The Viper Room
This article is written like a travel guide rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (January 2018)
The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip
|Address||8852 Sunset Boulevard|
West Hollywood, California 90069|
The Viper Room is a nightclub located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, United States. It was opened in 1993 and was partly owned by actor Johnny Depp. The club became known for being a hangout of Hollywood elite, and was the site where actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose on Halloween morning in 1993. In early 1995, Australian singer Jason Donovan suffered a drug-induced seizure at the club and survived. The Viper Room has undergone several changes in ownership, and continues to host music of multiple genres, including metal, punk rock, and alternative rock.
While predominantly known as a music venue, the Viper Room also hosts a lower level below the stage and audience area, which is home to a large and well stocked whiskey bar. The whiskey bar boasts a diverse selection, ranging from commonly available whiskeys, to rarer or more local whiskeys, and numerous types of small batch whiskey.
The space where the club is located was originally a jazz bar called the Melody Room, a hangout of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. In the 1970s and 1980s it operated as a club called the Central, which was close to shutting down before Chuck E. Weiss, who had performed there for years, suggested to Depp that they revitalize the spot and rename it "the Viper Room". Tom Waits also had a hand in redeveloping the spot.
Despite the death of River Phoenix the year the venue opened, the club became and remained a hangout for Hollywood’s most popular young actors and musicians. Regulars included Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Marie Presley, Jared Leto, Christina Applegate, Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson, Tobey Maguire, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Adam Duritz, the lead singer of Counting Crows, worked as a Viper Room bartender in late 1994 – early 1995 to escape his newfound fame. Johnny Cash performed at the venue, debuting material that would later appear on his 1994 album American Recordings. In 1997 the Viper Room was also a place of a few early solo live performances by John Frusciante at the time of his bad physical condition caused by drug abuse. The Pussycat Dolls performed there from 1995 to 2001.
At Depp's request, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed on the club's opening night. The Viper Room continues to frequently host metal and punk rock bands. The first live U.S. performance of doom metal supergroup Shrinebuilder in 2009 was held at the venue, as part of Club My War, which hosts bands at the Viper Room on a near monthly basis.
In the 1983 film Valley Girl, the building (then housing a nightclub called The Central) was used for scenes featuring the new-wave band the Plimsouls. In Oliver Stone's film The Doors (1991), the building was used as a filming location for scenes depicting the London Fog, also of West Hollywood. London Fog was a lesser-known nightclub half way up the same block from the Whisky a Go Go where the Doors had their first regular gigs for four months in early 1966.
As part of the settlement of a lawsuit involving the disappearance of co-owner Anthony Fox in 2001, Depp relinquished his ownership of the Viper Room in 2004. The club was purchased by Blackhawk Capital Partners in 2004 and continued to change hands multiple times between 2004 and 2016.
Intellectual property and lawsuits
A nightclub located in Cincinnati, Ohio, was formerly called "The Viper Room". The club changed its name to "The Poison Room" on January 1, 2006, after they were told by the West Hollywood Viper Room to stop using the name. Another "Viper Room" in Portland, Oregon, has also been told to stop using the name under threat of a trademark lawsuit, with owner Darin Feinstein claiming "Every dollar they make is the result of using our name." Additionally, there is a legal brothel in Brisbane, Australia called "The Viper Room". There is also a nightclub in Stockholm, Sweden, "as well as ones in Harrogate, UK, Vienna, Austria, and another in Sheffield UK similarly named." Until February 2009 there was a nightclub with the same name in Melbourne, Australia; it was closed down due to a spate of violent incidents that included two shootings as well as license breaches and the arrest of a co-owner on drug charges. On April 16, 2011, a nightclub named "The Viper Room" opened its doors in the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The club is named after the club in Hollywood and is decorated in the same style as the US club. In 2016, The Viper Room began issuing cease and desist notices to bootleg merchandise sellers on eBay and other online storefronts.
In popular culture
The location has been featured on the season 14 episode of paranormal series Ghost Adventures as one of their lockdown locations, where they investigated the building for two days. The episode categorizes in detail the death of actor River Phoenix (believing they came into contact with his spirit) and shows video evidence of EVP. They also captured a guitar playing by itself on the stage, believed to be the spirit of former owner Anthony Vivien Fox, a singer that has been missing and last seen on December 19, 2001.
- Rainbow Bar and Grill
- Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco
- The Roxy Theatre
- Whisky a Go Go
- Sunset Strip
- Furek, Maxim (2008). The Death Proclamation of Generation X. p. 75. ISBN 0595906141.
- Tom Waits Library - Extras Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.. Tom Waits Library. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- Ten Things You Never Knew About Tom Waits. Clashmusic.com (also featured in the August 2011, issue #64 of Clash). Retrieved October 11, 2011.
- Biography of Adam Duritz at IMDb
- How Johnny Cash became an even bigger star after his death
- Tom Petty at The Viper Room
- Filming Locations for The Doors
- "A Christmas Murder In Hollywood, Part Three: Another Tragic Anniversary" by James Ridgway de Szigethy, published December 2004 on AmericanMafia.com
- "Viper Room Changing It's Name Jan. 1..." Archived 2006-08-19 at the Wayback Machine. on CincyMusic.com (December 2005 forum post by club owner-manager)
- "Nightclub coils to strike in trademark infringement suits" by Amanda Bronstad, Los Angeles Business Journal November 21, 2005
- "The Viper Room" in Stockholm
- "The Viper Room" in Nijmegen
- Bloom, Molly (2014). Molly's Game. New York: HarperCollins. p. 43. ISBN 9780062838582.
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