The original Café Trocadero building was one of four similar Colonial-style retail structures designed by Edwin Berstrom, completed in October 1925 when this area was known as Sherman.
The first nightspot to occupy this spot, as of January 1927 was Café La Boheme (addressed as 8614). After six years La Boheme gave way to the short-lived Chateau Trianon, which opened on June 6, 1934.
Café Torcadero had its gala grand opening on September 18, 1934 (addressed as 8610). The pet project of trade journal publisher Billy Wilkerson, the new café had a continental atmosphere, with sidewalk dining, French cuisine and a French café theme in the upstairs, an American Colonial them in the lower-level tap room. From the glass-enclosed “Starlight Veranda,” diners could view the lights of Hollywood and beyond far below. Much hyped by Hollywood gossip columnists and in Wilkerson’s own Hollywood Reporter, it became the top “in” spot of the film colony- for a little while.
Wilkerson sold the still-popular café in May 1938 (1). Newspapers reported that the buyer was Nola Hahn, a gambler formerly associated with the Clover Club. It reopened, ostensibly under Hahn’s ownership and Nat Harris as manager, on May 18, 1938, with a gala dinner that included a performance by new singing sensation Mary Martin. Martin would later credit her Trocadero engagement with jump starting her career.
In December 1938, it was announced that the Trocadero’s main dining room would close for alterations. The building exterior also received a dramatic makeover around this time, going from colonial-style to Hollywood-moderne.
When the Trocadero did (again) reopen on May 11, 1939, it was under the management of Felix Young (2). Though the event was hailed by Society and Hollywood columnists, Young’s tenure was brief. He abruptly closed the café in early October and soon after the Trocadero was thrown into involuntary bankruptcy.
Various reasons for the Trocadero’s decline have been suggested, such as the loss of the so-called Wilkerson touch, or association with gamblers and illegal gambling. But Wilkerson’s leaving didn’t hurt Ciro’s any, and multiple raids of the Clover Club’s gambling rooms failed to diminish its popularity. The whims of Hollywood favor and poor management are just as likely culprits. In any case, the last few years of the Trocadero’s existence were marked by a succession of owner-managers.
Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper reported in December 1939 that bandleader Abe Lyman had bought the Trocadero from its creditors for $10,000. When the venue reopened on December 29, 1939, it was under the “ownership and personal management” of John Steinberg.
But even the comic concerts of Frank Fay and a revival of the Troc’s famed Sunday night shows couldn’t keep the lights on at 8610 Sunset and the venue soon shut again. On May 13, 1940 its furnishings and fittings were auctioned off. That fall, there was talk of it becoming a motion picture museum but nothing comes of it.
The building sat vacant until April 1943. That month, Hedda Hopper reported that the “old Trocadero” was to reopen on the 15th. Though slightly off in her facts as usual, the club did indeed reopen, on April 21, with Louis Cantone as manager. Then it closed again, reopening August 4, 1943 as bandleader “Eddie LeBaron’s Trocadero.” LeBaron (Eduardo Gastine), however, was inducted into the Army in December and reported for duty in early 1944. In his absence, the Trocadero management passed to restaurateur Glenn Billingsley in March. As of July 1944 it was run by George Goldie, a gambler once associated with the Clover Club in its earliest days.
After September 1944, the Trocadero advertised regularly but rarely with any mention of its management. Frank Long was identified as its operator in February 1945 when the club faced charges of violating wartime food rationing policy.
The Trocadero continued to book popular acts into 1946, with Chuck Landis was advertised as manager as February. Spike Jones appeared in March, with the King Cole Trio in the lounge, now “the King Cole Room.” Norman Strollers was the asserted owner in July when the club faced charges from the SBE that it had sold liquor after hours, and Nathan Zukerman was named as manager at the time of a robbery the same month. Around October 1946, the “Chip Corporation” allegedly took out a 15-year lease on the property at $1600 a month, investing a reported $45,000 in redecorating and booking Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda for an exclusive engagement, which never came off. (3). The Trocadero closed for good in 1947.
(1) That is, the building and its lease. The land beneath the Trocadero was and continued to be owned by the “Chateau Sunset Corporation,” sometimes spelled “Shatto Sunset.”
(2) Uncorroborated sources today maintain that that Bugsy Siegel actually controlled the club.
(3) Producer Monte Proser of New York’s Copacabana nightclub was VP of the corporation, which sued Miss Miranda in 1948 for reneging on her contract.
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