Just Above Sunset
Volume 5, Number 10
March 11, 2007


 The world as seen from Just Above Sunset -

"Notes on how things seem from out here in Hollywood..."

Black is Always Hip on the Sunset Strip

Man Ray, who lived out this way for a time, and his Paris friend Georges Braque, tried their hand at collage.  The technique turned out to be a dead end.  It's better as "found art" - as in this composition by chance, various groups immortalized on the air-conditioning compressor behind The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.

Air-conditioning compressor behind The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.

The bleak marquee out front - the food of the gods, and real life -

Marquee, The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.

Monochrome all the way -

Sunset entrance to The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.

Mai Dinh provides the basics -

    It's been more than a decade since Johnny Depp opened the place, but headbanger and hipster kids still can't wait to turn 21 just so they can say they've partied here.

    The space is small, as is the stage - but the history looms large. Tommy Lee once roughed up a photographer here, Bruce Springsteen did a surprise set and, most infamously, River Phoenix died on the sidewalk outside. Johnny Cash, Courtney Love and Lenny Kravitz have played the Viper Room, and even more celebs pop in to slum. Depp is no longer affiliated with the VR, but the legacy lives on.

River Phoenix bought it here on Halloween night of 1993, and more trivia -

    On October 1, 1996, a paparazzo in the club snapped a photo of the Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger embracing actress Uma Thurman ("Pulp Fiction"). The photographer alleged that Mick's bodyguard wrestled him to the ground and club employees confiscated the valuable film and handed it to a member of the Stones' entourage, who destroyed the film. The photographer claimed the photo would have been worth one million dollars, and sued both Jagger and the Viper Room. Mick settled out of court, but a jury later ruled against the club, and awarded $600,000 in damages to the photographer.

    And in 1996, rocker Tommy Lee (of Mötley Crüe) was convicted of battery after he pushed over a photographer (Henry Trappler) who tried to videotape of him and wife Pamela Anderson Lee outside the Viper Room on September 26, 1996.  Lee was fined and sentenced to a 24-month summary probation and 200 hours of community service. …

    The night Johnny Cash played at the club, the audience included Sean Penn, Tom Petty, Juliette Lewis, Dwight Yokum, and Johnny Depp.  Mick Fleetwood ("Fleetwood Mac") has been spotted here several times.  Christina Applegate tended bar one night (and was there the night River Phoenix died). … Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche were caught smoking in the club while watching a June 1998 performance of the band Live. Members of Counting Crows and Rage Against the Machine were also in the audience for that show. Tom Arnold met his wife, Julie, here.

    In September of 1995, Bruce Springsteen dropped by for an impromptu concert.

    ... The Los Angeles Times called it "the most consistently hip club in town."

    Johnny Depp's ownership of the club came to an end in 2004, when he signed it over to the daughter of his missing partner in the club, Anthony Fox. Before his disappearance, Fox had sued over allegedly missing profits, and the legal settlement involved the handover.

And, if you care, this month's schedule.

If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me.

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.


Last updated Saturday, March 10, 2007, 10:30 pm Pacific Time

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Alan M. Pavlik