The Sunset Strip is the name given to the mile-and-a-half (2.4 km) stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, California. It extends from West Hollywood's eastern border with Hollywood at Havenhurst Drive, to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive. The Strip is probably the best-known portion of Sunset, embracing boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, and nightclubs that are on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry. It is also known for its trademark array of huge, colorful billboards.
As the Strip lies outside of the Los Angeles city limits and was an unincorporated area under the jurisdiction of the County of Los Angeles, the area fell under the less-vigilant jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Department rather than the heavy hand of the LAPD. It was illegal to gamble in the city, but legal in the county. This fostered the building of a rather wilder concentration of nightlife than Los Angeles would tolerate.
In the 1920s a number of nightclubs and casinos moved in along the Strip, which attracted movie people to this less-restricted area; alcohol was served in back rooms during Prohibition.
1930s and 1940s
Glamour and glitz defined the Strip in the 1930s and the 1940s, as its renowned restaurants and nightclubs became a playground for the rich and famous. There were movie legends and power brokers, and everyone of significance danced to stardom at such legendary clubs as Ciro's, the Mocambo and the Trocadero. Some of its expensive nightclubs and restaurants were said to be owned by gangsters like Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel, earning the Strip a place in Raymond Chandler's 1949 Philip Marlowe novel, The Little Sister. Other spots on the strip associated with Hollywood include the Garden of Allah apartments — Hollywood quarters for transplanted writers like Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, and F. Scott Fitzgerald — and Schwab's Drug Store.
By the early 1960s, the Strip had lost favor with the majority of movie people, but its restaurants, bars and clubs continued to serve as an attraction for locals and tourists. In the mid-1960s it became a major gathering place for the counterculture — and the scene of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in November 1966, involving police and crowds of young club-goers, which inspired the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth".
The Strip became a haven for rock musicians and their fans. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Byrds, Love, The Seeds, Frank Zappa, and many others played at clubs like the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, Pandora's Box and the London Fog. In July 1965 Go-Go dancers also began performing. The Hyatt West Hollywood (now known as the Andaz West Hollywood) became a notable hotel.
In 1972, Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco opened on the Strip, being influenced by the British Glam Rock movement. It became a popular hangout for musicians, including The Stooges and the New York Dolls. The 1979 Donna Summer song "Sunset People" from the album Bad Girls, was about the nightlife on Sunset Boulevard. Also, throughout the 1970s, much like New York City's Times Square, the Strip became a haven for sleaze and prostitution. The Strip continued to be a major focus for punk rock and new wave during the late 1970s, and it became the center of the colorful glam metal and heavy metal scenes throughout the 1980s, hosting groups including Van Halen, Stormer, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Poison, L.A. Guns, Guns N' Roses and Whitesnake.
With the increase in rents in the area during the 1980s and the decline of the glam metal scene in the early 1990s, the Sunset Strip ceased to be a major area for up and coming rock bands without industry sponsorship. The adoption of "pay to play" tactics, where bands are charged a fee to play at clubs, diminished its appeal to groups, other than as an industry showcase. Today the music industry establishment continues to dominate the clubs on the Strip.
In November 1984, voters in West Hollywood passed a proposal on the ballot to incorporate and the area became an independent city. Increasingly, the western end of the Strip is occupied by office buildings, mostly catering to the entertainment industry, and the hotel industry.
During the 1990s, the center of the alternative music activity in Los Angeles shifted further east to areas like Echo Park, Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
In popular culture
77 Sunset Strip, a successful 1958–1964 TV series, was set on the Strip between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road, although the address was fictional as street numbers there run in the 7000-8000s. Less remembered is a second crime drama, Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier, which aired on NBC during calendar year 1960, also set on the Sunset Strip. Dan Raven featured several celebrities, including Bobby Darin, Marty Ingels, and Paul Anka, appearing as themselves. 1979 film Hardcore had scenes from the Sunset Strip when George C. Scott's character Jake Van Dorn flew to Los Angeles as the first California city to find his missing teenage daughter.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was a behind-the-scenes television drama of a late-night comedy sketch show performed at a fictional theater on the Strip.
Premiering on January 27, 2006, in Los Angeles at Vanguard Hollywood, the Rock of Ages stage production spurned the 2012 film of the same name. Its storyline is centered along the Strip in 1987.
The 2010 film Burlesque is set at a fictional neo-Burlesque club on the Sunset Strip.
American L.A.-based artist Edward Ruscha created the artist's book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) which is recognized as a classic in the genre of artist's books and can be found in major museum collections.