Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sunset Strip: Haunted Comedy Store

The part of Los Angeles known as the “Sunset Strip” connects West Hollywood to Beverly Hills—via Sunset Blvd. This area represents the wild or seedier side of Tinseltown—for it is here where locals for many years have come to have a good time. 

The Comedy Store, located on the Sunset Strip, has launched many famous comedians. The building that houses this club has a very colorful history—some believe this is why paranormal activity occurs at the Comedy Store.

This area had a bad reputation back to the 1920s—may be even further because it was here fifty years before when bandits, such as Tiburcio Vasquez * plied their trade. 

Sunset Boulevard was first established in 1870, and up until 1984, this infamous Strip was still unincorporated land, which meant it was not officially a part of Los Angeles. Therefore during this time, the Strip was not under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

This fact turned the area into a “safe haven” for casinos, burlesque theatres—strip clubs—gay and straight brothels and speakeasies during prohibition. This area also became the ideal spot for nightclubs—many of which remain along the Strip today.

The building that houses the Comedy Store is like the rest of the Strip, for it has a very seedy history. In the 1920s, this building housed the Club Seville. This club boasted a Marine Room, which had a glass dance floor made of crystals that were surrounded by fountains. 

Fish swam beneath people’s feet as they danced, this effect was topped off by colored lights. This club only lasted a year for women customers didn’t like the idea of fish looking up their dresses, and others feared this glass floor might break.

The most famous club to occupy the space was Ciro’s restaurant, where during Hollywood’s Golden Era, the elite came to be seen and party. 

At this time, one of Hollywood’s most notorious brothels was located right next door. Myth has it many stars that visited Ciro’s also took part in the next-door delights. 

Ciro’s also hosted the infamous gangster Mickey Cohen who was known as “The King of the Sunset Strip.” It is said Cohen based his operation out of Ciro’s. It was during this period that many feel the building first became haunted.

Legend states that the building still has the peepholes and handgun stations that Cohen’s men used during the bloody “Sunset Wars,” where mobsters fought for turf dominance in 1947. 

This legend grew as it became widely accepted that Cohen used Ciro’s basement to beat and even murder some of his enemies. Some even wildly speculated that Cohen buried some of his victims under this basement floor. 

Another claim is this basement was used for illegal abortions—serving the club’s dance girls and the prostitutes from the brothel next door that found they had an unwanted pregnancy.

Separating fact from fiction, in this case, can be a challenge, but regardless this building’s very dark history has resulted in the Comedy Store having several restless ghosts today. 

One apparition that is seen is that of a mysterious man who wears a World War II bomber jacket. He is seen most often in the upstairs office and in the Comedy Store’s kitchen. Witnesses state they see him crouching or hiding, and then he just disappears. Some speculate he probably was one of Cohen’s countless victims.

Not surprisingly, this building’s basement also appears to have activity. People have heard disembodied screams, moans, and even what sounds like animals snarling.

One comedian/employee Blake Clark after hours saw what he described as a potent force pushing against the padlocked metal gate that encloses the front of the basement. This freaked him, but he did return once more only to see a dark seven-foot entity appear. He left the building immediately, and he never went into the basement again. 

In the main room of the Comedy Store, many employees have spotted a man in the back who they have nicknamed “Gus.” It is said he is always dressed in a black suit, and it is felt he probably was one of Cohen’s hitmen. 

In this same area, Clark saw a chair slide 20 feet across the stage floor--again, he left the building quickly. At another time, he saw an ashtray float above a table and then hit the wall.

The most famous ghost story told at the Comedy Store involves the comedian Sam Kinison. Kinison, who was a former preacher, always presented his act using a thunderous, frenzied voice. For this reason, many felt his voice stirred up the paranormal activity in the club. 

Often when he was on stage performing, strange problems occurred with the audio. Electrical issues arose as well. As he talked into the mike, strange hisses were broadcast over the room’s speakers. One witness stated that it sounded as if someone was angrily saying, “It’s him” over and over again. 

One night Kinison finally fed up with this strange activity challenged the ghost. As he finished his set, Kinison told the spirit he needed to stop playing around and that it should make an appearance. Right after he finished this statement, the crowd gasped as the lights in the entire club went out, and they found themselves in complete darkness.

Yet another ghost that haunts the building is that of a comedian by the name of Steve Lubetkin. Lubetkin tried unsuccessfully to organize all the comedians at the club to strike for higher wages. After his failure, Lubetkin depressed found himself banned from performing at the club. 

He went up to the top of what was then ** the Continental Hyatt House and jumped to his death. It is said his body landed near the entrance to the Comedy Store. Some feel a somber presence in this area. 

*  I wrote about Tiburcio Vasquez’s ghost in another post here.

** This hotel is known as the Andaz West Hollywood today.


Unknown said...

i worked there as a bartender in the early 80s and it is definitely haunted.I had more than a few scary nights at that place. I wont go in the basement ever again,also,the upstairs offices (2nd and third floors)were scary at nite and i just couldnt go up there at nite. Yes its' all very haunted!

Unknown said...

On Friday night (Feb 28) I stayed at the Andez Hotel on Sunset Blvd. At about 9:30am, before my very eyes, the window blinds cranked up by themselves. The blinds are 100% manual and open by pulling on a chain. Opening them and closing them took some elbow power .. yet I watched them crank up by themselves. The chain was pulled in long hauls .. err err err as the blinds slowly moved up.