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THE SOCIAL CIRCUIT : On the Town

January 04, 1987

Hollywood's pioneers, newly responsible for America's romantic myths and dreams, needed their own dreamland in which to spend their new money. Starting in the 1920s, nocturnal playgrounds appeared throughout Southern California. Over at the Venice Pier, the vast Three O'Clock Ballroom offered dancing, which was once forbidden within Hollywood. Southeast of downtown Los Angeles was the Vernon Country Club--an irresistible attraction, even if it was located in a beet field. Served up in storybook palazzos were dancing, floor shows, music, haute cuisine and, whether or not they were legal, liquor and gambling. In Hollywood's glamorous heyday, a nightclub interior might be graced with exotic caged birds, extraordinarily ornate ceilings, walls trimmed in suede and--at least in one instance--make-believe rain spattering on a tin roof. Such diversions didn't come cheap. As George Jessel said of the famed '40s restaurant, Romanoff 's: "It's a place where a man can take his wife and family and have a lovely seven-course meal for $3,400."

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