La Conga – 1551 N. Vine

La Conga was a Hollywood nightclub that capitalized on the Latin music craze of the 1930s and early 1940s, which overlapped with the Hawaiian craze; in fact, the Hawaiian-themed Tropics nightclub was located just a few doors down.

The 2-story building that housed La Conga, at the southwest corner of Vine and Selma, was built in 1925 by architects Dodd & Richards in the Italian Renaissance style. It included the addresses 1449 to 1559 North Vine.

Architectural drawing of the Vine and Selma building, LA Times, 1/25/1925.

The completed building. LAPL photo.

Completed by the fall of 1925, the upper floor housed a ballroom, The Hollywood Roof, addressed as 1549 N. Vine, from 1925 to 1930.

Ad for the Hollywood Roof 12/8/1926. LA Daily News.

1549 N. Vine then became the Hollywood Gardena as of January 1931, then on October 6, 1932 it opened as the Bal Taborin.

Gala opening of the Bal Tabarin 10/5/1932. LA Times.

The Bal Taborin soon gave way to the Victorian-themed The Nineties nightclub and dance hall in 1933. The club was raided by Detective Lt. Charles Hoy of the Hollywood vice squad in July 1934; Hoy claimed the bartender, Joseph Stevens, had served him whiskey in violation of new State liquor laws. In September 1934, two young women, Margaret Thorpe and Peggy Page, were arrested for performing a fan dance at the club.

Ad for 1549 N. Vine as The Nineties 5/12/1934.

It soon thereafter ceased to be a nightclub and on November 16, 1935 the space opened as The Hollywood Associated Studios.

Ad for the Hollywood Associated Studios 2/14/1937.

Back to 1551.

In August 1925, Tony Merlo, “Hollywood character and restaurant man” leased space on the first floor of the yet-to-be-completed building’s first floor, addressed as 1551 N. Vine, for a cafe serving Italian fare. Tony Merlo’s Italian Restaurant opened by December of 1925. Capitalizing on his Hollywood connections as well as the location, across the street from the Lasky/Famous Players studio, Tony promised that “all the movie people eat here.”

Unfortunately for the restaurant business, Lasky/Famous Players moved in 1926 to a new home on Marathon Street near Melrose (see my previous post about that property, here).

Ad for Tony Merlo’s 1/2/1926.

By 1930, 1551 N. Vine was Bernie’s Cafe, operated by Nathan Bernstein. It was raided by federal dry agents on September 17, 1930 after receiving complaints that the place was selling bitters, consisting of 48% alcohol, to minors. Bernstein was sentenced to 6 months in jail and received a $500 fine. (The old Jim Jeffries bar, associated with Zeke Caress, Farmer Page, Tutor Scherer and others, was also caught up in the same raid). Bernie’s nevertheless continued here into early 1932.

Dry raid at 1551 N. Vine. 9/18/1930. LA Times.

1551 next briefly operated as the “1551 Club,” reportedly affiliated with Fred Whalen, father of Jack Whalen, aka “the Enforcer,” On New Years’ Even 1933, the 1551 Club’s fixtures and equipment were sold at auction.

On May 30, 1935, 1551 N. Vine opened as Le Trianon. Again, it was operated by an actor, Eugene Borden and featured the decor and cuisine of Borden’s native France.

Ad for the opening of Le Trianon 5/30/1935.

Le Trianon didn’t last too long. By April 1937, 1559 N. Vine was known as the Dominic Tavern, operated by Dominick Ferrera, when it made unfortunate publicity- an employee, Frank Damiano, was brutally murdered with a meat cleaver during his early morning shift, ostensibly by bandits. The case went unsolved. In June 1937, Ferrera pleaded guilty to adulterating and mislabeling liquors (LA Daily News 6/10/1937).

Shortly thereafter, 1551 changed hands again. Louis Prima headlined at the unnamed club, “Hollywood’s newest,” on July 2, 1937.

So new, it didn’t even have a name. Louis Prima debuts at “Hollywood’s newest” nightclub, 1551 N. Vine, 7/2/1937.

Finally, La Conga

In January 1938, H. Goldstein, the owner of record, applied for a permit for architect James H. Garrott to design a false front inside the cafe “to represent the exterior of a Cuban plaza” and add a hardwood dance floor. Hollywood gossip columnist Read Kendall of the LA Times reported on February 3, 1938 that Johnny Meyers (a friend of Errol Flynn’s) was opening the La Conga cafe on Vine Street on February 17.

As was typical for Hollywood Clubs, there was already a La Conga in New York, which had opened in December 1937. Cuban musician Desi Arnaz, who had come to the USA with his family, fleeing the Cuban Revolution of 1933, was a performer at the NYC La Conga. Conga fever spread west to Hollywood.

Ad for “Monte Prosser’s La Conga” from National Box Office Digest 12/20/1938. Via The Lantern.

Monte Prosser was the professed owner of the Hollywood La Conga. Louis Sobol mentioned him as its operator in his syndicated “The Voice of New York” column in August 1938, and Prosser’s name appears in the advertising that year as well.

In October 1938, owners of the building that housed La Conga enlisted architects Walker & Eisen to give the structure a streamline moderne makeover, in keeping with the Hollywood Recreation Center next door, which had opened in December 1937, the Hollywood Tropics building on the other side of it, and the new West Coast home of NBC radio across the street, built on a portion of the old Lasky/Famous Players lot.

The new facade had smooth white stucco and “modernistic chrome trimmings” on black and maroon colored Vitrolite tile, and indirect neon lighting. The anchor tenant, Thrify Drugstore, opened here in December 1939.

La Conga and the future home of Thrifty Drug at Vine and Selma, 1939. LAPL photo.

The following screen shots are from the 1939 MGM short, “Rhumba Rhythm at the Hollywood La Conga” which appears to have been filmed on location. House band leader Eduardo Chavez appears as himself.

Two tourists contemplate the exterior of La Conga. Note the doorman.

A glimpse of the bar and beyond it the dance floor and stage.

The film shows a number of celebs living it up at La Conga, including Chester Morris and not yet a huge star Lana Turner.

Murals and a waitress in a sombrero.

The stage and dance floor.

Patrons do La Conga on the postage stamp-sized dance floor.

The film in its entirety can be seen on youtube, thanks to user “ShortFilm.


Spanish language ad for La Conga in the LA Opinión 8/25/1940.

In mid-1941, La Conga changed its name to the Copacabana, though it continued to feature rhumba/Cuban music. However, Monte Prosser (who would later front the New York Copacabana club) apparently did not follow procedure in the matter of updating the club’s license to reflect the new name, because on December 19, 1941, William G. Bonelli of the State Board of Equalization, which regulated compliance with the state alcoholic beverage control act, revoked La Conga’s liquor license on the basis that the owner, Monte Prosser, had abandoned it four months earlier.

LA Times 12/20/1941

La Conga reopened days later, on Christmas Eve 1941, with a new theme and a new name: Sugar Hill.

Ad for the opening of Sugar Hill at 1551 N. Vine, 12/24/1941. 

By early 1945, 1551 N. Vine had become the Club Morocco. The Morocco filed for involuntary bankruptcy in January 1948 and its fixtures and equipment were sold at auction the following month.

Ad for 1551 N. Vine as the Morocco, 3/24/1945, describes it as “Hollywood’s newest.”

Screen capture of 1940s film footage showing 1551 N. Vine as the Morocco c. 1947. Note the maroon Vitrolite tile.

As “Art Martin’s” Club Morocco, 1946. LA Daily News.

Postcard view of Vine Street at Selma c. 1948 showing the Thrifty Drug building and the maroon Vitrolite exterior of 1551 N. Vine.

Ad for the Morocco’s auction, 2/22/1948.

1551 N. Vine Street’s days (and nights) as a club came to an end. In December 1949, it reopened as the new Hollywood ticket office of the Santa Fe Railroad.

Dorothy Lamour added glamour to the gala opening of Santa Fe’s new Hollywood ticket office, 12/16/1949. LA Times.

Postcard view of Vine Street c. 1952 with Santa Fe’s signage at 1551 N. Vine.


Whalen was identified as the former operator of the 1551 Club in December 1935, when he was arrested, along with “James Ray” and “Paul Parker” in San Francisco for robbing a Hollywood dress shop, Lillian Herts, 9268 Sunset Boulevard, of $4000 worth of gowns and furs. See LA Daily News 12/6/1935.

Prosser, a “publicity agent” would lend his name to the talent booking agency, Monte Prosser Productions, run by Johnny Roselli, the Chicago Outfit’s man in Hollywood. Prosser would open a “Beachcomber” restaurant in New York in the late 1930s that seems to have been a ripoff of Don the Beachcomber’s, and where the Zombie is said to have originated. He also operated Monte Prosser’s Zombie Bar at the 1939 World’s Fair. He ostensibly bought the New York Copacabana Club in 1947. In July 1950, Virgil Peterson of the Chicago Crime Commission, testifying before the US Congress Special Committee Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce (aka the Kefauver Committee) said that Thomas Cassera, “an individual closely identified with the gangster element” had operated the Chanticleer club at 8572 Sunset Boulevard with Prosser.

In November 1939, Bonelli had been accused of graft in a pay to play liquor license scandal. Bonelli denied the accusations. It is worth noting that the LA mob made similar charges against citizen vice investigators led by Clifford Clinton. The bribe trial was unsuccessful and Bonelli continued on the SBE, eventually becoming its chair, until he was finally defeated in November 1954. At that time, Bonelli was implicated in another liquor license graft probe, in San Diego. He was indicted by the San Diego County grand jury in February 1955 and ended up fleeing to Mexico , where he died in 1970.


Hawaii Calls: Prewar LA and the Hawaiian Craze

Los Angeles has long has a fondness for Hawaiian music and style and Hollywood films did much to romanticize the islands as a tropical paradise prior to World War II.

Pan-American’s Martin M-130, “China Clipper” conjured up images of romantic eastern ports and swaying palms under balmy tropical skies, which the airline capitalized on in its advertising. On April 28 1937 the China Clipper made history by completing the first transpacific flight by a commercial passenger airliner, landing at Hong Kong after having departed San Francisco on April 21st carrying 7 ticketed passengers. Honolulu was it first stop.

The China Clipper in Hawaii, April 1937. National Air and Space Museum photo.

Before the China Clipper, the main way of getting to the islands was by ship. Matson introduced its newer, faster, luxury steamship, the Malolo, in 1927, the same year that Matson’s deluxe hotel on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, The Royal Hawaiian opened.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Between 1930 and 1932, Matson added three more luxury liners: the Monterey, the Mariposa, and the Lurline. The famed “white ships” made made the trip from Los Angeles to Honolulu in less than 5 days. Photos of Hollywood celebrities aboard the liners or frolicking on the beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian did much to boost tourism to the islands.

Matson ad in the LA Times, 3/1/1937

Matson’s S. S. Monterey in Los Angeles, c. 1937. LAPL photo.

A Matson menu cover, 1937

The non rich and famous could visit Hawaii vicariously via music from their own living room radios, or a movie ticket to one of the many Hollywood films with a real or fake tropical setting.

Honolulu native Sol Hoopii, virtuoso of the lap steel guitar, made Los Angeles his adopted home and was performing live with his trio at local venues and radio station KHJ by 1924. In 1938, he joined Aimee Semple McPherson’s ministry and devoted his career to writing and performing songs for her tours. 

Sol Hoopii in the 1920s.

Ad for Sol Hoopii’s Columbia recording of “Song of the Islands, available at LA’s Platt’s Records. He was appearing in person at the Pantages Theater. LA Times 9/27/1927.

In 1934, local bandleader Harry Owens began an engagement at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. Mainlanders could hear the performances on Saturday nights via the Hawaii Calls radio show, which gave listeners the feeling of being there next to the surf at Waikiki. Owens was well-known to Los Angelinos. Since 1926 he had performed as a musician with house bands at the Ambassador Hotel’s Coconut Grove and Café Montmartre in Hollywood, and with his own dance orchestra at venues such as Miller’s Café Lafayette in Westlake Park, the Hotel Mayfair, the Piccadilly nightclub in Culver City, and the Beverly Hills Hotel.


Harry Owens at the LaFayette in 1926.

Owens met Bing Crosby when both were performing at the Lafayette in 1926. Two of the songs crooned by Crosby in the 1937 film Waikiki Wedding, “Blue Hawaii” and “Sweet Leilani,” became standards. The latter won an Academy Award for best song that year and became Bing’s first gold record. Harry Owens, who wrote “Sweet Leilani” for his young daughter in 1934, would perform the song with his band in the 1938 film Coconut Grove.



Hollywood loved a Hawaiian/Pacific Island settings; if nothing else it was a way to get the leading lady into a grass skirt. With the talkie era, they could also capitalize on the popularity of Hawaiian music and dance.

Dolores del Rio in Bird of Paradise (1932)

Joan Crawford in Rain (1932) based on the Somerset Maugham short story “Sadie Thompson” and set in the South Seas.

The 1935 production of Mutiny on the Bounty, based on the 1932 novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, itself based on real events, sparked a flurry of South Pacific themed films, peaking in 1937.

The 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty was largely filmed in California, with some location shooting in Tahiti.

Wings over Honolulu (1937), with a naval aviator theme, starred Wendy Barrie and Ray Milland.

Monogram’s Paradise Isle had some location shooting in American Samoa. Movita, who also appeared in Mutiny on the Bounty, was actually of Mexican heritage.

The aforementioned Waikiki Wedding was filmed at Paramount’s Hollywood studio, with on-location shots made in Hawaii added post-production. photo.

Elvis was 2 when Bing sang “Blue Hawaii” in Waikiki Wedding.

The Hurricane was peak prewar Hawaiian film mania in 1937. Directed by John Ford, it featured Dorothy Lamour in a sarong and a mostly shirtless John Hall.

Filmed in late 1937 and released in 1938, Hawaii Calls borrows the name of the popular radio show and features songs by Harry Owens. The plot, of a boy stowing away on a Hawaii-bound ocean liner, seems at least partly influenced by Sol Hoopii’s life story.

Honolulu (1939) with Eleanor Powell and Robert Young, was filmed at MGM’s studio with stock footage of prewar Waikiki Beach.

Those who craved even more escapist tropical fun could drink a rum cocktail out of a coconut in a room full of bamboo and fake palm trees. 

The Cocoanut Grove

Hollywood had long known the charms of swaying palms under the stars- though the palm-filled Cocoanut Grove nightclub, located in the Ambassador Hotel, was thinking more sheik-desert-sand-palms than Hawaiian palms when it opened in 1922. The palms are supposed to have been left over from the film sets for Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik. Well, maybe.

Though sheik-mania was soon passé, the Grove’s swaying palms held their lure for decades to come.

A fashion show at the Cocoanut Grove c. 1937. LAPL photo.

The 1938 film Cocoanut Grove featured the song “Dreamy Hawaiian Moon” written by Harry Owens.

Kings Tropical Inn

Located on Washington Boulevard near West Adams in Culver CIty, Kings Tropical Inn was opened by John G. King in late 1925. The specialty of the house may have been southern-style chicken but the lush landscaping and interior decor were worthy of the name.

The restaurant burned down on February 17, 1930 and was rebuilt at the same site two months later in a Spanish/Moorish style with even more tropical foliage. 

The first King’s Tropical Inn building c. 1927. Note the address: 5741 W. Washington Boulevard. Building along W. Washington Boulevard were re-addressed over time.


Architect Frank Dunkan designed a new Spanish/Moorish style Tropical Inn on the same site as the first one, with even lusher tropical gardens. LA Times 4/13/1930.

Sol Hoopii and his trio performed at the opening of the rebuilt Kings Tropical Inn on April 26, 1930.

Looking very tropical indeed in a postcard view: the rebuilt Kings Tropical Inn.

Clifton’s Pacific Seas Cafeteria

618 S. Olive St.

Clifford Clinton opened his first Los Angeles cafeteria, “The Cafeteria of the Tropics,” here on September 17, 1931. The 2-story building, designed by architect Charles F. Plummer, had been constructed in 1921 for the Boos Brothers cafeteria chain. The LA Times reported in November 1931 that the space had been “transformed into a lovely tropical dining room with palm trees, birds, fountains, etc.” Music by Ray Canfield’s Hawaiian Beach Boys enhanced the exotic atmosphere.

Ad for the grand opening of Clifton’s Cafeteria of the Tropics, 618 S. Olive St., September 17, 1931.

Postcard view of Clifton’s Cafeteria of the Tropics dining room at 618 S. Olive St., postmarked 1931.

Clifton’s Cafeteria of the Tropics, 618 S. Olive St. c. 1931.

In 1935, Clinton opened a second LA cafeteria at 648 S. Broadway (also a former Boos Brothers), known as Clifton’s Brookdale.

Clinton became instrumental in the citizen-led effort to expose Los Angeles’ vice conditions, which ultimately led to the recall of mayor Frank Shaw in September 1938, as described in my post The Angels Take a Bath.

In 1939, 618 S. Olive was remodeled into Clifton’s Pacific Seas. The tropical theme was expanded to a new level, with rock grottos, neon lighting, bamboo and lauhala matting everywhere, even more tropical foliage and birds, multiple waterfalls, including one on the facade itself, and a “rain hut” dining room that featured a tropical storm effect. 

Color postcard view of the Clifton’s Pacific Seas facade, which featured a waterfall.

Facade of Clifton’s Pacific Seas, 618 S. Olive St. from a vintage Clifton’s promotional booklet, author’s collection.

Neon palm tree and foliage at Clifton’s Pacific Seas, 618 S. Olive St.

The neon-lit rock portico at Clifton’s Pacific Seas, 618 S. Olive St. From a vintage Clifton’s promotional booklet, author’s collection.

The lei and flower stand at Clifton’s Pacific Seas, 618 S. Olive St. From a vintage Clifton’s promotional booklet, author’s collection.

A view of the Rain Hut at Clifton’s Pacific Seas, 618 S. Olive St.

Clifton’s Pacific Seas closed in 1960, and the building was demolished. A tribute tiki bar called the Pacific Seas is located inside the former Clifton’s Brookdale location, now called Clifton’s Republic, at 648 S. Broadway. 


Don the Beachcomber

The original Don’s Beachcomber bar, founded by Ernest Raymond Gantt, opened at 1722 N. McCadden Place shortly after full Repeal in 1933. Managed by Gantt’s wife Cora “Sunny” Sund, the tropical-themed night-spot with potent rum-based concoctions like the Zombie, caught on with the Hollywood drinking crowd in a big way.

The club temporarily lost its liquor license in January 1936, branded by the State Board of Equalization as an “undesirable liquor establishment” for violation of liquor ordinances. In May 1937, Don the Beachcomber opened in a new spot across the street from the old one, at 1727 N. McCadden. Once a second location of the popular Tick Tock Tearoom at 1716 N. Cahuenga, the new location also had a restaurant that served exotic Cantonese fare.

Postcard view of Don the Beachcomber at 1727 N.McCadden c. 1949. Huntington Library photo.

The long bar at Don the Beachcomber’s.

Interior of Don the Beachcomber.

Ad for Don the Beachcomber 9/26/1938. LA Times.

The Tropics

Harry M. “Sugie” Sugarman opened The Tropics on November 28, 1935. The Tropics’ bamboo décor and “rain on the roof” effects were said to have been inspired by the 1932 Joan Crawford film Rain.

Located at 421 N. Rodeo Drive not far from other celebrity handouts like the Beverly Hills Brown Derby, “tailor-to-the-stars” Eddie Schmidt and the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, it was billed as “the informal cocktail lounge and dining room of the motion picture industry” and did attract a rare mix of both movie star and Society clientele.

Sugie’s Tropics. “Mingle with the Stars ‘neath bamboo and palm.” 12/31/1935

“So, really- are you two married or not?”Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard yucking it up with Anita Loos John Emerson at The Tropics, 1936. LAPL photo.

Mignon Woidemann and Jackson Moffett at the Tropics, June 1937. LAPL photo.

Exterior of The Hollywood Tropics as Tom Breneman’s c. 1945

When not being used for broadcasts, Tom Breneman’s was open for dinner and dancing.

As Tom Breneman’s at night with the neon going, c. 1947. LAPL photo.

As Ah Fong’s c. 1948-1949. Tom Breneman had moved next door into the Hollywood Recreation Center building. LAPL photo.

Sugie’s original Tropics in Bev Hills remained as popular as ever throughout the 1940s. In 1953 new owner Bob Crane (the ex- Mr. Lana Turner) renamed it The Luau and kept the tropical atmosphere until the building was demolished in 1979.


The 7 Seas

Located at 6904 Hollywood Boulevard across the street from the Chinese Theater, the 7 Seas featured rain on the roof effects and a hula dancer floor show.  It was originally run by Ray Haller. Haller applied for a permit to make alterations to the building, formerly used as a store/office space, on November 7, 1935 and it was serving up the tropical atmosphere starting c. December 1935/January 1936.

Matchbook for Ray Haller’s 7 Seas, 6904 Hollywood Blvd.


Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard must have been fans of LA’s tropical cocktail spots. Photographed at Sugie’s Tropics (see above), in January 1936, gossip columnist Read Kendall reported that they had been spotted at the 7 Seas. 1/29/1936. LA Times.

In May 1937, the 7 Seas was raided by the LAPD Hollywood vice squad, led by Detective Lt. Charles Hoy, and cited for violating the liquor closing laws. The Shaw administration and LAPD’s connection to protected vice was under fire at the time, the result of citizen committees for reform, led by Clifford Clinton and others.That Hoy raided the 7 Seas means they were either making a big show of enforcing the liquor laws or Haller hadn’t greased Hoy’s palm sufficiently.

The “World Famous” 7 Seas featured floor shows and dancing to the house band, led by Eddie Bush and his Hawaiians. 1/27/1939. LA Times.

Now it’s Bob Brooks’ 7 Seas 1/28/1942. LA Times.

Bob Brooks had taken over the Seven Seas by January 1942 but Brooks enhanced the café’s tropical décor with outstanding works of art on black velvet by artist Edgar Leeteg, visiting Leeteg in Tahiti to personally select the paintings.

In 1942, Brooks also operated the new Nevada Biltmore in Las Vegas at 614 N. Main Street, with the tropical-themed 7 Seas Room, which like its Hollywood counterpart featured Leeteg paintings.

The 7 Seas Room at Bob Brooks’ Nevada Biltmore, downtown Las Vegas c. 1942.

The 7 Seas neon sign c. 1937. LAPL photo.

The 7 Seas c. 1950. LAPL photo.

Postcard of the 7 Seas under Bob Brooks’ management.

The Bamboo Room of the Hollywood Brown Derby

1628 N. Vine Street

The Bamboo Room cocktail lounge debuted to the public on February 7, 1936, located inside the Vine Street Brown Derby,  the second of the chain’s restaurants, which had opened in 1929. Carole Lombard hosted a private party at the venue on February 5, a few nights before it opened to the public. A press preview was held on February 6. Gossip columnist Jimmy Fidler called the new space “the most ultra of the Hollywood cocktail bars.” Replete with bamboo (duh) and zebra-print upholstery, it had its own entrance just south of the main one, with access to the dining room. In April 1940, the bar added a television set! The bamboo theme lasted into the early 1950s.

Photographed at night for Life, 1937

The Bamboo Room. From Picturegoer magazine, 1/8/1938. Via the Lantern.

Hawaiian Paradise

7566 Melrose Avenue

Hawaiian Paradise opened in April 1937. One of its owners was Lorena “Rena” Rogers, an ex-actress and, from 1916 to 1941, wife of actor-turned-director Frank Borzage. After giving up acting, Rena took many trips to Hawaii, and back in Hollywood would throw huge Polynesian-themed parties with signers and hula dancers to entertain.

She recognized the competing popularity of Latin music in the latter part of the 1930s, and alternated Cuban and Hawaiian rhythms on different nights. Under various ownership, the club continued into 1947 at least.

Opening ad for Hawaiian Paradise 4/7/1937.

Ad for Hawaiian Paradise 4/6/1937

Hostess and club owner Rena Rogers, wearing a tropical lei, with husband Frank, right, directors Ernest Lubitch (far left) and William Wellman (in the polka-dot tie) and actor Richard Dix.


The Hula Hut

8204 Beverly Blvd.

The Hula Hut opened on October 30, 1936, with “Nuda the Beach Girl” and Dick McIntire; the latter led a popular Hawaiian orchestra for many years. In late 1937 Sam Koki and Andy Iona (Andrew Aiona Long) and their Colombia Recording Islanders were there, along with Augie Auld.


Hula Hut opening night ad 10/30/1936.

Hawaiian-born steel guitarist Dick McIntire, a Navy veteran, moved to Southern California after World War I. He performed in many Hawaiian-themed films made in the 1930s. He died in 1951.


“Go native tonight!” at the Hula Hut, 10/15/1937.

The Hula Hut exterior c. December 1937 when Andy Iona and Sam Koni were appearing. LAPL photo.


The Hawaiian Hut

7210 Beverly Blvd.

The Hawaiian Hut opened down the street from the Hula Hut in late 1936-early 1937, run by Tony Guerrero and Bill Ornellas, whose nickname was “Whistling/Whislyn/Whislin’.” Built in 1928, the building had previously housed a series of short-lived cafes and clubs before the Hawaiian Hut came along. 

It was not the first cafe in Los Angeles to be called the Hawaiian Hut. Ex-boxer/dentist Leach Cross had opened a Hawaiian Hut at 12745 Ventura Boulevard, across from the Hollywood Country Club, on December 10, 1925, but quickly tired of the venture and sold it in 1927 and his Hawaiian Hut became The Romany Shack.

Ad for the opening of Leach Cross’ Hawaiian Hut at 12745 Ventura Blvd., 12/9/1925. LA Times.


Ornellas’ Hawaiian Hut featured not just mere rain on the roof but an entire tropical storm effect. On July 13, 1942, the hut was damaged by an arson-set fire; it reopened September 2, 1942 and continued here through 1945.

Matchbook cover depiction of the Hawaiian Hut c. 1942.

Ad for the Hawaiian Hut promoting its rain storm on the roof effect and Dan Stewart’s Tahitian Entertainers, tropical atmosphere, tropical cocktails, and a monthly luau feast. 6/9/1942. LA Times.

The re-opening of the Hawaiian Hut following the arson fire. 9/1/1942. LA Times.


Ornellas also gave hula lessons at the Hawaiian Hut. 6/24/1944. LA Times

Whisling Ornellas would go on to run another Hawaiian-themed club, Whisling’s Hawaii, at 6507 Sunset Boulevard, a building constructed in 1922 for the Holly-Sunset Market. It operated through 1956, often hosting jazz acts. 

Ad for Whisling’s Hawaii 4/14/1951. LA Times

Gene’s Hawaiian Village

10637 S. Vermont Avenue

Gene’s Hawaiian Village was up and running as of May 1936. The venue notably featured native performers. Both Dick McIntire and Sal Hopi performed here with extended engagements. 

The “village,” located to the north of the cafe itself, consisted of Samoan huts, canoes, beachcomber shacks, and “everything authentic enough to transport you in imagination to another world,” according to columnist Win Morrow. Gene’s operated into 1948. 

Ad for Gene’s Hawaiian Village featuring dancing to Dick McIntire and his Harmony Hawaiians, 5/14/1936. LA Daily News

Ad for Gene’s Hawaiian Village with Sol Hoopii, not to mention “Mexican Pete” 8/17/1936. LA Daily News.

Gene’s Hawaiian Village. Photo from (


La Brea and Beverly

Opening in October 1937 at La Brea and Beverly Boulevard as Waikiki, “Honolulu transplanted to Hollywood.” It featured the Noe-Noe room cocktail lounge, Hawaiian songbird Lena Machado, and a floorshow featuring Prince Lei Laini and Sol Hooppi’s Hawaiian orchestra.

Waikiki opening ad 10/3/1937.


Actor John Craig and actress Vicky Lester at the Waikiki club, November 1937. 11/21/1937

The Zamboanga

3828 Slauson Avenue

The Zamboanga South Seas nightclub, “Home of the Tailless Monkeys” was the creation of Minnesota transplant Joe Chastek. Chastek discovered the South Seas as a young man; he was living in Honolulu as of 1930 per US Census records, and in Manilla in 1935.

Originally called “Joe’s Zamboanga” South Sea Cafe and Cocktail Lounge, the venue opened in late 1938 and featured performers such as Bob Nichols as well as an annual luau. By early 1940 it was just “Zamboanga” and the “tailess monkeys” had made their appearance. In June 1941, Chastek expanded the cafe and added a 17 foot neon-lit monkey sign to the roof.

Ad for Joe’s Zamboanga, 9.30/1938. The Southwest Wave.

Ad for Joe’s Zamboanga. “Dance in an atmosphere of Polynesian paradise.” 10/7/1938. The Southwest Wave.

Joe’s Zamboanga. “Only the finest liquors.” 12/2/1938.

Now just “Zamboanga” and featuring the “tailess monkeys.” 3/19/1940. The Southwest Wave.

The Zamboanga, photographed by Dick Whittington in April 1940, prior to its 1941 expansion. USC photo.


Slauson Avenue in April 1940, photographed by Dick Whittington.

Slauson Avenue in April 1940, photographed by Dick Whittington. The Zamboaga is seen in the middle right, before its 1941 expansion. USC photo.

Postcard view of Zamboanga before its 1941 expansion.

Postcard view of Zamboanga after its 1941 expansion and addition of the giant neon monkey sign.

During the war, in December 1944, “Trader Joe” Chastek opened a second club, the Trade Winds, at 334 S.  Market Street in Inglewood, again with a monkey theme. 

Joe Chastek’s Vagabond House opened in 1947.

After the war, in late 1947, Chastek would open a third South Seas-themed club, the Vagabond House, at 2505 Wilshire Boulevard, in the Masque Theater building.

Coral Isle

9349 Washington Blvd.


Niel [sic] Murphy opened the Coral Isle, across from the RKO/Selznick International studios in Culver City on April 12, 1939. It featured murals by Frank Bowers, decorative matting and bamboo everything. The house specialty was chicken dinners.

Ad for the opening of Coral Isle. Venice Evening Vanguard 4/12/1939.


Harold La Van took over Coral Isle in July 1941. La Van had operated a previous cafe in Venice, the Bambu Hut (discussed below) as well as the Rhumba Cabana in Santa Monica. La Van expanded the Coral Isle in 1944. It was soon taken over by brothers Phil and Lou Stein and their partner Bob Sassner, then Bob Axelrod in September 1946. In 1956 it became the sophisticated Culver House.

By early 1941, the glamorous Coral Isle was serving Chinese food, and, of course, tropical rum cocktails. 3/28/1941. Venice Evening Vanguard.

Venice Evening Vanguard 12 /4/1941.

Venice Evening Vanguard 10/14/1946.


The Bambu Hut

25 Windward Ave.

Harold La Van had operated a club at 25 Windward Avenue in Venice since the mid 1930s. On February 2, 1940 he reopened the club as the Bambu Hut with a new, tropical theme. La Van soon moved on to other ventures, including the Coral Isle, but the Bamboo Hut continued under various managers into the 1950s.


Ad for the Bamboo Hut. West Los Angeles Independent 2/22/1946


Other crazes would come and go but Hollywood never really lost its fondness for things tropical. On December 7, 1941, all eyes turned to Honolulu, in horror, with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Following the US entry into World War II, Los Angeles became a port of embarkation for service personnel heading to the Pacific Theater. The China Clippers were painted olive drab, the Matson “Big White Ships” became grey and these romantic modes of transportation were drafted into military service. Waikiki Beach was closed off with barbed wire and The Royal Hawaiian became an R&R facility for the military.

On January 18, 1942, Hawaiian and Tahitian performers from 12 nightclubs, including Bob Brooks’ 7 Seas, Zamboanga, the Hula Hut, and Gene’s Hawaiian Village, lent their talent at a rally for defense savings stamps and bonds at the Defense House in Pershing Square and drew the largest crowd to date.

Tropical-themed bars and restaurants became more popular than ever during and after the war and, of course, Don the Beachcomber’s, the Seven Seas, The Cocoanut Grove and King’s Tropical Inn remained fixtures for decades.


1722 McCadden became another tropical-themed club, The Tahiti.

Tom Breneman died of a sudden heart attack in April 1948, leaving behind a wife, two young children, and thousands of devastated fans. Breneman’s restaurant continued to operate for a time, following his passing, but the contents were finally sold at auction in January 1950. The space became the new home of ABC radio.

Mayor Shaw was ousted in a recall election in September 1938. Hoy would be among the officers purged from the LAPD in March 1939 by Shaw’s replacement, former Superior Judge Fletcher Bowron, who campaigned on a reform platform. 

The Masque Theater opened in 1926 as a legitimate state theater. In 1950 it was converted into a movie theater and renamed The Vagabond, probably because of Chastek’s popular restaurant, which became the La Fonda in 1969.

There was also a postwar club called the Bambu Hut, located in Ontario at 522 W. A Street.

HBO’s Perry Mason Season 2

HBO has aired Season 2 of its dark Perry Mason series, set in early 1930s Los Angeles. If you haven’t seen Season 2 yet, this post may contain spoilers.

Click here to read my previous post on Season 1.

Season 2 picks up six months after the events of Season 1 concluded, so it begins in June/July 1932 and seems to continue into 1933.

In 1932, Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympic Games and even gangsters like Spike O’Donnell and Bugsy Siegel played tourist. Once again the show’s producers do a good job  depicting  Depression-era Los Angeles.

New characters, father and son Lydell and Brooks McCutcheon appear to be loosely based on multi-millionaire Edward L. Doheny of the Pam American Petroleum & Transport Company and his son Ned.

A US Senate investigation in 1924 led to the indictment, in 1925, of the senior Doheny as well as former Harding Administration Interior Secretary Albert Fall, an old pal of Doheny’s. E. L. Doheny was accused of giving Fall a $100,000 bribe in exchange for Fall’s issuing leases of the Teapot Dome Naval oil reserves to Doheny. Ned Doheny was said to have delivered the bribe in person. The case dragged through the courts for the remainder of the decade.

E. L. Doheny. LAPL photo.

Ned Doheny. LAPL photo.

On February 16, 1929, Ned Doheny and his friend and secretary Theodore High Plunkett were found dead of gunshot wounds inside Ned’s newly constructed estate, Greystone, in Beverly Hills. When investigators were finally summoned, the family doctor, E. C. Fishbaugh, physician to the rich and famous, had already spent considerable time at the scene. The family and the doctor fingered Plunkett as the shooter, asserting that he had become mentally imbalanced lately and had shot Ned then himself.

LA Examiner’s photo-diagram on the actual crime scene photo illustrating “police officers’ theory of the dual tragedy in which Theodore Plunkett killed his employer, Edward L. Doheny, Jr. and then committed suicide. According to the police theory, Plunkett held the gun at his waist and shot Doheny seated in a chair.” LAPL photo.

Despite a number of anomalies, this explanation was accepted and the case was closed without further investigation or even a coroner’s inquest. After one day of sensational press coverage depicting Plunkett as the villain and young Doheny as a hero who’d tried to help his ill friend, the case also vanished from the newspapers. Ned Doheny was buried on February 19; Plunkett was laid to rest the following day.

There are multiple theories today about what really happened that night, and speculation as to the motive, including that Ned Doheny was soon to testify to the Grand Jury in the bribery trial. In any case, on October 25, 1929, Albert Fall was convicted of accepting a bribe and sent to prison. E.L. Doheney, however, was acquitted in 1930 of having done the bribing. Raymond Chandler references the case, calling it the “Cassidy case,” in The High Window.

“Mr. and Mrs. Edward Doheny” are among the donors listed in the program of Camilla Nygaard’s musical soiree. HBO.

The Gambling Ships

Brooks McCutcheon has an interest in a gambling ship, The Morocco. Los Angeles did have a number of gambling ships operating off of its coastline over the years. The LA mob’s Tutor Scherer experimented with an unnamed gambling barge in 1928; Farmer Page backed the Rose Isle in 1930. Jack Dragna was behind the Monfalcone (1928-1930). In 1932, the ships operating were the Johanna Smith and the Monte Carlo. Both had the involvement of former bootlegger Doc Schouweiler. Page likewise had an interest in the Johanna Smith. In addition, the La Playa began operation in 1932. Unlike the other two, which were stationary, the La Playa actually sailed, taking passengers on a “cruise to nowhere” while they gambled on the high seas.

The ships theoretically operated in international waters, outside the jurisdiction of local and state authorities. The water taxis that brought customers to the ships, however, were subject to local laws and efforts to shut down the ships generally focused on this weak link.

In July 1932, there was a fire aboard the Johanna Smith, with many passengers aboard. The ship was replaced later that year by the Johanna Smith II.

The Morocco on the high seas in Perry Mason. HBO.

The Johanna Smith gambling ship in 1930. LAPL photo.

Fire aboard the Johanna Smith 7/22/1932.

The exterior and interiors of the ships were not nearly as glamorous as depicted in their advertising.

Aboard The Morocco. HBO

Aboard the Morocco. HBO.

Game room on a gambling ship. LAPL photo.

Ad for The S.S. Johanna Smith 7/8/1932.

Ad for the LA Playa “cruise to nowhere” gambling ship. Unlike the others, which were not seaworthy, the La Player actually sailed. 8/23/1932.

Ad for the Johanna Smith II. 11/18/1932.


The water taxi pier at Venice Pier in Perry Mason. The gambling ships mostly operated out of Long Beach at this time.

Note signs for the water taxis, which conveyed customers to the gambling ships.

Perry’s Apartment

Having sold the family farm in Season 1, in Season 2 Perry has recently moved in to a swanky new apartment. The location of the building shown in the series is the Los Altos Apartments at 4121 Wilshire Boulevard. Built in 1925, the Mission-Revival style building offered both  rentals and own-your-own units. By 1932 it had fallen on hard times and in was offering bargain rates. Perhaps Perry took advantage.

Courtyard of the Los Altos Apartments. HBO.


Outside view of the Los Altos. HBO.

The Los Altos Apartments c. 1934. LAPL.

Ad for the Los Altos Apartments 7/3/1932.

Perry’s Office

Perry’s office is in the Chester Williams Building at 215 West Fifth Street. Opened in 1926, it did indeed house a number of lawyers’ offices. See my previous post on the Chester Williams Building, here.


Perry heads to work down the Frank Ct. alley next to the Chester Williams Building. The building straight ahead of him is the Alexandria Hotel, which had fallen on hard times in 1932. HBO. 

Entrance to Perry’s offices in the Chester Williams Building on Fifth St. HBO.

Mateo and Rafael Gallardo’s horrific eviction storyline and Brooks’ desire to build a baseball stadium on the site to draw a major league team to Los Angeles seem clearly inspired by the Chavez Ravine evictions and the building of Dodger Stadium.  The evictions by the city began in the early 1950s, resulting in most of the community leaving their homes. The planned development for the area never materialized, however. And it would be more than a quarter century before the Dodgers came to Los Angeles, in 1958. Voters approved a measure to give the Chavez Ravine land to the team’s owner to construct a stadium. Construction began in 1959 and the remaining residents who refused to leave were violently forced out.

McCutcheon Stadium signage as residents are burned out of their homes. HBO.

Evictions at Chavez Ravine, 1959. LAPL photo.

The building shown in the series as McCutcheon Stadium is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 3911 S Figueroa Street in the Exposition Park neighborhood. It opened in 1923. Many of the 1932 Summer Olympic Games events were held here. I wrote about it previously in this post. The Dodgers used it for their games from 1959 until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.

Mateo Gallardo proposes in the shadow of the unfinished McCutcheon Stadium. HBO.

"los angeles memorial coliseum" 1920s

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the 1920s before the Olympic Torch was added above the entrance in 1930. 

Griffith Observatory

When Perry and his son go horseback riding in the Hollywood hills with Ginny Aimes, Griffith Observatory can be seen under construction in the distance.

The late Col. Griffith J. Griffith had bequeathed funds to build the observatory. The site was selected in November 1931. Construction on the buildings, designed by architect John C. Austin, got underway until June 1933. The observatory opened in 1935.

Griffith Observatory under construction in the distance. HBO.

Griffith Observatory under construction c. 1933. LAPL photo.

Announcing start of construction on Griffith Observatory. LA Times 6/19/1933

Santa Anita

Perry has a terse meeting with Lydell McCutcheon at Santa Anita racetrack. The track is shown completed, with horses working out on the track. Groundbreaking for the new Santa Anita, home of the Los Angeles Jockey Club, began in August 1932. In June 1933, California voted to legalize parimutuel betting again. Santa Anita park opened on December 25, 1934.


Santa Anita under construction 1933. LAPL photo.

Devil’s Gate Reservoir.

As in Season 1, Perry and Pete meet at the 1920 Devil’s Gate Reservoir. See more pictures of this location in my post on Season 1.



The Hall of Records

As in Season 1, courtroom scenes take place at City Hall, not the Hall of Justice or the old County Courthouse on Poundcake Hill. In a nice touch, though, the series recreates a glimpse of the long-gone 1908 Hall of Records building, then located at 220 N. Broadway. Perry does report to the Hall of Records to begin seving his sentence.

Della and Perry leaving City Hall. HBO.

Perry watches Della addressing reporters on the steps of City Hall while the old Hall of Records looms large. HBO.


The Hall of Records seen from City Hall c. 1939. LAPL photo.

Hall of Records (left) and the LA County Courthouse, connected by a bridge. LAPL photo.

Hope Perry, Della and Paul will be back for a Season 3.



Dr. Fishbaugh was also doctor to the Pantages family and that same year, 1929, testified for the defense in the murder trial of Lois Pantages, and also lobbied to keep her husband out of jail for reasons of poor health while he faced accusations of sexual assault. See my post on the Love Mart case. In 1937 he was Jean Harlow’s doctor.

Another wealthy oil man involved in the Teapot Dome scandal, Harry F. Sinclair, was convicted of jury tampering and served a six month prison term.

The Johanna Smith II operated until 1935, The Monte Carlo until 1936. Other ships operating out of LA in the 1930s were the City of Panama (1933), another “cruise to nowhere” ship; the Tango (1935-1939), the Star of Hollywood (1937), the Caliente (1937-1838), the Rex (1938-1939), operated by Tony Cornero, the Showboat (1939), and the Texas/Mt. Baker (1939). State Attorney General Earl Warren successful shut down gambling the ships in 1939. In 1946, Tony Cornero opened a new gambling ship, the Lux, which operated briefly.

Los Angeles had a Pacific League team at the time, the Los Angeles Angels, based at Wrigley Field.

Ann Forrester – the So-Called “Black Widow”

Almerdell Forrester, using the name Ann Forst, first made headlines in Los Angeles in April 1940 for her involvement in a large prostitution syndicate. LA County sheriff George Contreras seems to have given her the nickname “The Black Widow” apropos of nothing. The press ran with it and the name stuck.

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Orville Forrester

In his “as told to” memoir, In My Own Words, Mickey Cohen recounts the time he held up a brothel, run by a woman he calls Hollywood’s “top madam,” noting that he became friends with the madam’s brother, whom Cohen calls a fellow criminal. Some sources have presumed the madam he refers to was Lee Francis. But he could have been talking about Ann Forrester. Her brother, Orville, was definitely a criminal. Or, as he saw it, the victim of vendettas and political frame-ups just for trying to be a good citizen who simply had the bad luck to be around when guns were being fired.

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Jimmy Utley: LA’s Utterly Underrated Criminal

James F. “Jimmy” Utley,” alias James Baxter/James Bradley, known “Iowa Jimmy” and “Jimmy the Eel” was anther one of those mystery men like Nola Hahn Slim Gordon found knocking around Los Angeles after Repeal and embraced without question by Hollywood. 

Miscatine Journal 8/7/1922

Born in Connecticut on December 4, 1902, by 1921 he was living in rural Atalissa, Iowa where he manufactured illegal liquor (Iowa had enacted dry laws in 1916, ahead of national Prohibition). He was arrested at his farm in August 1922 after Sheriff’s deputies confiscated a still, found at the railroad depot, addressed to Utley, sent to him by a Chicago manufacturer. The Muscatine County grand jury investigated. and on September 10, 1922, he indicted for manufacture of intoxicating liquor. But on November 24, 1922, the charges against him were mysteriously dismissed.

His wife Mabel divorced him in February, 1923. Married just two years, the union had resulted in one child. On June 8, 1923, he married Lillian Alborg in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Utley was working in Omaha, Nebraska for an “import” company. Mostly what he was importing was liquor to and from Chicago. A daughter, Audrey, was born in Chicago in December 1923. However, this second marriage did not last long, either. The couple divorced by 1930. 

As of 1932, Utley was living in Los Angeles. In 1934 he was running a club in Hollywood, Chateau Madrid, which opened August 31, 1934. Film gossip columnists touted the star-studded gala event. No one asked “Who is Jimmy Utley?”

Hollywood Citizen News 8/31/1934

Ad for the opening of Utley’s Chateau Madrid at 8400 De Longpre Ave. Hollywood Citizen-News 8/30/1934

LA Illustrated Daily News 9/1/1934

Club Madrid in any case didn’t last long; it was raided by the Sheriff’s vice squad in October for asserted violations of the gambling, liquor and zoning laws.

9131 sunset blvd

9131 Sunset Boulevard c. 1935. UCLA photo.

LA Times 2/5/1936

LA Times 2/8/1936

In February 1936, he was running another club, this time right on the Sunset Strip at 9131 Sunset Boulevard. Previously known as the Hangover and The Centaur, the location had an already checkered history of liquor ordinance abuses and Utley was denied a liquor license by the State Board of Equalization (SBE). He continued to operate it anyway and was subsequently raided and arrested by the SBE for selling alcohol without a license.

LA Times 1/25/1937

LA Daily News 1/25/1937

On January 23, 1937, Utley was arrested after delivering a packet of opium to an apartment house at 849 S. Normandie Avenue. He’d walked into a trap. The police had been tipped off that he was coming. Utley was arrested for violation of the State Narcotics Act as well as suspicion of robbery. Curiously, he was also found in possession of a police badge that could be altered to display the name of various major cities, as well as blank arrest warrants and bail bond applications. Even more curiously, Utley soon walked free. No charges were brought. 

On June 29, 1937 he was in trouble again. Another club he operated, at 8230 Santa Monica Boulevard, was raided on orders of George Contreras, then head of the Sheriff’s vice squad. Utley would do a brief stint in the County jail for bookmaking. 

It was around this time that Bugsy Siegel, with assistance from lackies Mickey Cohen and Jack Dragna, was attempting to take over the Los Angeles vice rackets.

The remnants of Charles Crawford’s old “Spring Street gang:” Farmer Page, Guy McAfee, Bob Gans and others, controlled LA’s bookmaking, prostitution and illegal table gambling with many clubs operating on the Sunset Strip, most notably the Clover Club at 8477 Sunset.

Jack Dragna had muscled in on the Spring Street gang’s bookmaking operations shortly after Prohibition ended. Then Bugsy Siegel had come to town and muscled in on Dragna’s rackets, forging an uneasy alliance with (now subservient) Dragna

At the same time cafeteria owner Clifford Clinton, as a member of the 1937 county grand jury, was hearing a lot of criminal complaints about various vice operations. Realizing vice could not operate on that kind of scale without official protection, he tried to get his fellow grand jurists to take action but they had no interest. He formed a citizen group to investigate independently, allying his effort with that previously launched by some religious leaders, including Dr. A.M. Wilkinson (See my post The Angels Take A Bath). Clinton relied on underworld informants to gather data on the city’s vice activity. One of them was Jimmy Utley. Another was Bob Coyne, owner of a nightclub property at 8383 Sunset. Since 1933, Coyne had been complaining to a group of religious leaders and other concerned citizens about vice operating in West Hollywood (then unincorporated) under the protection of the sheriff’s office. George Contreras in turn accused Coyne of fronting for an underworld group that merely wanted to use the sheriff’s office to close up his competition and had “duped” the religious leaders into supporting his effort. That may well have been true! It is also likely that both Coyne and Utley were allied with Siegel in the effort to take over from Page and McAfee, and used Clinton’s sincere efforts for their own purposes. But the old Spring Streeters knew this game. They’d invented it.

In September 1937, the County grand jury did, at last, launch an investigation. Not of vice racketeers but of religious leaders accused of shaking down the vice racketeers! Dr. Wilkinson was accused of accepting $4400 from Guy McAfee. On September 10, 1937, Coyne was indicted by the grand jury on extortion and bribery charges, accused of having shaken down two Huntington Park café owners for $500 each and trying to bribe Santa Monica’s Mayor Gillette and Police Chief Dice into letting him run a bookmaking operation there.

The day before the indictment was handed down, Utley, still serving time in County on the bookmaking charges, swore out an affidavit stating that one of the café owners visited him in the jail and told him that D.A. Buron Fitts’ office was trying to frame Coyne. Then on November 17, 1937- the eve of his trial- Coyne suddenly pleaded guilty. He was not eligible for parole due to having served a prison term in 1896 for the “malicious use of dynamite,” even though he received a pardon for that conviction when another man confessed to the crime.

But if the Spring Street gang thought they had succeeded in silencing Coyne, they were mistaken.

The 1937 county grand jury concluded its service at the end of the year. Clinton’s report on his vice investigations, it seemed, would never see the light of day.

January 14, 1938 changed that. Former detective Harry Raymond was nearly killed in a car bomb, soon traced to the LAPD and the Mayor’s office.

On September 16, 1938, Superior Court Judge Fletcher Bowron defeated Mayor Shaw in a recall election that Clinton had championed.

Many a mayor before him had promised reform. Shaw himself had run on a reform platform. Up until now it had been a joke. Bowron, however, meant it. He was going to clean up the city. Bowron was unaware that his reforms were helping Siegel get rid of the competition. 

The Spring Streeters made a big show of leaving town, but didn’t go quietly. LA Times reporter, Ben Ezra Kendall, formerly a crime reporter from Chicago, got himself hired by the Bowron administration as a “public relations” rep, although his salary was covered by Clifford Clinton.

In March, 1939, the Bowron administration began purging the LAPD of 23 high ranking officers suspected of being on the Spring Streeters’ payroll. As later revealed, Mayor Bowron had secretly (or so he thought) sought the help of ex-bootlegger Tony Cornero in identifying the supposed bad apples within the department. Cornero supplied a list. An investigator for Bowron, Alexander Jamie (whose uncle had been a lawyer for Chicago’s “Secret Six”) followed up and verified Cornero’s allegations.

But, it seemed the Mayor’s office had a mole, who revealed Bowron’s meeting with Cornero to the press in an attempt to make the mayor look corrupt. Kendall was the mole. Having discovered the traitor in his midst, Bowron fired Kendall.

On April 10, 1939, Jimmy Utley was arrested for extortion, accused of shaking down people who’d been arrested at Hollywood night clubs by presenting himself as a “fixer.”

LA Times 4/11/1939

Two days later, D.A. Fitts brought additional counts against Utley, dredging up his old, January 23, 1937, narcotics and robbery arrest, telling reporters that 3 policemen who had a hand in helping secure Utley’s release back then might be questioned. Of course, Fitts had been D.A. in January 1937. It’s unclear why he didn’t pursue the charges himself at the time. Now, Fitts himself was under fire from Clinton for his lack of action in going after the underworld (Fitts had, for example, never followed up on any leads from Clinton’s vice investigations) and would in fact be unseated the following year by the Clinton-backed candidate John Dockweiler

On April 25, 1939 Ben Ezra Kendall was arrested on bribery charges. He used the opportunity to try to smear both Bowron and Clinton, claiming they were beholden to eastern gambling interests.

One of the 23 purged LAPD officers was called as a witness for Kendall, and he too was keen to smear the mayor and his allies. The prosecution noted that the officer had been the one who secured James’ Utley’s swift release following his January 23, 1937 arrest for narcotics peddling and robbery. The officer admitted that he had, but insisted it was only for the robbery charge, and further asserted that Utley had been an informant to the robbery squad since 1936 and as such had helped the department on a number of cases. He claimed Clinton tried to bribe him to leave Utley alone, and it was his “belief” that Utley was using his connections to Clinton to protect 1520 vice resorts in Hollywood for which Utley received a percentage of the payoff. His characterization of Utley as a police informant was later found to be “inaccurate,” a contender for Understatement of the Year.

Utley was nevertheless branded as a rat. Mickey Cohen, long after the fact, would brag in his “as told by” memoir of having delivered a beating to Utley on Vine Street for being a stoolie. 

In July 1939, Utley went on trial for the April 1939 extortion charges and was acquitted by the jury on August 2, 1939. More good luck followed on September 11, 1939 when the narcotics charges against him were quashed in LA Superior Court.

LA Daily News 10/18/1939

Things turned sour for Jimmy on September 20, 1939. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on the same narcotics peddling charges. His lawyer, Bringham Rose (who also represented Clifford Clinton) called the case a frame up engineered by Fitts as payback for Utley having investigated Fitts on Clinton’s behalf. Which it probably was. Nevertheless,this time, the Utley luck didn’t hold and he was convicted. It wasn’t too bleak, though. Utley remained at large, free on $5000 bail, while the case was appealed.

Utley in fact would serve about 2 years. LA Daily News 10/21/1939

Meanwhile, the County grand jury was again investigating Bob Coyne.

As noted earlier, the old Spring Street gang did not go quietly, nor had they removed themselves from Los Angeles as they would have the public believe. For, while Mayor Bowron had been effective in cleaning up the city, his jurisdiction did not extend to the unincorporated county areas where gambling, prostitution and other vice still flourished, notably on the Sunset Strip. Siegel was still trying to take over those interests.

In February 1940, the County Board of Supervisors voted to regulate pinball machines, marble games and devices as gambling apparatus. Bob Coyne appeared before the board on February 27 and accused George Contreras of having a controlling interest in some 2000 slot machines operating within county territory and was prepared to go to the grand jury with his evidence. Contreras hotly denied the charge and smeared Coyne as an ex-con, submitting his prison record to the Board (failing to note that he’d been pardoned after someone else confessed to the crime he’d been convicted for). Utley (“one-time aide of Clifford Clinton”) was called by the grand jury as a witness to tell what he might know of gambling in the Sunset Strip area but refused to testify on the grounds that it might harm his appeal in the narcotics case.

Utley’s appeal was denied anyway. He immediately filed a petition for his case to be reviewed by the US Supreme Court, but this too was denied, on January 6, 1941. With all other avenues closed to him, Utley then made a plea for probation in lieu of jail time. Clifford Clinton wrote to the judge on Utley’s behalf that he believed Utley was the victim of political persecution by D.A. Fitts. The probation request was denied, however, and finally later that month he would at long last begin serving his 2-year sentence at Terminal Island 

After World War II, Utley settled once again in the city of LA and was aligned with Dragna, who operated Siegel’s race wire service for him. In March 1946, Utley was arrested on the charge of failure to register as an ex-convict- a requirement dating back to 1933. The charges were later dropped. He also ran the lucrative bingo concession for Tony Cornero’s floating casino, The Lux, which opened on August 6, 1946. The ship’s operation was shut down two nights later, Utley and Cornero arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate state gaming laws. 

The aftermath of Utley’s beating at Lucey’s. San Pedro News-Pilot 8/19/1946

Utley was released on $2000 bond. A few days later he had the misfortune to run into Mickey Cohen again. Cohen, like Dragna, worked for Siegel, who was then busy in Las Vegas trying to do an end-run around federal restrictions on non-essential construction in order to complete his Flamingo resort hotel-casino. On the afternoon of August 16, Utley entered the popular Lucey’s restaurant at 5444 Melrose Avenue near Paramount Studios. Cohen followed on his heels and severely beat Utley as another low-level hood, Joe Sica, held a gun on the horrified celebrity crowd. Then the pair escaped on foot. Utley suffered a fractured scull and other injuries but in the code of the underworld, refused to identify his attacker, telling police he wouldn’t press charges even if they caught a suspect. “I’m no stooge. I’m no copper,” Utley said.

Authorities speculated that the beating may have been administered by an “out of town” gang trying to muscle in on the Lux’s profits expected “when and if” it resumed operation (The Lux did reopen during Labor Day weekend, continuing through mid-September). Or it might be related to a bookie war, like the murder of Pauly Gibbons in May of that year. 

Hollywood Citizen-News 4/19/1947

Less than a year later, on April 18, 1947, Utley suffered another beating at his home, 7143 Hollywood Boulevard, and supposedly had a gun pulled on him. This time, a suspect was arrested: Herbert Robertson of 1907 W. Sixth Street.” But they had to let him go when Utley again refused to sign a complaint.

LA Daily News 11/20/1947

LA Daily News 11/20/1947

Utley was again shot at in November 1947 and again refused to name names. By now, Siegel was gone- murdered on June 20, 1947. Dragna and Cohen were supposedly fighting it out for crime boss of LA. In July 1949, Utley was questioned in the alleged attempt on Cohen’s life outside Sherry’s restaurant at 9030 Sunset on the Sunset Strip.

In November 1949, there was a bogus effort to recall Mayor Bowron. Utley was involved. It failed in a landslide.

In February 1950, Utley was questioned in the bombing of Cohen’s Brentwood home but denied all knowledge.

Jimmy the Eel. LA Mirror 2/8/1950

LA Times 2/14/1950

In April 1950, the US Senate Crime Investigative Committee (aka the Kefauver hearings) named Utley as one of several persons trying to establish a bookmaking syndicate among Nevada, Eastern gangsters, and local gamblers. Jack Dragna was another. John “Curley” Robinson (coin-op games vendor affiliated with Bob Gans) was another.

On November 18, 1950, Utley testified before the Kefauver Committee in Los Angeles. Other witness had previously testified that the attempted recall effort against Mayor Bowron in 1949 was backed by underworld gambling interests. Asked about this, Utley said he became interested in the recall after the LAPD revoked his bingo license, having classed such games as gambling operations, but later “lost interest” in the recall bid. Utley, who had indeed ran a bingo parlor in Venice, insisted it was perfectly legal. He claimed he was currently in the “jewelry business.” His name had came up in Cohen’s earlier testimony to the Commission about the 1946 beating of Utley at Lucey’s restaurant. Utley told the panel he did not know who beat him, nor did any of his friends who witnessed the beating. But did note that shortly after the incident, Cohen called him to ask for a “loan” of $3000, which Utley claimed he refused.

In January 1951, it was revealed that Utley, along with Jack Dragna, was one of the “Big Five” gamblers, who had planned the 1949 recall of Mayor Bowron. The 5 had been secretly recorded discussing the effort and how Los Angeles would be organized into territories, Chicago style, after Bowron was gone.

Hollywood Citizen News 1/30/1951

In March 1951, he was arrested for running a dice and poker game in rural Imperial County. He was fined $200 and let go.

LA Daily News 3/10/1951

In August 1951, Utley was questioned in the “Two Tonys” double murder in Hollywood. He huffed to the press that he was a “usual suspect,” blamed for every underworld crime in town. 

Legal troubles continued to follow Utley. On February 22, 1953 he was hit with a tax lien. On December 23, 1954 he was arrested on a burglary charge, accused of stealing jewelry, but released the next day. In April 1955 his name cropped up in yet another gambling inquiry.

The Valley Times 9/1/1956

Then on August 31, 1956, Utley was arrested in Long Beach, accused of running a $500,000 a year abortion ring along with “Dr.” Leonard Maxwell Arons, who was practicing without a medical license. Abortions, known in the family press at the time as “illegal operations” had been outlawed in California since it became a state in 1850. It was, in fact, the first law enacted by the new State (all male) legislature.

It was an extremely profitable enterprise for the underworld.

This time the charges would stick. Utley and Arons were convicted on December 18, 1956. On January 26, 1957 Utley was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. Exit Jimmy.

Long Beach Press Telegram 12/18/1956

Long Beach Press Telegram 1/28/1957

It got worse for Utley. On June 6, 1960 a judge ruled that he would have to serve 6 months in federal prison after his state time was up for failure to report thousands of dollars in income made in 1956 off his illegal abortion operation. 

Long Beach Press Telegram 3/31/1960

In a way, Utley would beat the system one last time. He never served that federal term. He died in Folsom Prison of natural causes on October 19, 1962. He was buried in Potter’s Field. No one attended his funeral.

Long Beach Press Telegram 10/31/1962



His death certificate erroneously records his birthplace as Colorado. His 1923 marriage certificate and responses to the US Census of 1940 indicate Connecticut. These sources also list his parents names as John Utley and Marion nee Andrews.

Mabel Utley filed for divorce in Atalissa, Iowa in February 1923. She said they’d been married on February 28, 1921 and had one child. His marriage certificate to Lillian that June in Council Bluffs, Iowa, lists this as his “first” marriage, which was false.

Mickey Cohen states in his “as told by” memoir that Utley was a henchman of Jack Dragna.

Utley served part of his term in LA County jail and at Terminal Island prison, in LA Harbor near San Pedro. The prison was taken over by the Navy in February 1942 following the US entry into World War II.

It is probable that Utley and Coyne knew each other before this. A nightclub on Coyne’s property at 8383 Sunset was at times affiliated with Eugene Jarvis, who also operated out of 9131 Sunset, where Utley had managed a club in 1936. Both addresses operated for a time as “Club U-Gene.”

7101 Sunset: McDonnell’s Drive-In / Tiny Naylor’s


Melvin Andrew “Rusty” McDonnell was, along with Harry and Charles Carpenter, a pioneer of what would become a multi-million dollar eat-in-your-car cuisine industry in Los Angeles.

Born in North Carolina in 1875, McDonnell joined the Army while still in his teens. He served in the Philippines during the Spanish American War.

After leaving the military, he worked in and operated restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri for several years in the early 1910s before relocating to Los Angeles in 1916, where he managed a restaurant, Crawford’d Famous Chicken Fry Steaks, at 311 W. Sixth Street.

Located at 311 W. 6th St., Crawford’s “Famous” Chicken Fry Steaks didn’t last long. LA Record 1918

After the US entry into World War I, he became proprietor of the restaurant at Camp Kearney in San Diego.

By 1921, he had returned to Los Angeles and opened an eatery at 440 W. Pico known as “McDonnell’s Ever-Eat.” By 1922, he had five outlets.

There were 5 McDonnell’s Ever-Eat locations by the end of 1922: 440 W. Pico, 405 W. 8th St., 1237 S. Main St., 603 S. Figueroa, and 207 E. 5th. The Tidings, 12/15/1922

At the end of 1926, two “Ever-Eats” locations had been added: 454 S. Hill St., and 711 S. Hill St.LA Times 12/31/1926

By 1930, McDonnell was expanding to drive-in cafes, featuring chickens raised on his own ranch. The idea was a success. Despite the Depression, McDonnell continued to expand his chain of restaurants, both sit-down eateries and drive-in cafes, throughout the 1930s.

McDonnell’s Ever Eat drive-in cafe at Figueroa & Santa Barbara, opened April 19, 1930. Southwest Wave, 4/18/1930

The early McDonnell’s Ever Eat drive-ins were modernistic masterpieces. This location was at La Brea Ave. & Beverly Blvd. California State Library photo.

McDonnell got a permit for the drive-in at 7701 Sunset Boulevard, at the northwest corner of Sunset and La Brea, in July 1936. The architect of record was H.S. Johnson.

Another view of the Sunset & La Brea McDonnell’s drive-in c. 1937. LAPL photo.

Night view of the Sunset & La Brea McDonnell’s drive-in. LAPL photo.

May 1938 ad for McDonnell’s restaurant chain. There were now 8 sit-down dining locations and 6 drive-ins, including Sunset & La Brea. “Everything from a sandwich to a complete meal served in your car” – a sentiment destined to appeal to Los Angeles. LA Times.

In 1948, another restaurateur, W. W. “Tiny” Naylor, took over about a dozen of McDonnell’s then-17 locations, including the 7101 Sunset drive-in.

William Warren Naylor was born in Keswick, Iowa in 1898. He continued to live in Iowa, working on the family farm, into the 1920s. By 1927, he was living in Merced, California, where in November he bought an existing cafe, Mack’s Coffee Cup, only to turn around and sell it a week later. As of January 1929, he was operating the Monte Carlo poolroom in Fresno. A year later, January 1930, he leased space at 1034 Broadway, Fresno, for a waffle and coffee shop. It opened February 15, 1930. The whole wheat waffles sold like hotcakes.

The first Tiny’s Waffle Shop, Fresno. Fresno Morning Republican 2/15/1930

At a time when many businesses were going under, Tiny’s thrived. Before the year was out, he’d opened a second Tony’s Waffle Shop in Reno. In addition to running his own shops, Tiny and his partner, Bruce Breckenridge, also sold franchises. Soon there were Tiny’s Waffle Shops in Sacramento, Modesto, Stockton, Marysville, Merced, Los Banos, Salinas, Bakersfield, San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. A second Fresno outlet opened on Mariposa Street in 1936, as well as a motel on Highway 99. Cocktail lounges were added after Repeal.

Naylor opened a second Tiny’s Waffle Shop in Reno on December 13, 1930. Nevada State Journal 12/13/1930

Tiny brought in beer by airplane to his Fresno waffle shop right after it became legal to sell it. Though beer and waffles doesn’t seem like an ideal combination. Fresno Bee 4/6/1933

Tiny’s Bay Area locations: Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose. The ad claims that the first Tiny’s Waffle Shop was at 24 Turk Street in 1927. That address housed a Tait’s coffee shop as well as a notorious poolroom and gambling dive run by Frank Cator. SF Examiner 10/2/1937

Ad for Tiny’s Waffle Shops, 1939. “Chicken in the Rough” was a franchised restaurant chain that began in 1936. Fresno Bee 2/4/1939

Having relocated from the Central Valley to the Bay Area by 1940, after World War II, Naylor turned his focus to Southern California, where he was a familiar figure in horse racing circles.

Tiny Naylor, far left, with Geneivieve Woolf, actor Leo Carrillo, LA County Sheriff Gene Biscailuz in November 1949. Nayor donated the sale of a horse to help raise money for a George Woolf memorial. The famed jockey had been killed in an accident at Santa Anita race track in January 1946 while riding one of Naylor’s horses, Please Me. Naylor had since sold off his racing stable, citing heath reasons. LA Times 11/3/1949

In August 1948, Nayor opened the first of his namesake southern California restaurants at 1715  Cahuenga Boulevard.

Hollywood Citizen News 8/20/1948

In February 1950, Naylor got a permit to rebuild the former McDonnell’s at Sunset and La Brea. Architect Douglas Honnold would design the new, modern edifice.

The Tiny Naylor’s building replaced the old circular McDonnell’s drive-in building at Sunset & La Brea in 1950. LAPL photo

Tiny Naylor’s at Sunset & La Brea 1952. Julius Shulman photo


Hey, homely girls- don’t even bother applying! LA Times 3/25/1951

Ad for Tiny Naylor’s, 1955 The Sunset & La Brea location was one of 3. LA Mirror 6/14/1955

In addition to his namesake restaurants, Tiny Naylor also operated Biff’s eateries, named for his son. LA Mirror 6/14/1955

This spectacular Marvin Rand photo of the Sunset & La Brea Tiny Naylor’s is labeled 1949; however, permits to rebuild the round former McDonnell’s structure were not obtained until February 1950.

Melvin McDonnell died in December 1958 at age 83. Tiny Naylor died in August 1959. His namesake restaurant chain continued, however. The 7101 Sunset Boulevard location closed in early 1984 and the fixtures were sold at auction that March. The building was demolished in June 1984.

Thanks, I’d love to. 7101 was still doing the business, along with 16 other Tiny Naylor locations, in November 1982.  LA Times 11/14/1982.

Ad for the auction of fixtures at 7101 sunset. LA Times 3/4/1984



Top image: LAPL photo.

McDonnell’s name was often spelled with one “l”, except on the restaurants.

The first McDonnell’s restaurant at 440 W. Pico continued to operate as McDonnell’s until 1962 when the McDonnell Corp was declared bankrupt.

6760 Sunset: Simon’s Drive-In

Simon’s hamburger stand at the SE corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue opened in early 1939, one in a small chain of locally-owned drive-in cafes started in 1935. It was the second Simon’s on Sunset Boulevard- the first was at 8801 Sunset on the Strip- but this location across the street from Hollywood High School was an instant hit.

A permit for this location was granted by the City in December 1938. The architect/engineer on record is S.B. Barnes.

Simon’s Sunset & Highland under construction. LAPL.

The Simons were brothers William Harold Simon and performer-turned-restaurateur Mike Lyman, who were partners in a string of eateries and nightclubs along with their other brothers Albert Simon and bandleader-songwriter Abe Lyman and others.

Michael “Mike” Lyman was born Issac Simon in Chicago in 1887 to Fannie and Jacob Simon, who had come to the USA from Europe in 1885. In 1910, as Michael Simon, he was working as an actor/singer in a cafe in his native Chicago. By 1916 he’d changed his name to Mike Lyman and was living in Los Angeles, a singer at Baron Long’s Sunset Inn in Santa Monica and Long’s Vernon Club.

Mike Lyman performing with “Blondy” Clark at The Sunset Inn. LA Record 11/15/1916

Detail of Mike Lyman’s WWI draft registration card.

Mike Lyman appearing with Lon Stepp at the Ship Cafe, Venice in 1919. LA Evening Record 8/28/1919

No one ever called Baron Long a gangster. He masqueraded as a respectable citizen. He was closely affiliated with Spring Street gangsters like Charles Crawford, Farmer Page, Zeke Caress, Tutor Scherer and his joints, run by fronts, were notorious for liquor violations, gambling and other illicit activities.

In November 1917 the City of Los Angeles passed the Gandier Ordinance, which banned the sale of strong liquor, effectively closing saloons within the city limits. Outlying communities like Vernon, Venice, Santa Monica and other beach towns, attracted the patrons looking to skirt the law. In addition to the Vernon Club, Baron Long operated the Ship Cafe in Venice and the Sunset Inn in Santa Monica. Mike Lyman performed at all three.

In 1918, Long turned the Sunset Inn over to the Red Cross. It was open as a cafe only on certain nights. LA Times 7/7/1918

By late 1919, Mike’s younger brother Abraham (“Abe”), who also adopted the stage name Lyman, had come out to Los Angeles and was appearing at Baron Long’s Vernon Club.

Abe Lyman appearing at the Vernon Club, 1919. LA Evening Express 12/16/1919

In 1920, Mike was in charge of entertainment at the reopened Sunset Inn, while Adolph “Eddie” Brandstatter, lately maitre’d of the Victor Hugo restaurant downtown, ran the hospitality side of things. National Prohibition was now the law of the land.

Mike Lyman in charge of “diversions” at the Sunset Inn after its reopening in  1920. Eddie Brandstatter ran the hospitality side of the business. LA Evening Express 6/21/1920

Abe Lyman at the Sunset Inn, 1921. LA Evening Express 8/17/1921

Abe  Lyman, having formed his own orchestra, was soon in demand as the house band at the Ambassador Hotel’s Coconut Grove nightclub, and as a songwriter and recording artist.

Peggy Dear was an early hit for Abe Lyman’s new orchestra. 1923.

Mike Lyman, meanwhile, moved away from performing and was running cafes and nightspots full time with brothers William H. “Big Bill” Simon (born in Chicago in 1896 and known as Harry as a child) and Albert (born in Chicago in 1889 as Alexander Simon) and others. In December 1920 they formed the Winter Garden Corporation, taking over a longtime Los Angeles cafe, McKee’s, at 520 South Spring Street upon the retirement of proprietor Sam McKee. The new Winter Garden cafe, addressed as 518 S. Spring, opened in February 1921.

520 S. Spring Street as McKee;s Cafe, 1905. LA Record 11/14/1905

In December 1921, Mike Lyman was managing the newly opened Palais Royal club at 616 S. Hill Street with his former partner V.B. “Blondy” Clark. The venture was short lived.

Opening of Mike Lyman’s Palais Royal on Hill Street. LA Evening Express 12/26/1921

In May 1922 the Lyman/Simon syndicate purchased land on Washington Boulevard in Culver City for another new nightclub, the southern-themed Plantation Club. It opened in June 1922.

Announcing Mike Lyman’s purchase of land for the Plantation Club, Culver City along with his old partner V.B. “Blondy” Clark. LA Times 5/23/1922

Opening of Mike Lyman’s Culver City’s The Plantation Club. LA Times 6/24/1922.

The Winter Garden Corporation dissolved in August, 1923 and the cafe closed as did the syndicate’s Sunset Inn. The Sunset Inn would reopen that year in Tijuana, where Baron Long operated the turf club. Mike Lyman reopened 518/520 S. Spring as The States restaurant.

In October 1923, Mike Lyman also opened The Rendezvous at 616 S. Hill Street. It too was short-lived.

Ad for The Rendezvous, October 1923 “under the personal management of Mike Lyman.” Note “Fanchon’s Fancies.” Bill Simon married Fanchon of the brother and sister dance/choreographer duo Fanchon & Marco, who for a time would operate a dance school at 5600 Sunset.

In early 1925, the Lyman/Simon group began work on a dance hall/ballroom to be called the Palais de Dance at the same location in Hill Street of Lyman’s failed Palais Royal and the Rendezvous. A gala grand opening, with appearances by heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and the Abe Lyman Orchestra, was planned for April 1925 but had to be postponed when the police commission would not issue a dance license due to an ongoing investigation into dance halls and cafes where dancing was allowed, for potential violation of the Prohibition laws. The opening was finally held in August 1925. But the venture was again short-lived.

Ad for the delayed opening of Lyman’s Palais de Dance. LA Times 8/28/1925.

In 1926, Mike Lyman opened the former McKee’s/Winter Garden/States location as the southern-themed Lymans’ Cafe Alabam, addressed as 520 S. Spring.

Lyman’s Club Alabam, 520 S. Spring St. LA Times 3/5/1926.

In 1927, Bill Simon, who had up until now been basically operating behind the scenes, opened the first of several Dairy Lunch cafes, which would bear the name Simon. Simon’s Dairy Lunch was located at 6630 Hollywood Boulevard in the new Cherokee Building.

Simon’s Dairy Lunch in the new Cherokee Building at 6630 Hollywood Boulevard, early 1928. This location operated into the 1940s. California State Library photo.

Simon’s Dairy Lunch at 6630 Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood Daily Citizen, 1/5/1928

Other Simon’s Dairy Lunch spots opened in downtown Los Angeles. In May 1930, Bill Simon leased the former company dining room of the Pacific Mutual Building at Sixth and Olive streets for a large Dairy Lunch location.

Bill Simon’s Dairy Lunch. LA Times 5/18/1930

The Pacific Mutual Building at Sixth & Olive streets.

The early 1930s were a difficult time for any business. Many failed. The Lyman/Simon brothers not only survived but steadily thrived with the dairy lunch counters. The repeal of national Prohibition in 1933 gave a boost to the restaurant industry, as cafes could now legally serve alcohol. Glamorous cocktail lounges were built or added to existing establishments to create an atmosphere of sophisticated tippling.

On April 23, 1935, Mike Lyman opened his first namesake cocktail lounge and grill at 751 S. Hill Street, location of the former Herbert’s Cafeteria.

1937 ad for Mike Lyman’s first Grill and Cocktail Lounge, 751 S. Hill St., featuring Frank Fay- who would go on to have his own namesake nightspot in the Valley.

Lyman would open a second Lyman’s Grill in Hollywood, in the former Al Levy’s Tavern at 1623 N. Vine Street in November 1941. Levy, like Sam McKee, was a pioneer restaurant owner. He’d opened the Vine Street location in 1930 and ran it until his death in May 1941. A fire swept through the night spot in July 1941, and in September 1941, the Simon/Lyman brothers leased and renovated the space.

Mike Lyman’s Grill at 1623 N. Vine St. in the former Al Levy’s, c. 1941. LAPL photo.

Ad for Mike Lyman’s Grill in Hollywood, 1623 N. Vine St., in the former Al Levy’s Tavern.

After Bernstein’s Fish Grotto at 424 W. Sixth St. closed in April 1942, this location became the new Mike Lyman’s downtown grill.

Mike Lyman’s Grill at 424 W. 6th St., in the former Berstein’s Fish Grotto.

Interior view of Mike Lyman’s new grill, 424 W. 6th St.

In 1949, Simon’s Sunset and Highland Drive-In was used as a filming location for the gambling expose, 711 Ocean Drive. In the still below, Hollywood High School can be seen across the street.

In December 1951, the brothers sold 12 of their Simon’s drive-in restaurants and 5 of their cocktail lounges to Stanley Burke, Sacramento drive-in owner. This Simon’s is one of the 12 that became a “Stan’s.”

The Simon/Lyman brothers sale of 12 drive-ins and 5 cocktail lounges. Hollywood Citizen News 12/10/1951

The former Simon’s at Sunset & Highland as Stan’s Drive-In. LAPL photo.

Mike Lyman died in November 1952. Albert Simon died in December 1956. Abe Lyman died in October 1957.

Mike Lyman’s Hollywood grill continued to operate until April 1959 when Bill Simon decided the time had come to close it. The building was demolished in 1966. Lyman’s namesake bar and grill on West Sixth St. continued to operate until December 1965, when the fixtures were sold at auction and the building subsequently demolished. The former Simon’s/Stan’s drive-in at Sunset and Highland was demolished in 1971.

Bill Simon died in April 1976.



The Simon brothers also had two sisters: Sarah and Dorothy. Dorothy used the name Lyman for a time.

Olive Day and the ‘Love Mart’ Case

Olive Day was the madam involved in the 1931 prostitution ring newspapers called the Love Mart/Love Market/Love Bazaar/Girl Bazaar. Like others before her and those still to come, the story played out the same way: lurid headlines, young girl victims’ parades for the photographers, a little black book containing the names of wealthy and/or famous men clients said to be shaking in their boots for fear of exposure (which never came), the madam is left holding the bag while the underworld bosses behind the operation are not charged (or even named) and simply start again with a fresh madam and new girls once the public outcry dies down.

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