Visiting the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood
The "Sunset Strip" of West Hollywood's famous Sunset Boulevard is a 1.5-mile-long section of street between Doheny Drive and N. Crescent Heights Blvd.
Why is it called the strip, you might wonder. It's not because there are strip joints there. It's not because it's been stripped of its clothing or its dignity, either. In fact, it's a rather simple explanation.
Los Angeles County workers who took care of it just called it "that strip" on Sunset. That's all there is to it.
Why does it have such a big reputation? That's also easy to explain. The first buildings went up along Sunset Strip in 1924. Because it was outside the city then and under less strict laws than Los Angeles or Beverly Hills, the Sunset Strip soon became a center for wild nightlife and gained the reputation it still enjoys today.
Today, Sunset Strip is an area in transition, with lots of construction and an exciting new project at 8150 Sunset (between Alta Loma and Crescent Heights) designed by Frank Gehry. It will be fun to see how it all turns out, but until it's finished, expect traffic to be snarled and the area to be disrupted.
Meanwhile, you can still check out the Strip. Here's how:
Take the Sunset Trip. On Fridays and Saturdays, the city of West Hollywood offers a free trolly service, which is a cool way to get to a ton of restaurants, bars, and attractions on the Sunset Strip and Santa Monica Blvd., without having to worry about driving or parking. The free trolly service runs from 7 p.m. -3 a.m.
Sunset Strip is located in West Hollywood. To find it using a GPS or mapping system, enter 8200 W. Sunset Boulevard. To get here from US 101, exit at Sunset Boulevard and go west about 3 miles to Crescent Heights. From Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, go west to Crescent Heights and north. From Beverly Hills, take Rodeo Drive north, then turn right onto The Strip.
Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Blvd.
Most famous as the site of comedian John Belushi's death from a heroin overdose, this hotel looks like a French castle, built in 1929. Some celebs consider it one of Hollywood's best-kept secrets and want to keep it that way.
It sits so far up the hill above the street that you may not notice it as you drive by.
Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd.
The Strip's first high-rise building (at 13 stories), a fine example of art deco design, was originally called the Sunset Tower Hotel, the name it has now taken again, after stints being called St. James's Club and The Argyle.
In the 1930s, almost every Hollywood star stayed here at some time, including John Wayne, who is rumored to have kept a cow on his balcony for fresh milk.
The swimming pool here was featured in the 1992 film The Player, as well as in The Italian Job, Get Shorty and Strange Days. The current Tower Bar & Restaurant are housed in what used to be Bugsy Siegel's apartment in the 1930s. Take a close look a the facade, where you'll see zeppelins and airplanes alongside Adam and Eve.
Andaz West Hollywood (formerly the Hyatt)
When it opened in 1958, this hotel was called the Gene Autry Hotel until it was sold in 1966 and became Continental Hyatt House. It came to be known as "The Riot House" in the 1960s because of the wild behavior of rock-and-rollers who stayed here while performing at clubs on the Strip.
The hotel roof was the scene of the end-of-tour party in the film This is Spinal Tap, and with its rooms refurbished to its 1970s look, it also featured heavily in Almost Famous.
It has long since shed its rebellious image and is one of the most stylish hotels in the area, with fantastic views.
The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd
This place has featured virtually every important stand-up comedian at one time or another, and the names of many of them are scrawled all over its walls like autographs in a high school yearbook.
Many Comedy Store alumni still use the venue to try out new material, so you never know who will show up unannounced.
If You're Looking for 77 Sunset Strip
So what's "77" doing at "8524"? In the television show 77 Sunset Strip (1958-1964) Edd "Kookie" Burns parked cars at Dino's Lodge (then owned by Dean Martin), next door to the fictitious address of private eyes Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Roger Smith.
A plaque on the sidewalk once marked its location, but with all the construction going on, it's likely to be gone when everything is finished.
Sunset Plaza, 8600 to 8700 Sunset
More of a section of Sunset Strip than a plaza, the section between Alta Loma Road and Horn Avenue has lots of sidewalk cafes, which are a great place to sit and watch for celebrities.
Rocky and Bullwinkle Statue, Soon to be at 8775 Sunset Blvd.
From 1961 to 2013, this 15-foot-tall cartoon statue stood beside the former home of Jay Ward Productions, the company that created Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his pal Bullwinkle.
The erstwhile squirrel and moose once faced a billboard ad for a Las Vegas hotel featuring a bathing-suit-clad showgirl, and every time her suit changed, Bullwinkle did his best to compete, striking the sexiest pose a moose can manage and changing his attire to match hers.
The statue was removed in 2013 but Curbed Los Angeles reports that it will be returned to the Strip in a city parking lot at 8775 Sunset Boulevard.
The Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd.
This popular club, named after a group of musicians with the same name is probably most famous for tragedy. Talented young actor River Phoenix met his death here in 1993, from a drug overdose. Actor Johnny Depp was once part owner of this club, but sold his interest in 2004, citing distress over people coming to gawk at the spot where his friend died as part of the reason.
Whisky A-Go-Go, 8901 Sunset Blvd
A popular spot since the 1960s, Whisky A-Go-Go features mostly heavy metal bands these days, but in its early days, Jim Morrison and The Doors got their start here, as did the Who, the Kinks, the Byrds, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. The story goes that the Beatles came here during their first visit to Los Angeles, invited by actress Jayne Mansfield.
Hustler Hollywood, 8920 Sunset Blvd
Run by Larry Flynt's daughter Teresa, this giant store is reputed to be the largest erotica store in the United States. And from what we hear, it's surprisingly chic.
The Roxy. 9006 Sunset Blvd.
A popular rock club with both celebrities and the hoi polloi of all kinds, The Roxy has a great sound system and dance area.
Rainbow Bar and Grill, 9015 Sunset Blvd.
It may not look like much these days, but back when the Rainbow Bar was called Villa Nova, actress Marilyn Monroe went on her first (blind) date with Joe DiMaggio here, and director Vincent Minnelli chose it as the spot to propose to Judy Garland.
Blue Jay Way
When George Harrison rented a house on Blue Jay Way in 1967, publicist Derek Taylor had trouble finding the place in the fog, inspiring Harrison to write a song about it: "There's a fog upon L.A., and my friends have lost their way..."
Local residents complain that overzealous fans often steal the street sign. If you want to see it, you'll have to find someone else to tell you exactly where it is.