Mocambo Club on the Sunset Strip, after an asserted brawl in the night spot. He asserted that William Kent, stepson of the Mocambo’s owner, made abusive remarks to him. Kent denied the allegation.”
In addition to the fight with William Kent, Tierney served 10 days in county jail in January 1945 after his third conviction for drunkenness.
Tierney bookended his career playing gangsters, starting with “Dillinger” and ending with a memorable performance as Joe Cabot in “Reservoir Dogs,” in 1992. He died in 2002.
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:
At the behest of a Schmirnoff distributor, Jack Morgan, the proprietor of the Cock ‘N Bull, a celebrity haunt at 9170 Sunset, invents the Moscow Mule, the drink that allegedly introduced vodka to the American public. Besides vodka, a Moscow Mule included ginger beer, lime juice, a sprig of mint and a lime slice served in an engraved copper mug.
A column in the Times today leads with this arresting headline, “Was Ronald Reagan a secret snitch?” The question comes up, the writer John Meroney says, because the San Jose Mercury News recently published an article revealing that Reagan’s FBI files describe him as a “confidential informant” starting in the 1940s, around the time he lived along the Sunset Strip.
Reagan, his wife, Jane Wyman, and their two children lived at 9137 Cordell Drive [map], a house they built and which is still there, although it has been remodeled extensively. Reagan was an FDR liberal at that time, and was said to have devoted as much time or more to his union leadership role as he did on his acting career.
The Mercury News article in November described Reagan’s interaction with the FBI like this:
In 1956, Montgomery Clift checked into the Chateau Marmont to recuperate from a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred while he was in production on “Raintree County.” The accident occurred as he was leaving a dinner party at the home of his co-star and close friend, Elizabeth Taylor, at the top of Tower Road in Beverly Hills. He apparently missed a turn in the winding street and drove his car over a steep embankment. Taylor and her party arrived on the scene before the ambulance got there, and Taylor herself scrambled down the hill to the car. She found that Clift was unable to breath and stuck her fingers down his throat to remove the obstruction, which turned out to be his broken teeth. After several plastic surgeries and months of recuperation, Clift completed “Raintree County,” which was, unfortunately, a flop.
The architecture of the Chateau Marmont Hotel is said to have been based on a chateau in the Loire Valley, and although the hotel’s name may sound French, it was named “Chateau Marmont” because it was built on Marmont Lane.
How Marmont Lane got its name is another story. It was named for a popular Silent-era film star, Percy Marmont, a Brit who worked in Hollywood for a while. Here’s a snippet about him from his bio at Silents Are Golden:
The six foot tall, good looking Percy Marmont got into films at just the right time, I would guess, because his career seems to have rocketed after his first appearance at 32 years old. By the time he left Hollywood in 1928, he had done around 50 films and had a Hollywood street named after him, Marmont Lane, forking off Sunset Boulevard and leading to the infamous Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. The Marmont opened on February 1, 1929, at 8221 Sunset Boulevard and was built to resemble a Gothic chateau … The opening date for the Chateau precludes our Percy having stayed there on a permanent basis, although I have no doubt he did on occasion, if only to reflect on how well things were going for him.
What’s oblique now is who decided to name the street after Percy Marmont and, particularly, why. If anyone knows, please share.
Marmont continued to act after he moved back to England. In the video above, he plays Colonel Burgoyne in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1937 film “Young and Innocent.” Marmont would have been about 54 years old at the time.
His Wikipedia bio says he was born in 1883, died in 1977, and that “He appeared in over 80 films between 1916 and 1968. He is best remembered today for playing the title character in Lord Jim (1925) the first film version of Joseph Conrad’s novel, and for playing one of Clara Bow’s love interests in the Paramount Pictures film Mantrap (1926).”
Originally published on SunsetStript.com.