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The Frolic Room: A Hollywood Legend of Stars, Sleaze, Crime and Tragedy

Some people say there is nothing authentic or real about Hollywood anymore save the Frolic Room.  It’s been the location for Film Noir & murder mysteries such as LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia… and the scene of at least one modern real life murder that had Hollywood on edge.

The  Frolic Room on the Hollywood Walk of Fame started its life as a speakeasy in 1930, while the country was still in the grips of prohibition. It opened as a legal bar in 1934 when prohibition ended.  The dive bar with its art deco exterior and dazzling sign has seen enough stars, crime, sleaze and tragedy to make it a landmark along with its neighbor the Pantages, but it hasn’t been designated one.  The walls feature caricatures of Groucho Marx and Albert Einstein, two people that probably didn’t drink there but plenty of other celebrities did.

It is said to have been a favorite drinking hole of the American poet and writer, Henry Charles Bukowski, whose work was heavily influence by LA culture.  Hollywood’s Frolic Room is one of the only places Bukowski obsessives agree that he actually haunted, and a portrait of him hangs above the cash register.

Howard Hughes bought the neighboring Pantages Theater in 1949 and from that year until 1954, the Pantages played host to the Academy Awards with the Frolic Room enjoying the after-party spill over. Sinatra and Judy Garland were regulars, but the Frolic Room is also gruesomely remembered as the last place Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, was seen alive before her 1947 murder.

Then murder came to the Frolic room. It was on April 10, 2010 that the Frolic Room transformed from being a location used in film noir to the scene of actual “noir.”  Though police never classified it as a murder, it’s difficult to conceive it was anything else and it left the Hollywood nightlife community on edge.

Gerald Thomas Andersen was working the door enjoying conversation with customers outside for a smoke as was usual.  He didn’t really have his guard up.  The Frolic Room didn’t have a particularly rowdy or rough crowd. In fact they were far from it; seniors, tourists, and fans of the poet Charles Bukowski who was a regular and whose works are read at the bar each Monday evening.

He wasn’t particularly concerned when a troublesome drunk quibbled over paying and he escorted him out of the bar.  The last other employees saw was that Andersen turned his back on the man as he lead him out. The next time anyone saw Andersen he was unconscious in the cramped vestibule, blood pouring out his ears.

The police investigation never ruled it a homicide.  The unnamed drunk patron was named as a “person of interest” but there were no witnesses and no way to prove the crime.  Police said it was possible he lost his balance, fell and struck his head  However, doctors said it would have taken a fall from a height of at least 3 stories to produce a blow to the head with that much impact.

Andersen lived out the last ten days of his life in a coma.  He was taken off of life support at his mothers request once she learned he may never regain consciousness and that if he did he would be in a nursing home the rest of his life unable to do even the simplest of things.

Despite the murder, the Frolic Room is one of the few venues on the walk of broken dreams (aka the Hollywood Walk of Fame) that doesn’t have a ghost. However, that is more than made up for by the three ghosts haunting the Pantages Theatre that surrounds the bar.

We started this post to tell you to stop into one of the last “bars” in Hollywood, not of it’s “dark side.”  We embarked to tell you that it is place to step back into authentic old Hollywood to for a beer or a shot served by a bartender wearing a suit (yes, a suit) that remembers your favorite drink when you come in.   And despite that tragic night on April 5, 2010 it is still just that.

As for the celebrities that hung out in The Frolic Room, it shouldn’t be said in the past tense.  Several modern day celebrities hang out there from time to time.  So when you are out on the Blvd and you need to wet your whistle, stop into the Frolic Room.  You can’t miss it.  It’s bright neon sign is right under the towering sign for the Pantages Theatre.

It’s located at 6245 Hollywood Blvd, just east of Vine Street.
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