Filthy McNasty, Icon of the Old Sunset Strip, Has Died

Word is spreading about the death of one of the iconic (and most oddly named) figures of the Sunset Strip — Filthy McNasty.

Filthy McNasty at 8852 Sunset Blvd. near Larrabee
Filthy McNasty at 8852 Sunset Blvd. near Larrabee

McNasty, whose eponymous nightclub was the predecessor to what now is the Viper Room and who also owned F.M. Station in North Hollywood, died of cancer on April 13. His death at the age of 73 was disclosed on his Facebook page on Tuesday and has drawn comments from several dozen friends and co-workers. They include local rockers and James Rogan, a U.S District Court judge in California and a two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The news of the passing of my former boss, Filthy McNasty, is devastating to all of us who knew him,” Rogan wrote in his post on McNasty’s Facebook page. “From 1979 to around 1982 I was one of his bartenders at the Strip and North Hollywood clubs. When I learned he died, I felt that a portion of my youth died with him. In my chambers to this day (I serve as a judge of the Superior Court of California) is the massive gavel he and Wolfgang gave me when I first became a judge in 1990. Never to be outdone, it remains the largest gavel I have ever owned. Rest in peace, boss.” (Wolfgang was McNasty’s brother.)

“R.I.P. Filthy McNasty, founder of the great rock club FM Station,” writes Gerry Gittelson, editor at MediaSludge, on Facebook. “Don’t let the name fool you. In an era when most club workers were total pricks, Mr. McNasty was a kind man whom everyone liked. That’s probably why he was among the few to succeed outside the confines of the Sunset Strip.”

Filthy McNasty (center) with Shawn Crosby and Micky Perez of Jones Street.
Filthy McNasty (center) with Shawn Crosby and Micky Perez of Jones Street.

Wolfgang and Nasty (who was born as Wilfried Bartsch before the brothers legally changed their names) moved to the United States from Berlin in 1956 according to Leigh Montville, author of “Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend.” They began working in the restaurant business and eventually took over the Melody Lounge, at 8852 Sunset Blvd. near Larrabee, a hangout where Bugsy Siegel and Micky Cohen and other gangsters were said to gamble. Renamed as “Filthy  McNasty’s,” the bar became a popular hangout for Evil Knievel and Phyllis Diller, Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger and other celebrities such as Little Richard and John Wayne who appreciated McNasty’s ban on photographers.

“There was action every night of the week,” Montville writes, “with loud bands, transvestite singers, mud wrestling, and a whole lot of Monte Rock III, who was a hairstylist, a signer and mostly a flamboyant talk-show guest with Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson.”

After the bar closed at 2 a.m., patrons would move on to the McNasty brothers’ F.M. Station club in North Hollywood, where they partied until sunrise. Montville reports that McNasty drove a black Cadillac hearse with an orange interior and was know for his own song: “You’re breaking my heart, you tear it apart, so f-ck you.”

F.M. Station also was popular with the rock world. “F.M. Station was the premier live music venue of the San Fernando Valley and was the favorite watering hole for many of the music industry’s shiniest of stars, and was often coveted as their ‘nasty’ little secret,” writes Gerry North on Parousia Buff. “On any given night, you could find the members of Motley Crue, Kiss, Guns and Roses, Great White, Metallica, Motorhead etc. followed around by local hopefuls striving for a grab at the proverbial brass ring known as a record deal.”

The McNasty brothers sold Nasty McNasty’s, and in the 1980s it was rebranded the Central. “During the 1980s you could easily catch a set by Rickie Lee Jones or bump into John Belushi at The Central,” writes Alison Martino, a major chronicler of the Sunset Strip’s history, in Los Angeles Magazine.  “In 1981, The Who’s John Entwistle participated in an open jam night there on Tuesdays. Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience), Buddy Miles, Les Dudek, Carlos Castenada, Jr., C.C. DeVille (before he was in Poison) Pearl (Janis Joplin’s back-up singer) and Ray Gange (the Clash’s roadie and star of “Rude Boy”) would sit in or be seen drinking at the bar.”

Central opened in 1993 as the Viper Room, with actor Johnny Depp then a part owner. It was known for a while as the place where Hollywood celebs hung out and infamously as the place where in 1993 actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose. Today its owners include Harry Morton, son of Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton, who is said to want to turn it into a franchise somewhat like the House of Blues.

McNasty closed F.M. Station about 20 years ago after losing his lease. “As the hordes of Hollywood’s hair-band hopefuls packed up their wagons and headed back home, rock and roll proprietor Filthy McNasty knew it was ‘last-call’,” North writes. “With little notice or fanfare, F.M. Station Live in North Hollywood … closed its doors for good in 1997. One of LA’s premiere live music clubs was gone.”

  1. I used to live in the valley and spent a lot of time with the brothers more so Wolfgang,like the night I went in his office in a raccoon coat w nothing under it….those were the days

  2. I was a promoter in the 80s for the deaf and hard of hearing people. Filthy was so kind to allow us to share his club. It was at the time when there were male strippers. The club was one of the favorites for the deaf and hard of hearing. I think the news media came and did a live coverage. I am sadden to hear the passing of Filthy. My condolence to his family.

    Rick Reiss

  3. This is Ron Cruz sax player formerly known as Ron Ramon part of the horny horns the other half being Buster Davis on trumpet I was part of filthy’s house band for two years maybe a little more right around 1977 we played on filthy’s 45 written by Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers it was called hurry on home girl we also did quite a few other recordings with filthy ….that was a Wild Bunch but I remember those days fondly…. Wolfgang… Truid… Mona… and all the crazies that used to come over every night from the classic cat next door…. rest in peace old friend… God willing …hopefully I’ll see you again

  4. This Is Flash remember me? I am pretty sure I remember cari jones…..I was a dancer back in 77-78-79-started at the sunset strip and migrated to north hollywood…..Good Times…Good Music …..Good People! I miss you all! Hope life was kind to all of you!And from my perspective Thank You for Living in this World!

  5. My husband and I also lived in those apartments, but it was in 1971. I am visiting LA today so I drove by and stopped. I wondered if thecbrothers still owned them. Then I looked up this article. Didn’t know them that well, but I knew they were Party Guys!! A guy named Steve lived next door to us. We had the first apartment next to the street.

  6. I rented an apt on Wilcox (Filthy owned a 4plex) and yes he did own and drive around in a black hearse. He had a girlfriend named Pearl. I also worked at Filthy McNasty ‘ s on Sunset, I was 21 and after 2:00 am would go to the Valley and work till 7:00 or 8:00 am Evel K(Kneivel) would be sitting at the bar many “nights”. Some of the best times I had iin Hollywood were with Wolfgang (he hired me on Sunset) and the gang. 1976-1978. Hey you Terese Jones…….you lived upstairs. This is Cari Jones . Filthy McNasty (and his foxy filthettes) was a significan time in my life. Remembering with fondness!

Comments are closed.