In the late 1930s and 1940s radio was huge in Hollywood. Stations were located all over town - up and down Vine Street, Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard. The radio stations brought a large crowd into Hollywood and at night that crowd needed a place to party. There were many clubs and entertainment joints that popped up around Hollywood and one of them was the Florentine Gardens on Hollywood Boulevard.
Opening in 1938, the Florentine Gardens was a dinner theater. The cost back then was $1.50 and an audience would get some Italian food, partially nude girls, an emcee, dancers, a singer and more. Whereas the Sunset Strip featured many upscale nightspots, Hollywood had more of the working class nightspots and the Florentine Gardens was one of them.
Various performers made appearances at the Florentine Gardens including such big acts as the Mills Brothers and Sophie Tucker. Yvonne DeCarlo, or more famously known as Lily Munster, from the 1960s television show The Munsters, started as a chorus girl at the Florentine Gardens. And another interesting tidbit - when Norma Jean Baker, just 16 years-old, married Jim Dougherty, the wedding party celebrated at Florentine Gardens. Of course Norma Jean did not stay married to Dougherty for long. She eventually moved on with her life and became the big star Marilyn Monroe. She would have many different and more notable lovers after Dougherty.
Business wasn't always good at the Florentine Gardens but in the early 1940s, with WWII going on, many servicemen could be found in Hollywood. It's no surprise that these young men would find the affordable and at times sleazy entertainment of the Florentine Gardens attractive. These servicemen kept the business coming for the Florentine Gardens. But, of course this didn't last. In 1948, the Florentine Gardens went bankrupt. It later reopened as the Cotton Club and ran for a few more years as a place for black performers but the Cotton Club would also struggle. Today the building still stands and is a nightclub featuring live groups and D.J.s.
Here is a great YouTube video featuring some nice images of the Florentine Gardens:
Great post! I've always dreamed of going to one of the old-time clubs where everyone dressed to the nines and there was live entertainment. The video was great - I love the grumpy old lady at the very end! Too funny!
I only knew that they used to have burlesque there- what a great history. Anytime I drove past it at night there was always a Latin club thing going on. Nice to see the building was/is still there. Are they still thinking of tearing it down?
There is an elderly showgirl I know who worked at both Earl Carroll's and Florentine Gardens. I'm gonna see what i can doing up from her and get back to you. Love to find the CD of that broadcast in the video too.
i drive past this building everyday and wonder what it is and what it used to be. it's been there longer than i expected.
I LOVE your site, too. thank you for the information!!
My Mother-in-Law was once named Miss Florentine Gardens during
1940's!! Her name at the time was Shirley Roybal, she was a professional dancer, and had a small part as a dancer in a Doris Day film called "It's a great feeling". Shirley (Roybal) McCullough recently passed away on Labor Day morning of 2009', we miss you very much Mom!
Love Monica McCullough
My dad spent his 23rd birthday there in 1946. I have the photo to prove it!
My Grandfather "Charlie" was a bartender there for many years back in it's heyday.
Apparently a lot of stars went there my Grandfather was friends with.
Apparently some scandals too, with some stars drinking too much and what not according to my grandmother.
I have some of the old 1940's fliers from the place with a few bare chested gals.
What a place LA/Hollywood was back then (in the 30's and 40's).
What a surprise... Who knew Floenrine Gardens has been around since the 1930's!! This is great information!! I only remember it being there in te 80's.
The Los Angeles Public Library menu collection includes a menu with wine vintages through 1933 that states "Without Dinner $1.00 Admission". They strongly marketed wine from "the Monastery of the Brothers of the Christian School" at Mont La Salle in Napa. Dinner prices ranged from $2.00 to $2.90
There are more stories about the Florentine and it's one time owner, Mark Hansen, on theblackdahliainhollywood.com site.
Thanks for all the great Hollywood history!
As of 10/11/17 looks to be doing fine as a dance club. The ghost of the Black Dahlia must, of course, be nearby, too. Hope she likes the music!
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