Trocadero (Los Angeles)
Cafe Trocadero was an upscale nightclub that opened on the Sunset Strip in 1934 and immediately became the place where Hollywood stars went to be seen. Not surprisingly, photographs of the stars out on the town at the Troc one night might appear in The Hollywood Reporter the next day, as both Cafe Trocadero and THR were owned by William R. Wilkerson.
In May 1938, Wilkerson announced that he had sold Cafe Trocadero to Nola Hahn, the owner of Club Continental, formerly the Airport Gardens, an illegal casino on Sonora Avenue in Glendale, California.
Within a year, however, Cafe Trocadero was under the management of Felix Young, a gambler with ties to producer B.P. Schulberg. Young got into a dispute over the lease with the landlord, Chateau Sunset Corp. and abruptly closed the nightclub in October 1939. Before the month was over, Cafe Trocadero was thrown into involuntary bankruptcy.
The club briefly reopened later that year as The Trocadero, in time to host the Hollywood premiere party for "Gone with the Wind" in December 1939. But by May 1940, the new owners were out of business and the club's furnishings were auctioned off.
Wilkerson later launched Ciro's nightclub and LaRue Restaurant, both also on the Strip. He was also the original developer of the Flamingo Las Vegas, but lost control of it to mobster Bugsy Siegel before construction was complete in 1946.
The cafe operated under a series of managers, including composer and businessman Turk Prujan. Many ads for the Trocadero in the California Eagle contained the headline "Turk Prujan Presents..." followed by a musical artist that was to perform at the club.
In January 1942, just a few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Felix Young opened a small night club six blocks west of the Cafe Trocadero site, at 9236 Sunset Blvd. on the Strip. His premiere act was an unknown singer, Lena Horne. Her sell-out performances there made her an overnight sensation in Hollywood and led to an engagement at Mocambo, another Strip nightclub, and a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Eddie LeBaron's Trocadero
In August 1943, bandleader Eddie LeBaron and his brother Albert Gastine opened a new club at 8610 Sunset called Eddie LeBaron's Trocadero. The club would become famous for featuring jitterbugging contests.
After World War II, the Trocadero went through a series of owners and managers. It closed for good in 1947.
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Among the celebrities who frequented the Trocadero were Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Jackie Gleason, Henry Fonda, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Jean Harlow, and Norma Shearer.
Actress/comedienne Thelma Todd, who died mysteriously in December 1935, spent an evening at the Trocadero at a party thrown by Ida Lupino and her father Stanley. Todd had formerly been married to Pat DiCicco, and was angry that he had shown up there with another actress, Margaret Lindsay. The party was one of the last times that she was seen alive.
In popular culture
There was a mid-1940s low-budget film about the Trocadero and its history starring Ralph Morgan which bore little relation to reality.
The building that housed Cafe Trocadero was demolished long ago and the property stood vacant until 2013 when it was replaced by an upscale storefront building. Today, a nightclub called Sunset Trocadero operates at 8280 Sunset Boulevard, about four blocks east of the former site of Cafe Trocadero.
- "History Detectives," Episonde 911, Story 1 – Club Continental, PBS
- Schulberg, Budd, Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince, ISBN 1566635268, p. 305
- "Trocadero to Stay Shut Indefinitely: Lessee of Night Spot Cancels Reservations," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 9, 1939.
- "Bankruptcy Suit Filed on Trocadero," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1939
- "Gayety to Herald Trocadero Opening," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28, 1939
- "Cafe Trocadero Bows Out Under Auctioneer's Hammer," Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1940
- Wilkerson III, W.R. (2000). The Man Who Invented Las Vegas. Ciro's Books. p. 9. ISBN 0-9676643-0-6.
- The California Eagle, Aug 26. 1954, P10
- Gavin, James, Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne, ISBN 0743271440
- Hedda Hopper, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1942
- Display ad, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 2, 1943
- Sher, Jack, and Berg, Louis, "The Wolf at Hollywood's Door," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 29, 1948