8610 Sunset Blvd.

Trocadero photo 1936 (3)

The Trocadero 

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 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.

8610-8614 Sunset Blvd., one of 4 Colonial-style retail buildings designed by Edward Bergstrom, completed Oct 1925. LAT 10-18-1925.

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.

1934 trocadero opening 8610 sunset

Café Trocadero, 8610 De La Sunset (Sunset Blvd), 1934

Trocadero 8610 sunset photo 1936 night

Café Trocadero at night. LAPL

Café Trocadero, 8610 Sunset Blvd. 1936. LAPL.

An afternoon at Café Trocadero, 8610 Sunset Blvd. 1936. LAPL.

Trocadero sheet music Lost 1936

The Trocadero’s house band leader Phil Orman scored a minor hit with “Lost” co-written by Johnny Mercer.

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.

1938 5 18 Trocadero reopning 8610 sunset

The Trocadero celebrates the first of many “reopenings,” May 18, 1938. The “new management” was owner Nola Hahn and manager Nat Harris according to syndicated columnist Read Kendall.

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.

Trocadero 8610 sunset photo 1938 no 8606, with dancers

The Trocadero after its c. 1938 façade remodel. Note 8608 Sunset next door has not yet been built.

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.

1939 5 11 8610 sunset Trocadero Fe

Felix Young reopens the Trocadero, so famous it didn’t need an address. 5-11-1939.

photo 1939 with 8606 and felix

The Trocadero c. June 1939 during its brief moment as “Felix Young’s Trocadero.” The façade has been modified still further with the elimination of the original freestanding “Café Trocadero” neon letters and sidewalk planter-boxes retained in the 1938 remodel, and elimination of the dancing figures above the doors. The paint scheme is also now two-tone.

 

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.

1939 12 25 trocadero party

Another reopening of the Trocadero, “America’s smartest restaurant,” 12-29-1939.

trocadero 1940

January 19, 1940

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.

But the “bright spot of Los Angeles on the Sunset Strip,” soon shut again and 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.

1940 10 30 trocadero to be film museum

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.

1943 4 16 Trocadero with Louis Cantone

The Trocadero with Louis Cantone as manager, 4-16-1943. Chuy Penn and His Cuban Rumba Band had a regular engagement.

1943 8 2 eddie lebaron's Trocadero

As Eddie LeBaron’s Trocadero, 8-2-1943. Chuy Penn again.

1944 3 18 Trocadero under Glenn Billingsley

Trocadero with Glenn Billingsley as manager 3-18-1944

1944 7 12 trocadero with George Goldie

The Trocadero under management of gambler George Goldie featuring Miguelito Valdez (“The Sinatra of Cuba”) and the King Cole Trio. 7-12-1944.

trocadero 8610 sunset 1945

The Trocadero as seen from Sunset Plaza Drive, c. 1945. The façade has undergone more alteration since 1939- besides the removal of Felix Young’s name from the signage, the building has been painted a dark color and fixed display panels added between the doors.

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.

1946 3 23 spike jones nat king cole Trocadero

3-23-1946.

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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