Mocambo (nightclub)

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Mocambo Neon Sign 1955.JPG
Mocambo marquee, 1955
Location8588 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, California
United States
Coordinates34°05′34″N 118°22′44″W / 34.092693°N 118.378963°W / 34.092693; -118.378963Coordinates: 34°05′34″N 118°22′44″W / 34.092693°N 118.378963°W / 34.092693; -118.378963
  • Charlie Morrison
  • Felix Young
OpenedJanuary 3, 1941 (1941-01-03)
ClosedJune 30, 1958

The Mocambo was a nightclub in West Hollywood, California, at 8588 Sunset Boulevard on the Sunset Strip. It was owned by Charlie Morrison and Felix Young.[1]


The Mocambo opened on January 3, 1941, and it became an immediate success. The club's Latin American-themed decor was designed by Tony Duquette and cost $100,000 (equivalent to $1,842,308 in 2021). Along the walls were glass cages holding live cockatoos, macaws, seagulls, pigeons, and parrots. With big band music, the club became one of the most popular dance-till-dawn spots in town. On any given night, one might find the room filled with the leading men and women of the motion picture industry. In 1943, when Frank Sinatra became a solo act, he made his Los Angeles debut at the Mocambo.[2]

On March 15, 1955,[3] Ella Fitzgerald opened at the Mocambo,[4] after Marilyn Monroe lobbied the owner for the booking.[5] The booking was instrumental in Fitzgerald's career. The incident was turned into a play by Bonnie Greer in 2005. It has been widely reported that Fitzgerald was the first Black performer to play the Mocambo, following Monroe's intervention, but this is not true. African-American singers Herb Jeffries,[6] Eartha Kitt,[7] and Joyce Bryant[8] all played the Mocambo in 1953, according to stories published at the time in Jet magazine.

Among the many celebrities who frequented the Mocambo were Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall,[9] Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Henry Fonda, Yma Sumac, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Bob Hope, James Cagney, Sophia Loren, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Grace Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Howard Hughes, Kay Francis, Marlene Dietrich, Theda Bara, Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Jayne Mansfield, John Wayne, Ben Blue, Ann Sothern, and Louis B. Mayer. Myrna Loy and Arthur Hornblow Jr. celebrated their divorce there.[citation needed]

The club's main stage was replicated on the TV series I Love Lucy as the "Tropicana" Club. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were frequent guests at the Mocambo and were close friends of Charlie Morrison.

The Mocambo was also parodied mercilessly in the 1947 Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Slick Hare". According to a commentary track on the DVD with this cartoon, the animators managed to get into the kitchen and drew the kitchen exactly as they saw it, complete with dripping grease on the refrigerator and vegetables lying around the ground.

Early in 1957, club operator and co-owner Charlie Morrison died at his Beverly Hills, California, home.[10] The Mocambo remained in business for one final year, before closing its doors on June 30, 1958.[11] The building was then sold, reopened as a supper club called The Cloister, and eventually demolished.[12]

Notable performers[edit]


  1. ^ Weller, Sheila (2003). Dancing at Ciro's. Macmillan. p. 118. ISBN 0-312-24176-3.
  2. ^ "Classic Locations: Mocambo nightclub". Los Angeles Times. June 6, 2011.
  3. ^ "Talent Topics". Billboard. March 12, 1955. p. 24.
  4. ^ "Ella Fitzgerald a Big Hit at Hollywood Mocambo Debut". Jet. April 7, 1955. pp. 60–61.
  5. ^ Nicholson, Stuart (1993). Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz. Da Capo Press. p. 149. ISBN 0-306-80642-8.
  6. ^ "Jeffries Opens at Mocambo". Jet. August 13, 1953. p. 60.
  7. ^ "Eartha Kitt Cracks 13-Year Policy at Mocambo". Jet. December 10, 1953. p. 54.
  8. ^ "Joyce Bryant Gets Rave Notices at Mocambo". Jet. November 12, 1953. pp. 60–61.
  9. ^ Wallace, David (2001). Lost Hollywood. Macmillan. p. 166. ISBN 0-312-26195-0.
  10. ^ "Charles Morrison, Owner of Mocambo". The New York Times. March 23, 1957.
  11. ^ "Mocambo Shuttered". Variety. June 30, 1958.
  12. ^ "Neon Glitter Return for Sunset Strip". Billboard. March 9, 1959.