clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking Back at Sandy Koufax's Rock & Roll Tropicana Motel

New, 19 comments

In a postcard promoting his investment, famed Dodgers pitcher/Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax stands in front of the pool at what was rechristened in the early 1960s as Sandy Koufax's Tropicana Motel in West Hollywood, at Santa Monica and West Knoll. He's wearing slacks and a crisp, collared, short-sleeved shirt, and looking strong, respectable and clean-cut. Having the extra source of income was a shrewd move on Koufax's part: baseball careers were short then and salaries, while undeniably lavish for the time, were nowhere near the eight- and nine-figure contracts that can be had today, says the New York Times. Koufax's name on the sign brought lots of new business to the hotel, but many guests cared more about the motel's location than its athletic owner. Since the Tropicana was less than a mile up the street from the Troubadour, it became a base for musicians who played there and the members of the scene they were part of.

This was the sixties, so that means Led Zeppelin, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Doors were all checking in. What an eclectic mix it must have been, seeing as how "the clientele also included tourists who innocently happened to share their Hollywood vacations with hookers, pimps, and junkies," reads a Slake LA profile of the now-demolished hotel's raucous past.

As punk picked up momentum, new faces found their way into the hotel and its greasy, affordable restaurant, Duke's—Iggy and the Stooges, Blondie, the Clash. Tom Waits once resided in one of the bungalows behind the hotel. (Somewhere along the line, Koufax's name came off the sign.) The hotel got a rep for all-night parties, which eventually led to room-flooding, thanks to the old plumbing. "Under the Trop's junglelike foliage there were orgies, murders, suicides, ODs, love triangles, marriages, and drunken brawls on a daily basis." So, on any given night, you might be dancing in a room next to Iggy Pop, be ankle-deep in toilet water, and witness a murder.

But alas, all wild things must come to an end. In 1988, the plug was pulled on all the fun when the building was razed for a more buttoned-up Ramada.