Some of Hollywood’s hotels can be considered as historical as Hollywood itself — like the Knickerbocker.
It was built in 1925 as a luxury apartment building, and its Renaissance Revival bar was a favorite hang out of the stars. Rudolph Valentino loved to tango here. FIlm director D. W. Griffith spent many hours at the bar, especially after he was “dismissed” by Hollywood after years of pioneering the industry. He was was walking in the lobby when he had a stroke, and died under the huge crystal chandelier.
Another Knickerbocker patron was Frances Farmer, who enjoyed an intense, but brief, career. She appeared in 18 films, three Broadway plays, thirty major radio shows and seven stock company productions, but alcohol, drugs, and weight problems had her career in shambles before she was 28. In 1943 she was arrested while she was at the Knickerbocker, and had to be dragged (half naked) out of her room. Famous costume designer Irene Gibbons also committed suicide here, checking in under another name, then trying to slit her wrists. When that didn’t work she jumped from the window.
The Knickerbocker was also the “lovenest” of William Faulkner and Meta Carpenter, a script girl from the Fox studios, Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio. Other celebrity guests were Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mae West, Lana Turner, Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Sinatra, Laurel and Hardy and many others.
The Knickerbocker was also the stage for the last Houdini seance. After an hour, a violent thunderstorm drenched participants and ended their attempts. They later discovered that the storm didn’t occur anywhere else in Hollywood — only above the hotel!
Today a coffee shop called “The All-Star Theatre Café & Speakeasy” stands where the bar used to be, and is frequented by celebrities like Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio.