8383 was situated on a large parcel owned by Bob Coyne that straddled the boundary of what was the the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County territory. It had previously housed Prohibition-era nightclubs, the Moscow Inn and Club Ballyhoo, addressed as 8353 and 8373 respectively. With a key location across from the Sunset Tower apartments, 8383 Sunset seemed a sure hit, but like many nightspots on the Strip, its history is one of high-turnover and frequent name changes.
8383 debuted as Café Clement in November 1934, one of the nightspots that would earn this stretch of Sunset its nickname, “the Strip.” The exterior of the building was eclectic Spanish-Deco; the cuisine was French-Italian. Café Clement scored a coup in bringing out entertainer extrordinaire Martha Raye from New York for an exclusive singing engagement in February 1936. That same month, Café Clement became the Club Casanova.
In May 1937 the Club Casanova closed “for rebuilding.” Before the year was out it had undergone another name change, to U-Gene’s Bagdad with a “Harlem in Hollywood” theme.
On July 6, 1939, 8383 Sunset made its bow on the Strip as “Little Eva.” It didn’t last long. October 26, 1939 saw the grand opening of The Sports Circle.
As of March 1940, 8383 was operating as Bob Coyne’s real estate office.
William R. “Bob” Coyne was born in Illinois in 1876. He had a string of aliases (including William Coyle- his mother’s maiden name- William Ruby and Harry Connors) and a long rap sheet of convictions for mostly petty thefts by the time he arrived in Los Angeles about 1910.
In June 1933, as Sheriff Biscailuz was ordering his newly organized vice squad, headed by Captain Walter Hunter and George Contreras, Coyne launched a citizen-led anti vice campaign in the West Hollywood (then unincorporated) section of the Sunset strip and erected anti-gambling, anti-Clover Club billboards on the Casanova Club property during this period, replacing earlier ones that had been burned. Enlisting the help of ministers and other Hollywood civic leaders, he complained to DA Fitts that protected vice was flourishing in the county thanks to ex-Charles Crawford syndicate figures like Guy McAfee and Farmer Page. Contreras shrugged it off as sour grapes, asserting that one group of racketeers affiliated with Coyne had duped the ministers and other concerned citizens and were merely trying to use the sheriff’s office to raid and shut down their competition. This was classic gaslighting from Contreras and did not address the basic fact that vice did indeed flourish on his supposed watch.
The underworld went on the offensive, attacking Coyne both figuratively (by printing his past arrest records and accusing him of setting the fires at his Sunset properties himself) and directly (furnishing his name and photo to mobsters). Coyne responded by taking out a lengthy ad in the Hollywood Citizen-News on August 21, 1934, in which he was not quite straightforward about his past arrests. The high turnover at his Sunset Boulevard properties does indicate, however, that these were not protected establishments.
The concerned citizens did not go away, however, and Coyne continued to squawk. He became an informant, along with underworld figure Jimmy Utley, in cafeteria owner Clifford Clinton’s subsequent effort to investigate Los Angeles vice operations.
In September 1937, Coyne was accused of shaking down nightclub owners in exchange for not turning them over to Clinton’s committee. McAfee had used the same mob tactic against Coyne’s friend, Dr. A.M. Wilkinson: when the evidence is against you, attempt to discredit the investigators. Coyne pleaded not guilty and fought the accusations, then suddenly in November changed his plea to guilty in a surprise move. He was given a jail term and fined.
Nevertheless, Clinton’s efforts did lead to the recall of Mayor Frank Shaw in 1938 and supposedly caused the big shot LA gamblers and Strip nightclub owners like Guy McAfee and Farmer Page to go stomping off to Las Vegas. In reality, Bugsy Seigel was moving in and squeezing out the local mob, who in any case still retained some underworld interests in Los Angeles.
In February 1940, Coyne accused George Contreras of owning a piece of a slot machine and gambling racket. Contreras (who was around the same time being accused by Guy McAfee associate Ann Forrester of shaking her down to “forget” about her pandering arrest, and was implicated in the Mumsie McGonigal/Chito Sasso prostitution bust) laughed it off and was ultimately not charged. The case went to the grand jury. Jimmy Utley testified in the case on March 26- the day after Coyne’s real estate offices at 8383 had been burglarized. LAPD detectives investigated the crime, the property being partly within LA city limits. As of 1943, 8383 was a failed carpet business.
In January 1949, again operating as a nightclub, 8383 was the scene of one of the Strip’s many celebrated brawls, this one involving movie stunt flyer/playboy/race car driver Joel W. Thorne. After suffering fire damage in December 1950, it was repaired and converted back to office use.
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