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|
|Location||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 other part owner was Sal Jenco who starred in 21 Jump Street with Depp. The club became known for being a hangout of the young Hollywood elite, and was the site where actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose on Halloween night in 1993. In early 1995, Australian singer and actor Jason Donovan suffered a drug-induced seizure at the club and survived. In November 1997, Australian rock star Michael Hutchence played his last public performance in the Viper Room, a week before his suicide.
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 whiskey bar.
The location was originally a grocery store, from 1921 into the 1940s. In the 1940s it was converted into a nightclub called the "Cotton Club", entirely unrelated to the Harlem original. This was soon replaced by "The Greenwich Village Inn", the "Rue Angel" and finally "The Last Call" during the 1940s. From 1951–1969, the location was a bar called "The Melody Lounge". In 1969 (or 1973), it became "Filthy McNasty's". In the 1980s, it became a jazz club called "The Central". This nightclub 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 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, Drew Barrymore and Leonardo DiCaprio. Adam Duritz, the lead singer of Counting Crows, worked as a Viper Room bartender in late 1994 and early 1995 to escape his newfound fame. Johnny Cash performed at the venue, debuting material that would later appear on American Recordings (2004). 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.
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 December of 2001, Depp relinquished his ownership of the Viper Room in 2004. The club changed hands multiple times between 2004 and 2016; the club is currently owned by Viper Room Holdings, Ltd. CEO James Cooper and Silver Creek Development.
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 former 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 American 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 16 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.
Gavin Bloom's book 'Last Night At The Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind' details the context in which Phoenix ended up at the club.
- Rainbow Bar and Grill
- Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco
- The Roxy Theatre
- Sunset Strip
- Whisky a Go Go
- Strauss, Neil (December 28, 1997). "The Young And the Restless". The New York Times.
- "Filthy McNasty, LA club owner of lore", LA Observed, April 21, 2016
- "Filthy McNasty, Icon of the Old Sunset Strip, Has Died", WEHOville, April 23, 2016
- "The History (and Future) of the Sunset Strip’s Viper Room", West Hollywood, July 5, 2018
- 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
- "WeHo residents oppose Viper Room project". Park Labrea News/ Beverly Press. March 20, 2019. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
- "Business Search - Business Entities - Business Programs | California Secretary of State". businesssearch.sos.ca.gov. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
- "Viper Room Changing Its 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.
- Krol, Charlotte (July 8, 2019). "Watch Ed Sheeran's gender-flipped video for 'BLOW', featuring Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton". NME.
- "The Hollywood Ghosts of the Legendary Viper Room". YouTube.
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