1940: Ciro’s Opens
Louis Adlon, son of the proprietor of Berlin’s Hotel Adlon, opened Hollywood’s first iteration of Ciro’s in 1934. Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the club was informally part of a chain with locations in London, Paris and Berlin. The Hollywood Ciro’s was not a success, apparently, because it soon folded.
In 1935, the building at 8433 Sunset Blvd. [map] that would later house the Sunset Strip’s Ciro’s was completed. The first tenant was Al De Freitas’ Club Seville, where the gimmick was a dance floor made from sheets of glass over a giant aquarium. But dancing on fish proved not to be popular, and the club closed within a year.
In 1940, six years after he successfully launched Cafe Trocadero down the street in Sunset Plaza, Hollywood Reporter publisher Billy Wilkerson acquired the former Club Seville building, redesigned the interior in his trademark Hollywood style and opened a new Ciro’s in the space on January 31.
Wilkerson created Ciro’s as a “celebrities only” club, but by the summer of 1942 he had lost interest in it. In November, he leased it to Herman Hover, who reconfigured the layout and opened it up to the public as well as the stars. In June, the building was nearly destroyed by fire. It was closed for four months, after which Hover purchased the building from Wilkerson.
In the post-war era, Ciro’s became notorious as a venue for celebrity brawling. There were so many fights that Hover said he was considering replacing the dance floor with a boxing ring. He also declared a limit of three brawls per customer. One of the most infamous of these was in 1951, when famed actor Franchot Tone approached gossip columnist Florabel Muir at her table and spat in her face.
That same year, as a publicity stunt, Hover put high-class stripper Lili St. Cyr on the bill. The stunt worked. As she was doing her act one night, sheriff’s deputies emerged from the crowd, stopped the act and arrested St. Cyr and Hover. The story became front-page news for weeks afterwards.
Hover was forced into bankruptcy in late 1957, and eventually lost the club. The venue became a rock club in the 1960s, and in 1972 opened as the Comedy Store, which is there today and thriving.