The Sunset Strip is a very popular and well known destination for tourists and it has a rich history with Hollywood and Beverly Hills being the two ends of the Sunset Blvd east-west corridor. Videos from decades ago show how the Strip has changed yet much has been preserved over the years. So we went to YouTube to look for videos from the mid 20th century that would show the changes compared to the Sunset Strip of today. Our GPS audio tour (The Sunset Strip: Playground of Rockers, Mobsters and Hollywood Celebrities) starts at 8000 Sunset Blvd at the intersection of Crescent Heights and continues for a mile and a half to Doheny Drive where you cross the street and walk in the opposite direction back to where you started.
The first 3 stops of our tour are shown on the map above. This YouTube video below is from 1967 and is being recorded in a car as it drives east on Sunset Blvd starting at 8272 Sunset Blvd. The car passes many of the stops along our tour including The Rocky and Bullwinkle statue before it was recently moved to the intersection at Sunset and Holloway, about 1 mile west. The drivers then proceed to pass the Lytton Bank building (today a Chase Bank branch) and was the location of the Garden of Allah before it was torn down. The video ends at the intersection of Crescent Heights where you see the young kids gathering in front of Pandora’s Box.
A CVS pharmacy and a Trader Joe’s grocery outlet now occupies this property at 8000 Sunst Blvd along with other businesses but back in the day this is where Schwab’s Pharmacy was located. In 1932, Schwab’s was the hangout where Hollywood celebrities and other industry people gathered to see and be seen. Stars like Marlon Brando were frequent visitors to this hotspot. Schwab’s Pharmacy was more than just a place to fill prescriptions: there was a grocery store and a make-up counter where Gloria Swanson bought cosmetics. There was a restaurant here too that served favorites like hamburgers and meatloaf to customers like Marlon Brando and Orson Welles. Here is a photo of a few Hollywood celebrities like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in front of Schwab’s back in the 40s.
And from the movie Sunset Boulevard starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden here is a clip showing Holden pulling up in his car across the street from Schwab’s and crossing the street to go to the pharmacy and you can see it’s a bustling social scene inside.
Pandora’s Box is the second stop on our tour and it was located on the triangular island In the middle of the intersection. Today the only structures on the island are a bus stop and a planter bed with a tree. But back then it was a bustling coffee shop focused on the under 18 crowd. On Nov. 12, 1966, The Sunset Strip Curfew Riots exploded here in protest of an early curfew imposed by West Hollywood officials on music fans who were 18 and younger. Here are two YouTube videos with original footage from that date with The Monkees, who lived nearby in Laurel Canyon, being interviewed for their impressions to begin the second video.
Here is a YT video of the riots on that night
Garden of Allah
As you continue West and cross the street from the triangular island, you come to a non-descript strip center that, before 1959, was occupied by a community called The Garden of Allah which was a three-acre property purchased by Alla Nazimova in 1919 as her private residence. She was a successful silent film star, but as silent films faded in popularity, she converted the property into a residential hotel that included dozens of Spanish style villas and a swimming pool in the shape of the Black Sea.
Here is a YouTube video from the 50s that was recorded before the property was closed and leveled.
This second YouTube video shows a model of the property that was exhibited in the main house of the property. Despite the debauchery and scandal that the The Garden was known for, it was also an unlikely creative sanctuary where iconic artists took up residence with examples including Orson Welles, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers and Laurence Olivier.
Many believe that Joni Mitchell wrote the song Big Yellow Taxi with The Garden of Allah as inspiration:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot