1. Famous first date
The Rainbow Bar & Grill was once one of The Strip’s most popular Italian restaurants, Villa Nova.
Two famous romantic moments occurred at Villa Nova: Vincente Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland, and Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their first date — a blind one — at the restaurant in 1953.
Unfortunately, everyone knows how this story ends. Less than a year into their marriage, DiMaggio and Monroe divorced. Many say the iconic scene in “The Seven Year Itch” — the skirt-blowing one — put DiMaggio over the edge.
Today, Villa Nova restaurant lives on in Newport Beach.
2. Guys and Dolls filmed at “The Lot”
One of the most famous musicals of all time starred Sinatra, and nearly Monroe.
Monroe was considered for the part of Adelaide (Sinatra’s character’s love interest), but the part instead went to Vivian Blaine. Director Joseph Mankiewicz refused to work with Monroe after well-chronicled difficulties he had with her in “All About Eve.”
As far as Sinatra, he nearly got the lead, which instead went to Marlon Brando — Hollywood’s hottest actor at the time.
During the movie, shot at WeHo’s Samuel Goldwyn Studio, Sinatra stayed in a nearby bungalow just outside WeHo.
Below, watch Sinatra perform “Sue Me” in a famous scene from “Guys and Dolls.”
3. Sinatra Can’t Stop Drunken DiMaggio
On a moonless night on Nov. 5, 1954, Frank Sinatra found himself standing under the Chinese elms on a quiet West Hollywood street trying to reason with Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper himself, whose judgment had been clouded by too many stiff ones at a club on nearby Sunset Boulevard.
DiMaggio suspected Marilyn Monroe was sleeping with another man, and he was prepared to break into a home to find out. For the full story, click here to read our publisher’s full account.
4. Sinatra classic recorded at WeHo studio
One of Sinatra’s most cherished albums, “Concert Sinatra” was recorded at Stage 7 of the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, now “The Lot.”
The album came shortly after Sinatra broke free from Capitol/EMI and formed his own record label, Reprise.
In early 2012, the album was reissued, with a remastering of the original 35mm film source.
Nancy Sinatra wrote in her book “Frank Sinatra: My Father”:
“This was recorded on Stage 7 at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in order to capture the best possible sound. You don’t need an echo chamber; this stage acts as an echo chamber—and experts say that its natural reverberation characteristics are splendid.“
Here’s one track from the album, composed and written by the incomparable Rogers and Hammerstein duo.
5. Mocambo superclub and Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra made his Los Angeles debut at the former nightclub Mocambo in 1943.
However, it was Marilyn Monroe who really left a mark in history, helping further the career of one of the most famous musicians of all-time.
During the 1950s, Mocambo was one of the most popular musical venues in Hollywood. Yet, Ella Fitzgerald — today known as “Queen of Jazz” — was not allowed to play at the club because of her race.
That is, until Monroe got involved.
According to Fitzgerald’s autobiography:
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night.”
The owner said “yes.” And indeed Monroe showed up every night.
Fitzgerald, as she puts it, “never had to play a small jazz club again.”
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