“There’s something happening here/what it is ain’t exactly clear…”
In 1966, a young band called Buffalo Springfield released a song called “For What It’s Worth” that became a countercultural anthem. A young songwriter named Stephen Stills penned it after a rowdy incident where police officers were called in to enforce a nightly curfew that had just been put in place to stop loitering teens known as “Striplings” who descended on the streets from their luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills. While tame compared riots that would later consume other American cities, the riot is nevertheless an infamous chapter in Sunset Strip history and a harbinger of things to come.
For the next three decades, the Sunset Strip would in fact be closely related to television, movies, and most critically rock music. The Chateau Marmont and “Riot Hyatt” were “anything goes” places where you had to be wary lest a flying television set hit you on the sidewalk below. It was sex, drugs, and rock and roll 24/7.
Like the aging baby boomers that made it famous, the Sunset Strip has aged and doesn’t party quite like she used to. But unlike the haggard rock stars who once tossed TVs from the windows of the “Riot Hyatt” (now transformed into a very genteel luxury hotel called Andaz West Hollywood), Sunset Strip has smoothed over its rough edges and is now marketed as a safe, family friendly destination that you can visit at all hours of the day in a worry-free way. Shabby residential apartments have been replaced by sleek, contemporary designs that are constructed to the highest green building standards.
As new residents to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood are discovering, Sunset Boulevard is pedestrian-friendly and household names like Ralph’s and Trader Joes stake their rightful place alongside the Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Grille, named in the Don Henley (Eagles) song. Sunset’s rock and roll past can be explored at the Guitar Center (note handprints of famous musicians who’ve come by to visit its legendary vintage guitar room), the Tai On restaurant, the Rainbow Bar and Grill (immortalized by LA lost boy Warren Zevon) and farther west at marquee nightclubs like the Whisky A Go Go (which just celebrated its 50th anniversary) and The Roxy.
As party hearty band Aerosmith would say, “walk this way!”