Cocoanut Grove Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles 1970s
The Cocoanut Grove nightclub, located within Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, became a byword for glamour when it opened in April 1921.
Margaret Tante Burk, the hotels PR director, recalls … the new club officially opened its Moroccan style, gold leaf and etched palm tree doors... The Cocoanut Grove was aptly named, guests agreed as they were escorted by the maître de and captains down the wide plush grand staircase... Overhead, soaring about the room were cocoanut trees of papier mache, cocoanuts and palm fronds which had been rescued from the sandy beaches of Oxnard where they had served as atmosphere of the 1921 (Rudolph Valentino silent film) classic, The Sheik. Swinging from their branches were stuffed monkeys blinking at the revelers with their electrified amber eyes. Stars twinkled in the blue ceiling sky, and on the southernmost wall hung a full Hawaiian moon presiding over a painted landscape and splashing waterfall.’
An orchestra played every night and, at its peak in the 1930s, stars such as Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gary Grant, Lucille Ball, John Wayne and Ginger Rogers frequented the nightclub. The 1939 Oscars ceremony, hosted by comedian Bob Hope, was held there.
This menu cover was created by Don May, (1911-1993) a designer widely admired as the ‘layout man’s layout man.”
Born in Tecumseh, Michigan, he started his career in the catalogue design department of the department store company Sears Roebuck &co in Chicago. He became promotion art director at the Chicago Daily News and layout director for Esquire magazine. His 1942 book 101 Roughs: A Handbook of Advertising Layout was reprinted three times.
In 1947 he moved to Anaheim, California, with his family and became a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. One of his biggest clients was the Hilton Hotel Corporation and May also worked directly for Conrad N. Hilton, designing his personal Christmas cards, stationery and Hilton’s book.
In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the winner of the California Democratic primary election, visited the Ambassador Hotel for a victory speech to supporters and was shot three times in the pantry area of the hotel’s kitchen. He died the following day.
His death marked the beginning of the end of the hotel and the Ambassador closed to guests in 1989. The building was demolished between 2005 and 2006.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.