I am a fan of reading and I recently did something I rarely do. I re-read a book, this one is rich in lore and in history so I got just as much almost out of it the second time around. the Book is by Neil Gaiman and is titled “American Gods” my friend Tim case turned me on to it and I in turn gave a copy to many people, including my friend Kayden Kross, who absolutely loves it.
One of the central ideas behind the story is that there are places on earth where for lack of better wording forces of nature and other powers come together to create something of a holy place, places where significant events are destined to happen, and people are drawn to them for reasons that are beyond their comprehension.
It got me to thinking…could I come up with one such place, one not mentioned in the book, a modern day such place. When I think of things like that I immediately think of Rock and Roll for some reason, probably because it is a powerful art form that completely happened in my life time.
Places started coming to mind, Athens, Georgia. Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, London England. The Sunset Strip…there it was I knew when I thought of it that was it and that was before I learned of its history.
Turns out the sunset strip has a long and rich history. It is a mile and half long and it connects Hollywood to Beverly Hills. Before Sunset gave birth to some of the rock and roll music I love it was well known as inspiration for Hollywood. because it was originally outside the city limits of Los Angeles gambling was legal and during prohibition it was the place to go to be served alcohol. It attracted pretty much all of Hollywoods elite.
The Chateau Marmont Hotel (designed to be earthquake proof back around 1929),Hunter S. Thompson, Annie Leibovitz, Dorothy Parker, Bruce Weber, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tim Burton, Jay McInerney, Sofia Coppola, and Ville Valo, among others, all have produced work from within the hotel’s walls. John Belushi died of a drug overdose in Bungalow 3 on March 5, 1982.
The hotel is also mentioned in Charles Bukowski’s (another writer I like reading) major work Hollywood.
Glamour and glitz defined the Strip in the 1930s and the 1940s, as its renowned restaurants and nightclubs became a playground for the rich and famous. There were movie legends and power brokers, and everyone of significance danced to stardom at such legendary clubs as Ciro’s, the Mocambo and the Trocadero. Some of its expensive nightclubs and restaurants were said to be owned by gangsters like Mickey Cohen.
. Other spots on the strip associated with Hollywood include the Garden of Allah apartments (Joni Mitchell wrote a song about them (“Paved paradise and put up a parking lot”) — Hollywood quarters for transplanted writers like Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, and F. Scott Fitzgerald — and Schwab’s Drug Store.
You also had The Hacienda Arms Apartments, which included The House of Francis, Hollywood’s most famous and most forgotten brothel, whose regular customers included males and females.
Regular customers at the “House of Francis” included Jean Harlow, who visited the house and paid Francis $500 to take customers home with her. Francis’ prostitutes and customers reportedly “complained about Harlow’s rough sexual appetite.” Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Spencer Tracy were also regular customers. The MGM studio was reported to have maintained a business charge account at the brothel under an assumed name.
The Sunset Strip of the 30s and 40s was very much a precursor to Las Vegas but unlike Las vegas the strip could survive without gambling. When Vegas started siphoning off talent like Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra the strip evolved.
In the 1960 The Sunset Strip gave rise to the Beatniks counterculture and the riots over the curfew there served as the inspiration for the Buffalo Springfield Song, “For What It’s Worth”
In the 1960s and 1970s the Strip became a haven for music groups. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Byrds, Love, The Seeds, Frank Zappa, and many others played at clubs like the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, Pandora’s Box and the London Fog.
In the early 1970s a popular hangout for glam rock musicians and groupies was Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. The 1979 Donna Summer song “Sunset People” from the album Bad Girls, was about the nightlife on Sunset Boulevard. Also, throughout the 1970s, much like New York City’s Times Square, the Strip became a haven for sleaze and prostitution. The Strip continued to be a major focus for punk rock and new wave during the late 1970s, and it became the center of the colorful glam metal and heavy metal scenes throughout the 1980s, hosting groups including Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Poison, L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses and Whitesnake.
I can only imagine what it would have been like to experience The Doors or led Zeppelin in such a setting.
To this day these clubs (The Whisky, The Roxy, The Rainbow) still exist of course and the area still attracts those looking for immortality through fame as well as those awed by it Johnny Depp opened the Viper Room in a spot that was originally a jazz bar called the Melody Room, a hang out of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen.
As much as I hate Los Angeles the Sunset Strip is one of those places that Gaiman wrote about, a place where forces come together close by and those properly attuned can become Gods while others pay their respects.
Maybe that proximity is why Porn Valley became the Mecca of American porn instead of New York or San Francisco….
If you would like to learn more about the Sunset Strip I highly recommend the documentary “Sunset Strip”