Countercultural hippies. Rock ’n’ roll. Hollywood’s Golden Age. Over the years, the Sunset Strip has evolved. One era saw Marilyn Monroe falling for Joe DiMaggio, another Jim Morrison dangling over the boulevard out of a tenth-story window.
Ninety-year-old Charlotte Dale’s memory glimmers bright with the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. During that bygone era, Dale ran Villa Nova alongside her late husband, Allen. The eatery’s celebrity connections go back to its beginnings. Allen Dale opened the original Villa Nova, located on Vine, with $100 in backing from silent film icon Charlie Chaplin. It later moved to the Sunset Strip, where for years the Dales catered to a diverse clientele that included movie stars, advertising and radio professionals and gangsters.
When Dale recently visited the former Villa Nova site at 9015 Sunset Blvd. at Wetherly, now the Rainbow Bar & Grill, she was struck by how much of the venue seemed frozen in time. The skylight and stained glass were still there. The staff still uses the same system for numbering the tables. Dale even spotted a cash register that’s apparently been there since the days when Dean Martin and Judy Garland were familiar faces.
“It’s absolutely, totally amazing,” said Dale, who visited Rainbow and recounted Villa Nova history at the behest of West Hollywood resident Alison Martino, an enthusiast (to put it mildly) of L.A.-area history. Self-proclaimed “DeLorean of the Internet” Martino is manager of the popular Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page, which has inspired a series of Vintage Los Angeles video segments. For the second video in the Vintage Los Angeles series, Martino bridged two eras by bringing Dale together with present-day Rainbow owner Mikeal Maglieri.
In the video, now in the process of being edited, Martino serves as host and facilitates a conversation between Dale and Maglieri. Dale said Martino was adept at asking the right questions to resurface memories that were faded but not erased — Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen playing cards and hiding out from the FBI. Surprise Casanova Don Knotts popping in with a different woman on his arm each night.
“These are stories nobody’s ever heard,” said Martino, who’s pleased to document that history with the support of P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes of the Ebersole Hughes Company, which is producing Vintage Los Angeles videos. The Villa Nova/Rainbow video interview, which will be about six to eight minutes long once finished, will appear on the Vintage Los Angeles YouTube channel.