Swing Discussion Boards > Hollywood Hangouts in the 1950's

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Black Sheep, Jul 14, 2003.

  1. Black Sheep

    Black Sheep New Member

    For History buffs,
    My first day in L.A. was spent in a YMCA sleeping with my shoes under my
    pillow. It was spring of 1947. When I checked out the next morning, the desk
    clerk gave me an address where WW II veterans could find lodgings in Mom
    Lears Hollywood Canteen for a $1.00 a day, breakfast included.
    I lucked out because I ended up living near the most popular hang out for talented entertainers which was only one block away from Schwabs drug store on Sunset and No. Crescent Heights that runs into Laurel Canyon on the north side of the
    Sunset Strip. Schwab's Drug store was where the 'Sweater Girl', Lana Turner was discovered behind the soda fountain.
    Mom Lear ran the Canteen along with a lovely gray haired lady, Nellie who was
    like a big sister to some 30 veterans, most of us in our twenties, trying to
    find a nitch in society. The Canteen was a large two story building on the
    southeast corner of Franklin and No. Crescent Heights. We had a big yard with a
    swimming pool, a picnic area with a ping pong table. and a barracks with some
    40 army cots for the residents. For reasons I may get into later, during my second week I was invited to be Bill Masters' room mate sharing a double room on the second floor, and happily moved out of the barracks. Mom Lear and Nellie shared the other double room on the second floor which they used as an office and a sometimese sleeping Quarters.
    The bottom floor was a massive recreation hall with a large library reading room to the west. The recreation Hall was where all the entertainment and feeding took place with a professional kitchen to the north containing several large black ovens where we could cook our own food anytime during the day.
    Most of us lived by picking up odd jobs, by sitting on the curb down the
    block on Norton Ave. just above Santa Monica Blvd. If we didn't pick up a
    job within the hour we went to Schwab's and joined some of the young
    aspiring actors like Tony Curtis not a vet, but just from New York, John Saxon who was a blond at the time and couldn't get a job until he dyed his hair black and then became one hell of a actor, Frankie Chase whose sister was Cyd Charisse and whose father wrote the story and film script, 'Red River'. Frankie remained an avid swing dancer all through the years up until today. Behind Schwabs was an alley where , 'The Actor's Lab' was located. I joined the Actor's Lab for a while. Jeff Corey was our coach from time to time. Our celebrity in the Lab, straight
    from Great Britain was Joan Collins who always sat in the back row but never
    seemed to take part un any improve's.
    At night time we usually hung out at the Garden of Allah across the street
    from Schwabs on the south side of Sunset Strip. The Garden of Allah was a
    night club with some dozen bungalows behind that were usually rented by the
    night. It was in one of those bungalows that Robert Mitchem was busted for
    Marijuana possession when the cops were called because of a rumpus he caused with some lady.
    The night club in front of the bungalows was where Sammy Davis Jr. used to sing for free. Many a nights I'd drop in with Johnny Wygent and Matt from Lorraine, Ohio for a couple of beers while the crowd gathered around the Piano in the rear with Sammy singing and dancing for tips dropped in a water glass setting on the piano.
    Down a few blocks to the west was the Marquis, a restaurant with a long bar against one wall; a quiet darkened room to eat and relax in. Still further down a few more blocks on the south side of the Sunset Strip was the famous 'Trocadero' where top named national entertainers performed, and for only a two drink minimum, 80 cents, you could see the greatest performers in the country. The Trocadero is where our story ends which I call 'Waltzing with Rock Hudson'. But that's something I'll write about in my next Hollywood Travelogue of the 1950's.
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