De De Mollner’s Sunset Strip (With a Few Detours Along the Way)

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Map

After reading Paleo Retiree’s ultra-groovy interview with De De Mollner about her days as a go-go dancer in 60s L.A., I couldn’t help but wonder about some of the Sunset Strip locations she mentioned. A few of the places I was familiar with, but many names were new to me. Do these places still exist? What’s there now? Camera in hand, I went out one Sunday to see for myself.

Here’s a key to the map. The only place I didn’t get a chance to visit is Grape Place up in the Hollywood Hills.

A. Dan Tana’s G. Grape Place
B. The Whiskey H. Martoni’s
C. The Trocadero I. Brown Derby
D. The Trip J. Lucy’s El Adobe
E. Ciro’s K. KHJ Studios
F. Pandora’s Box L. Nickodell’s Restaurant

Our first stop, Dan Tana’s, isn’t on Sunset, it’s on Santa Monica Blvd. and Doheney, right near the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It’s one of the few places De De mentioned that’s still around. It’s a couple doors down from The Troubadour.

DanTana's

Alright, now over to Sunset Blvd. proper. Here’s The Whiskey, where bands such as The Doors, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield made their names. X, Guns ‘n Roses, and Mötley Crüe also started their careers here.

WhiskeyNow

Although De De didn’t mention this next place (because it didn’t exist yet), it’s only a couple blocks from The Whiskey and I felt it should be included. This was the old location of Tower Records, one of the coolest record stores ever. So cool that John Lennon himself cut a commercial for it. The Whiskey, The Roxy, and The Viper Room are all within walking distance, not to mention it’s at the base of the Hollywood Hills, so musicians and celebrities would shop here all the time.

TowerRecordsNow

Just down the street are the former locations of the Trocadero and The Trip. The Trocadero was approximately where the H&M is while The Trip was located where the white building to the right now stands, which is currently an indoor cycling club called SoulCycle. From leggy cigarette girls and honeys dancing the night away to cheap disposable clothing and yuppies futilely peddling like hamsters to stave off their inevitable deaths. Yet they want me to believe civilization is progressing.

TrocaderoandTripNow

While walking down the street I came across these kids doing a photoshoot at an abandoned building.

Photoshoot

Mel’s Drive In, a branch of the restaurant made famous by American Graffiti.

Mel's

The old Ciro’s has been The Comedy Store since the early 70s. This is where Leno and Letterman got their starts.

Ciro'sNowComedyStore

In my comment to Fabrizio’s post about movie arthouses, I mentioned the Laemmle Sunset 5, which was located below and is now the Sundance 5. This site, located at Sunset and Crescent Heights, was the former location of the old Schwab’s drug store where Lana Turner was supposedly discovered. The Schwab’s was razed in 1988 to build this.

Sunset & Crescent Heights

Across the street from that rather undistinguished shopping center/theater, is this even shittier strip mall. I thought this was the location of Pandora’s Box, but later research revealed the traffic island I’m standing on while taking this shot is where Pandora’s was located. Anyway, this shopping center does have a certain claim to fame — it’s where Michael Douglas shoots up the phone booth in Falling Down. (As the camera pans, you can see the structure above in the background.)

Pandora'sBoxNow

The Chateau Marmont is about two blocks away. This is of course where John Belushi died and where Sofia Coppola’s recent Somewhere is set.

CM

Another quick detour. Clockwise from the top left is the Crossroads of the World, Sunset Sound, Amoeba Music, and the Cinerama Dome. The Crossroads of the World, where Danny DeVito’s character in L.A. Confidential had his offices, is this weird mix of German storybook and Streamline Moderne. Sunset Sound is where the Stones recorded their overdubs for Exile on Main Streetwhere the Beach Boys recorded Pet Sounds, and pretty much every other pop and rock album over the last 40 years. Amoeba Music makes the old Tower Records look like quaint village shoppee. The only movie I’ve ever seen at the Cinerama was Star Trek IV when I was 11.

As I’m driving down Sunset and I go past the studio, I put on Exile because why not? Later I found out that the Stones were in town that very day and performed a show at the tiny-for-them El Rey Theater that they announced only on Twitter.

Misc

OK, back to De De’s beat. This is the present-day location of what used to be Martoni’s Italian restaurant on Cahuenga. At least, I think it is. I have two different addresses for this place, but I think the location De De frequented was here. The other location was about half a block south. Regardless, neither of the buildings that housed Martoni’s survived.

Martoni'sNow

The Brown Derby on Vine is long gone too. Modern condos instead.

BrownDerbyNow

The world-famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Y’all know the Capitol Records building, where Sinatra recorded many of his masterpieces.

Hollywood & Vine

By this point I was starving. I headed down Hollywood Blvd. to a another landmark, Musso & Frank Grill. Chaplin, Griffith, Arbuckle, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Chandler all ate here regularly. How was the food, you ask? Wow, just think about all that history!

Musso & Franks

Alright, we now leave Sunset and head south to Melrose Ave. Lucy’s El Adobe is still around.

Lucy's

Lucy’s is directly across the street from Paramount Pictures. There was some art/photography exhibit going on that night, which is why there are so many cars.

ParamountGate

Due to technical difficulties beyond my control, I didn’t get a shot of the former KHJ studios that are now Paramount offices. But hey, not to worry, I just went on Google Street View and took a screencap. (Which I guess I could’ve just done from the beginning and saved myself all this trouble LOL)

KHJStudios

Nickodell’s Restaurant was right next door to KHJ, now it’s nothin’.

NickodellsNow

It was the late afternoon and I was pretty tired from walking and driving all over town. Hey, it’s Sunday, so traffic shouldn’t…be…too…

Traffic

…goddammit.

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About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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8 Responses to De De Mollner’s Sunset Strip (With a Few Detours Along the Way)

  1. Fenster says:

    I hear the sound of marching feet…
    Down Sunset Boulevard to Crescent Heights
    …and there…at Pandora’s Box…
    We are confronted with…a vast
    quantity of…plastic people…

    Take a day and walk around!
    Watch the Nazi’s run your town!
    Then go home and check yourself
    You think we’re singing
    ’bout someone else

    But you’re plastic people
    Oh, baby, now
    You’re such a drag

    Mothers of Invention
    Plastic People

    Like

  2. Sax von Stroheim says:

    Great post! At least some of these places are still around…

    Like

  3. Callowman says:

    So Musso and Frank’s was disappointing? Too bad. That hunk of beef looked pretty promising…

    Saw somewhere on the web today that the Whiskey was commemorating Ray Manzarek on its marquee, so you’re not the only guy on the Strip with a bit of reverence for recent history.

    Like

    • I was so hungry I couldn’t decide so I went with the weekly special — beef short rib and vegetables. The beef was fine but the veggies weren’t fresh. That plate cost $40 too. All with so-so service too. I dunno, it was the weekend, there were a lot of tourists, so maybe I caught them on a bad day. The menu was refreshingly old-school — lots of steaks, chops, and organs (liver, kidney, sweetbreads) served with various French sauces. Stick-to-your-ribs-type stuff.

      The FB group Vintage L.A. posted this on their page last night.

      Like

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