The Viper Room
8852 West Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA
Hours: 8 pm - 2 am nightly
The Viper Room
In the 1940s this was the location of the jazz bar the Melody Room, a reputed gangster gambling den frequented by Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. A club called the Central was part of the 70s music scene and operated here through the 1980s, but was struggling to survive in the early 1990s.
In 1993, actor Johnny Depp and musician Chuck E. Weiss bought the majority share in a The Central from owner Anthony Fox and renamed it The Viper Room. Depp has stated in interviews that he opened the club to create a place to hear good music and host his friends "without having to suffer the bad taste of others." According to TheSunsetStrip.com, Depp named the club "after a group of pot-smoking musicians who called themselves Vipers."
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the opening show at the Viper Room on August 14, 1993. The club became an instant A-list magnet, with constant appearances by music legends and the Hollywood elite.
As every tour down the Strip will point out, the club's most notorious moment was the death by overdose of actor River Phoenix after going into convulsions on the sidewalk in front of the club early Halloween morning 1993 during a performance of Johnny Depp's band P.
In 2000, Anthony Fox sued Depp for fraud and mismanagement of funds. Fox disappeared in 2001 before the suit was settled. As part of the eventual legal settlement, in 2004 Depp signed his shares of the club over to Fox's daughter Amanda, who sold it to Darin Feinstein, Bevan Cooney, and Blackhawk Capital Partners, Inc.
During those years of legal conflict and transition, Depp had moved to France and the celebrity polish had worn off the club. In 2008, Harry Morton, owner of Pink Taco, son of Hard Rock Cafe co-owner Peter Morton, bought the club with the goal of restoring it to its previous glory. In 2015, the club underwent extensive renovations.
Despite its late addition to the Strip's music roster, the Viper Room has had an impressive resume of big name performances on its stage. From Bruce Springsteen stopping by to play a set in 1995 to Johnny Depp himself introducing a solo set by Johnny Cash, the Viper Room has had plenty of historic music moments. Bands who have played here include Matchbox 20, Oasis, Green Day, Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow, The Kult, The Knack, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Everclear, Run-D.M.C., Deus, The Black Crowes, Iggy Pop, and Lenny Kravitz among many others.
The late 1990s saw a "secret" concert by The Go Gos, and a reunited Stone Temple Pilots performance but the days of big name bands dropping by to play unannounced sets are much fewer and farther between these days.
Today, you might find an up-and-coming local or touring band, an 80s cover band with a big following or a random burlesque show on the main stage. It hasn't quite lived up to Morton's vision of regaining A-list status, but many of the bands bring in a respectable following for a fun night of live music.
Avril Lavigne who played the Viper Room in 2002 when she first started out, chose the Viper for a live stream acoustic concert to introduce her fashion line Abbey Dawn on March 13, 2012.
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LAist.com Big Changes at Viper Room Start Playing Out