Cocoanut Grove Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles 1964
The Cocoanut Grove nightclub, located within Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, became a byword for glamour as soon as it opened.
Margaret Tante Burk, the hotels PR director, recalls the opening night:
on the night of April 21, 1921… 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 nightly 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.
Long before we all had cameras in our cellphones, photographers patrolled nightclubs to take pictures of guests as memories of their evening and this illustration in red, black, gold and cream was the front cover of a souvenir photo holder. It is dated 1964.
In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the winner of the California Democratic primary election, visited the 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 Hotel closed to guests in 1989. The building was demolished between 2005 and 2006.
Courtesy Private Collection.