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Vintage Photos Of The Garden Of Allah Hotel Part 5

Garden of Allah's Parties

Returning G.I.s brought a new pharmaceutical awareness with them. Record producer Kim Fowley recalls being used as a decoy for his absentee father, actor Douglas Fowley, in 1946. Fowley the elder took his son along on various Hollywood scoring safaris—at nearby Schwab’s Drugs and an upstairs room at The Players, Preston Sturgis’s nightclub. The Villa Nova, where the Rainbow Club now sits on Sunset, was another spot. Kim recalls: “I was eight years old and I’d just met my dad for the first time. I was just out of the orphanage and he was back from the war. My father and his cronies were at the Garden to score opium and get high. I stood outside in my little sailor suit, playing with my new sailboat in the fountain… watching for the police.”

But with Benchley’s passing, postwar uncertainty and the specter of anti-Communist hysteria, a sea change was occurring throughout the city—and Allah wasn’t immune. On playwright Ruth Gortz’s first day at the Garden, in 1948, she spotted a dead mouse in the pool and noticed cracked tiles. Automobile exhaust from congested Sunset Boulevard not only defoliated the lush bougainvillea but it suffocated the rats that nested in the palm trees. Virginia “The Flamingo” Hill, not yet out her teens, moved in. The future girlfriend of Bugsy Siegel, in whose home the notorious gangster would be murdered, divided her time between servicing actors like Errol Flynn and Mafioso figures. (Hill reportedly blackmailed several Hollywood celebrities with information about their private vices—many of those tales taking place at the Garden.) Like the rest of Los Angeles, the Garden was looking more than a bit noir. Only natural, then, that director Rudolph Maté shot part of the climactic chase sequence of D.O.A., where the desperate Edmund O’Brien, poisoned and pursued, feverishly pursued his poisoner through the shadow-laden labyrinth of the Garden grounds. Director Nicholas Ray used a Garden bungalow as Humphrey Bogart’s home for the psychological noir movie In a Lonely Place. Ray had lived at the Garden as his marriage to actress Gloria Grahame, one of the great femme fatales, and Bogey’s love interest in the film, had crashed and burned. Though he tried to get through filming with minimal discomfort, it must have been a torturous case of art imitating life for Ray.

REEFER, MARILYN, CALL GIRLS & PEYOTE SMOOTHIES In the mid-1950s, young Hollywood’s chemical habits were changing. After an army stint, actor Robert Blake found community at the Garden. “I hooked up with Bobby Driscoll,” Blake told Detour magazine in 1995. “Dean Stockwell, Billy Gray, and several other people who were all child actors; we were all drugging—especially marijuana.”

Garden of Allah Looses Its Luster

By the 50s cannabis had already become an accessory of the Beat Generation and Hollywood elites like Robert Mitchum (he hung out at a house in Laurel Canyon that the cops called “Reefer Resort”) were “entranced by the herb’s navel-gazing properties,” while writers, actors and musicians were lighting up at exclusive Hollywood parties. Tough guys got high, too, as LA crime writer Raymond Chandler had observed in his book Farewell My Lovely: “Lots of tough guys smoked marijuana. And nice girls who had given up trying. American hashish. A weed that would grow anywhere.Unlawful to cultivate now. That meant a lot in a country as big as the USA.” The legendary character actor Seymour Cassel was growing cannabis as early as 1958 in his backyard in Laurel Canyon. Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby “loved marijuana.” Bing smoked it during his early career when it was legal and “surprised interviewers” in the 1950s and 60s by advocating its decriminalization, as did Armstrong. According to biographer Gary Giddins, Crosby told his son Gary to stay away from alcohol (“It killed your mother”) and suggested he “smoke pot instead.” And, just recently, a home movie allegedly showing Marilyn Monroe smoking a “marijuana cigarette” at the Garden sold for $275,000. Blake recalled that a trip to Tijuana in a pickup truck could yield “enough grass to last you the rest of your life—it was easy to get and tons of it. And pills were a piece of cake, too. I had drugstores that sold me pills by the handful—with no prescription.” Actor Jack Larson (Jimmy Olson on TV’s Superman) frequented the parties given by legendary interior designer Eduardo Tirella. “There was always lots of grass,” Larson offers, “but those parties would go way beyond grass. I took peyote with Ed. A young actor named Arthur Grady used to ride his motorcycle to the Arizona desert and come back with a big box of peyote buttons. He’d grind them up in a blender and you’d take them with chewing gum. I ate seven or eight buttons and I had a thirty-hour experience!”

Live music became a fixture, too. It was used in the main room bar to attract the tourist trade. Hookers lounged at the long bar and dancers, including Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, might be seen on the circular, sunken dance floor that sat below the bandstand. (Allegedly, Hugh Hefner, who was looking to move Playboy magazine from Chicago to LA, soaked up many nights here on his visits to LA, dreaming up what would be the Playboy Mansion just miles down the road.) Bongo player Jack Costanzo’s band alternated two-week stands with other Latin bands led by Manny Lopez and Tony Martinez. Jack Costanzo “Live at the Garden of Allah” on Liberty Records is a vinyl postcard from early 1959, when drummer Buddy Rich and trumpeter Ray Anthony—bandleaders both—roamed Hollywood. “That was the most exciting place I ever played,” Jack exults. “The bar had all kinds of people, including girls that were making money, if you know what I mean.”

Garden of Allah's Last Party

“SAY GOODBYE TO THE MOST WONDERFUL WHOREHOUSE IN HOLLYWOOD, JACK” Jack Larson was at a Santa Monica dinner party in August 1959 when it was announced that the Garden was closing that night. The new generation of stars were now staying at the nearby Chateau Marmont because it afforded more privacy and less chance encounters with seedy hangers-on and gossip mavens; the Garden had finally lost its dirty charm. (One night, shortly before it closing, armed thugs entered the lobby, looted the cash drawer, and shot the elderly night clerk dead.)

Like other Gardenites, Larson drove east (with actress Leslie Caron) and, amid hundreds of people, shuffled through the closing gala. “We walked around the pool,” Larson says recalling the macabre proceedings, “and it was haunted. I knew about its history and the great people like Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker who had lived there. Patricia Medina, the British actress, cried: ‘Say goodbye to the most wonderful whorehouse in Hollywood, Jack!’”

Garden of Allah Hotel Is Sold

In the Fall of 1959 parasitic souvenir hounds cleaned the place out and then the wrecking ball crushed all romantic notions. An ugly and hulking Lytton Savings & Loan was erected in its place. But an even more ominous note comes from Costanzo.

“After the Garden was sold,” he says, “and it was closed, the previous owner was found dead, with his hands bound by wire to a Call Girl. He was a real estate man in Beverly Hills, and I really liked him.”

Perhaps its best to remember the end of Allah as young Mark Winkler, jazz singer and songwriter, did; he lived for three months at the Garden in the summer of 1959. “I noticed,” he relates, “that there were a number of pretty women who hung around the pool and talked to the men. I was little but I was pretty hip. My best friend there was this kid whose mother was a pretty blond at the pool. My mother never left us boys alone at the pool.”

Splashing in the pool and playing Ping-Pong, the eightyear old Winkler recalls singer Bobby Darin, blonde starlet Joi Lansing, and the famous jazz singers Louie Prima and Keely always by the pool. “Bobby was really nice to us kids,” Mark says. “Louie and Keely had an entourage around them. She always had on a blue bikini and she looked fantastic!”

In the 1970s, Joni Mitchell yearned for the bohemian days of the Garden, allegedly penning the eerily cheerful song “Big Yellow Taxi” about the property: “Don’t it always seem to go/ That you don’t know what you’ve got/Til it’s gone/They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”

And then there’s famous architectural writer Walt Lockley’s summation: “Not everybody who went to the Garden of Allah wanted to be seen. Somehow among the tangle of phony marriages, the fist-fights, the volume of liquor, the highpowered, insecure and spoiled celebrities, recreational sex, drugs, robberies, drunken rages, cross gender liaisons, orgies, ego feuds, money problems, and sudden changes of plan, the Garden of Allah acquired a bohemian reputation. A reputation for hedonism. Imagine that!”





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