With hundreds of bars and clubs and a concentration of young and beautiful party people, Sunset Strip is perhaps the most famous stretch of road in the world. This mile-and-half long section of Sunset Boulevard passes through the lively and vibrant city of West Hollywood. Rooftop bars like SkyBar in the Mandarin Hotel and Tower Bar in the Sunset Tower Hotel, and glamorous clubs like Whisky a-Go-Go and The Viper Room, are among the reasons for Sunset’s reputation as the nightlife hub of California.
In addition to nightclubs, Sunset Strip boasts high-quality restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Hollywood celebrities and major names in the entertainment industry frequent the area. Visitors often come across famous movie stars, musicians, and entertainers who hang out in the local nightclubs and bars.
The History of Sunset Strip
Sunset Strip was not originally part of the City of Los Angeles. As an unincorporated area, the strip was safely out of the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Sheriff’s Department oversaw the Strip, and this was why gambling was allowed here when it was outlawed elsewhere in Los Angeles County. Thanks to the lack of law enforcement oversight, the number of nightclubs along the strip mushroomed compared to the rest of the city. By the 1920s, Sunset Strip had large numbers of casinos and nightclubs to lure people from the entertainment industry. Prohibition was in full swing, but guests could easily get alcoholic drinks along the nightclubs of Sunset Strip.
The area soon became the darling of the rich and famous. During the ‘30s and ‘40s, it was a common phenomenon to see movie actors, directors, and producers relishing the excitement of the nightclubs and restaurants of Sunset Strip. Even the dancers and singers who performed in clubs like Trocadero, Mocambo, and Ciro’s became celebrities. Other spots on the Sunset Strip, like Schwab’s Drug Store and Garden of Allah apartments, gained fame because of the patronage of Hollywood actors and writers.
But time moved on, and by the ‘60s Sunset Strip had lost much of its charm for the stars of Hollywood. But the restaurants, nightclubs, and bars continued to enjoy popularity among both locals and visitors to the area. During the mid-‘60s and early ‘70s, the youth counterculture took root along the strip in the growing rock scene. Riots broke out in the summer of ‘66 between hippies and the local police over enforcement of a new 10 pm curfew to restrict the crowds overflowing from the rock clubs. These clashes, known as “The Sunset Strip Curfew Riots,” served as an inspiration for the famous song “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.
During this phase, the Sunset Strip also became the center of attraction for singers and composers, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, and the Rolling Stones. Hyatt West Hollywood was the hub for music artists, who could easily access the live music on Sunset Boulevard. The raucous music scene became so famous that the hotel was referred to as “Riot House” and “Riot Hyatt.” Cameron Crowe’s movie about this period, Almost Famous, filmed actual scenes in the hotel. The hotel still stands today as the Andaz West Hollywood.
Another spot popular with musicians and rock stars on Sunset Strip was the nightclub Bingenheimer’s English Disco. This club was a focal point of punk rock and New Wave during the 1970s, and then became an epicenter for the glam metal scene of the ‘80s. Legendary singer Donna Summer’s “Sunset People” from her 1969 album Bad Girls, took its inspiration from the vibrant nightlife along Sunset Strip.
The party started to end as rents increased in the late ‘80s and the glam metal scene faded. A pay-to-play policy that nightclubs like the Whisky and the Roxy adopted pushed many singers and musicians from the area. With no support from the music industry, artists couldn’t afford to pay a fee to perform in front of nightclub audiences. These musicians moved to other areas of Los Angeles such as Silverlake, Echo Park, and Los Feliz.
Despite these setbacks, the “Riot Hyatt” remains a favorite of many musicians. Artists and music groups like Timbaland, Breaking Point, and Justin Timberlake continue to perform in this Sunset Strip hotel.
The biggest event in the history of Sunset Strip came in 1984 when the voters of West Hollywood decided to incorporate the neighborhood as an independent city. This decision paved the way for the construction of office buildings at the western end of the Strip. Most of these buildings are occupied by people from the entertainment industry. Today, this section of the Strip resembles an extension of Beverley Hills, although it has a more active nightlife because of the abundance of nightclubs and bars.
The modern Sunset Strip is a riot of neon colors in the evenings with all the billboards and signs for nightclubs and bars. It has become a haven for youngsters seeking fun and entertainment during the weekends. On a typical evening, the Sunset Strip is a sea of people—not only tourists, but also wannabe local celebrities. During the day the area serves as a workplace for creative individuals and companies from all over the world who want to take advantage of the networking possibilities in Los Angeles.
Many Hollywood celebrities still live on the Strip, while others make an occasional appearance in the nightclubs. The Sunset Strip is home to some of the most high-end condominium properties along the entire West Coast. But most impressive residences are located directly above the Sunset Strip in the Hollywood Hills, tucked away from the more frenzied activity. These luxurious communities and residences have a high level of security since only a few roads access them. Owners of these luxury homes enjoy not just privacy but also stunning views of the LA basin. These multimillion-dollar homes belong to famous Hollywood celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Keanu Reeves, Nicky Hilton, Leo DiCaprio, Paris Hilton, and Megan Mullaly.