Topic: Historic Hollywood
The Eye: Looking Down on Ghosts
Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - a gloomy day in Los Angeles. The marine layer rolled in off the Pacific overnight and it's dark all day, until the sun burns off the murkiness in late afternoon. On the television one of the cable channels is running Arthur Dreifuss' Riot on Sunset Strip (1967). It's pretty awful - "A police captain (Aldo Ray) is caught between businesses operating on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip who don't like the punks hanging out, and his belief in allowing the kids their rights. But when his daughter (Mimsy Farmer) gets involved with an unruly bunch, his attitude starts to change."
But then it was filmed and released within six weeks of the actual rioting on Strip, one block south and one block west, on November 12, 1966. There are a few of shots of Pandora's Box, the old club, long gone - the site, at the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, is now a bus stop, a little island of concrete. But the movie is awful. Mimsy Farmer? Better to get out, as dark as it is, and run some errands.
At the Chevron station, diagonally across the intersection from where Pandora's Box once stood, there is this eye looking down on the site. It's spooky. The eye is looking down on ghosts.
What ghosts? Behind the traffic island where Pandora's Box once stood there's a crappy strip mall, with McDonalds and El Pollo Loco and a bunch of smaller fast foot joints, and a big bank. This is where "The Garden of Allah" once stood. You can read all about it here - Joni Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi" ("pave paradise, put up a parking lot") is supposed to be about the Garden of Allah, because Buffalo Springfield's song "For What It's Worth" is partly about the closing of Pandora's Box in 1966 to widen Sunset. (Mitchell and Neil Young both lived just up the hill in Laurel Canyon at the time.) And the front of the strip mall where the "Garden of Allah" once stood is where photographer Helmut Newton was killed in a car crash in July 2004, his silver Cadillac SRX rolling out of the Chateau Marmont across the street and into a pole. He'd had a heart attack.
"The Garden of Allah," was sort of an apartment complex - a series of bungalows and cottages. The private bungalows were filled, on and off, by the likes of Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, W.C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Marx Brothers, and Orson Welles. It's been said Tallulah Bankhead swam naked in the pool there, and Marilyn Monroe was discovered sipping a Coke next to the pool.
They're all dead, and the place is gone -
Schwab's Drugstore is gone too. It was closed in 1986 and ten years later replaced with a fancy complex anchored by a Virgin Megastore, with a six screen movie place and a California Pizza Kitchen. The eye is also looking at that.
See this -
Sic transit gloria mundi. But the billboard is cool.
The Whisky A Go-Go website has a bit of interesting history of the Sunset Strip, reprinting a 1981 article by William Overend from the Los Angeles Times, from November 1981. The key section is this -
Maybe, but the movie about the riot was awful.