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One Last, Year-End Look at the Passing Parade of People in the News : New Club Quarters

December 26, 1985|PAUL DEAN

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in the last several months. Among them:

--Hollywood's Masquers Club, which because of declining funds sold its building and moved.

--Jimmy and Ricky Sperry, blinded in an accident 11 years ago, who received cornea transplants in August.

--Balu Natarajan, who triumphed over 167 other youngsters to win the National Spelling Bee in June.

Landmark preservationists and Hollywood heritage hounds fought a fierce yet lopsided battle in April when time caught up with the Masquers.

For more than a half century, the Masquers Club, a two-story California Tudor at 1765 Sycamore Ave., had been the private watering hole, crash pad, game room, betting shop, pool hall, lunch room, loan office and retreat for John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, John Gilbert, Frank Sinatra, Stan Laurel, Humphrey Bogart, Joe E. Brown, W. C. Fields, Lou Costello . . . but rarely for today's stars.

That meant club membership and income decreased. So did the quality of the neighborhood. That also meant debts and overhead increased. So did the threat of foreclosure on a $150,000 mortgage.

The club's executives looked at the decaying building and decided to sell--the club would be demolished and a 50-unit apartment building constructed.

That brought out the troops, the lobbies, the petitions and the media. There were last-minute fund drives and last-ditch benefits. But to no end, except the finale chosen by the Masquers.

So the demolition ball swung and the building is gone. Those apartments have been built. And the Masquers are playing a new stage.

They've moved, lock, vaudeville stock and barrel-bellied bar, to the Variety Arts Center, 940 S. Figueroa St. Their curtain has gone up and all the historic photographs, some of the old fixtures, all of the mementoes and most of the members are in place.

"Everything (mortgage and club debts) has been paid off and now, for the first time in years, we have quite a substantial bank account from the sale of the old building," said Tony Hawes, a British-born entertainment writer and member of the club. He's also the husband of Lois, daughter of the late Stan Laurel. "We've lost some of our really old members who find they can't make the journey from Hollywood to downtown and some of the younger members who just wanted a place to fall in and get drunk because the Variety Arts does have a dress code . . . but new, revenue membership is very much up.

"We have banquets and shows planned for next year and we've lost the feeling of decay. You know those two masks of the theater? Well, they're both smiling now. . . ."

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