The Argyle (8358 Sunset Blvd.; 323-654-7100; www.argylehotel.com), designed by Leland Bryant, was built in ’29 and features stunning Art Deco architecture with spectacular panoramic views. The 15-floor hotel, also known as Sunset Tower, resembles the Empire State Building and has been home to John Wayne and Billie Burke, among others. Completely renovated in the late ’80s, the Argyle once and for all represents Hollywood’s golden era.
Barney’s Beanery (8447 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-654-2287) has served up what L.A. wants since 1920. Renowned for its world-famous chili and vast selection of beer, the restaurant takes you back to the days when Jim Morrison haunted the Strip. It was here that Janis Joplin partied the night she passed.
The French-castle-style Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd.; 323-656-1010), modeled after an actual chateau outside Paris, has “that air of history, where . . . people did things they weren’t supposed to do.” So says actress Sandra Bullock, recalling that the ’20s building was the place where John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982. The cozy hotel is still favored by show-biz types, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, so stay calm should you run into one of ’em.
Doug Weston’s Troubadour (9081 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-276-6168) opened in ’57 and has featured some of the finest names in contemporary music, including Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and Bette Midler, long before they were names.
The Formosa Café (7156 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-850-9050) found its key to success next door in the Warner Hollywood Studios, which was established in 1919 as the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios. Since its opening in ’34, the Formosa has been frequented by almost every movie star. The proof: over 250 black-and-white, hand-signed head shots lining the walls. The café has also been a popular filming location, as in Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. There’s a new chef, so the chow might be finer than its old-style Cantonese past. Come to glimpse fading, present and future Hollywood idols as they pose. You might be seated in the same red-leather booth where Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable dined while shooting 1961’s The Misfits.
Gold Coast (8228 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-656-4879) is a cozy neighborhood bar that has been around forever. Middle-aged buddies gather to enjoy cocktails, pool, a live DJ and, most important, each other.
The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute (7936 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-650-7777; www.strasberg.com) continues the famed acting teacher’s legacy. Lee Strasberg (1901–1982), who co-founded New York’s legendary Actors Studio in 1947, popularized “Method” acting, a style of realistic performing, developed by Soviet stage director Konstantin Stani slavsky, that involves in-depth character study. With an office in WeHo since the late ’60s, the school, whose teachers studied directly with Strasberg, has been a staple to respected actors such as Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Sally Field and, more recently, Oscar winner Angelina Jolie. At its present location since ’78, the building features three performance spaces, including the 99-seat Marilyn Monroe Theater.
New Beverly Cinema (7165 Beverly Blvd.; 323-938-4038; www.michael williams.com/beverlycinema/) is owned and managed by Sherman Torgan. He also picks the films and runs the box office, keeping up the fight against VCRs and the Blockbuster mentality. With continuous repertory programming, the theater is one of the last revival houses in the area and has been running since the late ’70s. The building itself dates back to the Roaring ’20s, when it served as a vaudeville venue. In 1946, it became one of L.A.’s most famous nightclubs, Slapsie Maxie’s (named after boxing legend Maxie Rosenbloom), owned by gangster Mickey Cohen. Soon thereafter, the club relocated, leaving the building to porn cineastes before Torgan took over. See all your favorites, from Hitchcock to Tarantino.
Celebrating its silver anniversary, the Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose Ave.; 310-657-0800; www. p-d-c.com) is the West Coast’s largest resource for interior furnishings. More than 130 showrooms display everything from couches to fabrics, and although it sells to architects, dealers and professional decorators only, the public is welcome to have a glimpse inside. Designed by Cesar Pelli, the PDC combines two architecturally remarkable buildings named after their respective colors, Pacific Blue Showroom, commonly referred to as the Blue Whale, and Pacific Green Offices, which, after ongoing remodeling, is now being marketed to entertainment and media firms. Plans call for a third structure, Center Red, but a construction date has still not been set. The PDC also features the freestanding Feldman Gallery, and sponsors WestWeek, an annual international design-community event held in the spring.
Back in time, The Palms (8572 Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-652-6188) was a popular Jim Morrison hangout. With a rockin’ jukebox, DJs or live bands, it caters to a mostly female crowd, but also welcomes men of the nonchauvinist sort.
Rafters (7994 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-654-0396) has, for three decades, been a friendly place for socializing away from the mainstream Boys Town scene. Across from the French Market Place, the bar offers video games, bingo and pool, and is particularly favored by C&W fans.
The Roxy (9009 Sunset Blvd.; 310-276-2222), venerable site of innumerable career breakouts, such as Bruce Springsteen’s, has been standing as local rock’s room of hope and glory since the early ’70s.
The Schindler House (835 N. Kings Road; 323-651-1510; www.fosh. org), designed and built by Austrian architect Rudolf M. Schindler (1887–1953), was constructed in the early 1920s and was the first house to respond to SoCal’s unique climate, with each room having large sliding glass doors that open onto the garden. The internationally acclaimed masterwork consists of three open L-shaped units spinning out from a central fireplace, and was conceived as a place to express artistic freedom and sexual liberation. With his studio-residence, Schindler, who said that “the sense for the perception of architecture [was] not the eyes — but living,” created the prototype for modern California housing design. Today it’s home to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture L.A., a satellite of Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, which has organized a variety of all-year cultural events, including the current Richard Prince photo exhibit.
Opened in 1968, Spike (7746 Santa Monica Blvd.; 323-656-9343) is next door to the Tomkat gay-porn theater. The recently remodeled club is a hit with the harder-action, leather-and-Levi’s crowd, but attracts casual-dancing, hot-toned studs as well.
Tail o’ the Pup (329 N. San Vicente Blvd.; 310-652-4517; www.tail-o-the-pup.com) is a must for Angelenos and tourists alike. The 17-foot-long stand, shaped like a giant hot dog, remains one of the last examples of early-20th-century programmatic architecture, whereby the building’s design reveals the product being sold. Built in ’45, Tail o’ the Pup escaped demolition by the Sofitel hotel chain in ’87, moving from La Cienega to its present location on nearby San Vicente Boulevard. The fancy roadside stand has starred in movies like L.A. Story and My Girl 2, but is easily overlooked by the hungry, as it pales in the shadow of the Beverly Center. Skip the kitschy Hard Rock Café nearby; Pup owners Eddie and Dennis Blake will be delighted to feed you hot dogs with history.
The West Hollywood Library (715 N. San Vicente Blvd.; 310-652-5340; www.colapublib.org/libs/wholly
wood/) is a landmark in the battle against AIDS. Four years after actor Rock Hudson died of AIDS, community activist Ron Shipton wrote to his city councilman, asking why he and his friends should spend hundreds of dollars on up-to-the-minute information regarding the epidemic “when the rich city of West Hollywood could buy it for the library.” Born was the nation’s first HIV-information center at a public library, which opened on April 10, 1989. It offers to everyone current and accurate materials about AIDS treatment and prevention. The center also provides free access to the Computerized AIDS Information Network (CAIN), and expert staff to help with reference.
For 36 years, Whisky a GoGo (8901 Sunset Blvd.; 310-652-4202; www. whiskyagogo.com) has stood as the legendary venue for those about to rock. The club gave birth to go-go dancing when, during a Johnny Rivers gig, the miniskirted female DJ began swinging in a cage above the floor.