Tuesday, March 6, 2018

One Degree of Separation - Rock Landmarks L.A.

Pictured in 1963 in Perma Prest trousers and a crisp white shirt, is Dodgers' star pitcher Sandy Koufax at his way-cool financial investment, Sandy Koufax's Tropicana Motel.  Koufax's name on the sign brought lots of new business to the declining motor lodge, but it was the location that, in the mid-60s onward, attracted its most famous guests. The Trop was within a stone's throw of the Hollywood rock venues and studios, and soon this family-oriented motel was anything but. From 1964 onward, the Trop functioned as a Boho playground, pioneered by Jim Morrison and the Doors who hung out after hours at the Palms, a low-rent so-called "dyke bar" across the street. Jim would drink there all night before stumbling "home" to the Trop, or to Duke's Coffee Shop in its lobby. 

The Go Go's, 1979
Waves of musicians arrived over the years: Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Eddie Cochran, the Beach Boys, Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin, William S. Burroughs; Frank Zappa’s Freak Outs were legendary. Over the years, the motel became the site of innumerable photo sessions and band interviews, and served as the location for the Andy Warhol films Heat and Trash. In the late 70s and 80s, new punk faces found their way into the motel and the greasy, affordable, open 24 hours, Duke's—Iggy and the Stooges, Blondie, the Go Go's, the Clash. (Woah, from  Koufax to Morrison and Warhol in one degree of separation. Small world.)

By the late 60s, The Trop had a reputation for all-night parties and debauchery. Said New West  magazine, “Under the Trop's jungle-like foliage there were orgies, murders, suicides, ODs, love triangles, marriages, and drunken brawls on a daily basis." On any given night, you could be sleeping in a room (or trying to) next to Iggy Pop or witness a murder. (Put that on the post card!) The Trop is gone (replaced by the WeHo – oh brother – Ramada); yet another piece of rock history gone the way of Pandora's Box, the Trip and Gazzarri's.

Top: Joan Jet at the Trop; Above: Room 32

Morrison switched digs in 1968 for the Alta Cienega near Santa Monica Blvd., adjacent to his fave strip club, The Phone Booth, and across from the Doors’ Workshop and Barney's Beanery. Unlike the Trop, the Alta Cienega is still there (1005 N. La Cienega Blvd.). From 1968 to 1970, the Alta Cienega served as Jim’s perennial residence (seemingly anytime he’d had a fight with Pamela Courson), and he’d trip around between his room (No. 32), Barney's, the Doors’ Workshop and Monaco liquors, each within stumbling distance. If you're even in L.A. and thinking about visiting Jim's room (indeed staying there), make sure you watch the Jim Morrison produced film HWY. In one of the final scenes, No. 32 is featured, in which Morrison is shown urinating; with that image in mind, don’t go to the Alta Cienega for the luxury accommodations; there is a definite ambiance that permeates the Alta Cienega, yet it is far removed from elegance or even comfort.

Inside Room 32 today