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The Villa Elaine

Sometimes the outside appearance of a building gives no clue to what the inside looks like.  The Villa Elaine on Vine Street was not only an example of this but also a serious case of false advertising.  From the outside it looked (and still does look) like a sleazy set for some old film noir movie.  It stubbornly stood on Vine Street, right in between Fountain and La Mirada Avenues, an apartment building of dubious repute for many decades. I was nothing short of astounded when I’d heard it survived the Northridge quake back in ’94.

The building was my third and last residence in Hollywood in the spring and summer of 1982.  I was really glad to get out of the Premiere Motel on Hollywood Blvd (the dive we were living in) until I saw this building for the first time.  Then I wondered what the hell we were getting into.  The front of the building was right up there hugging Vine; proudly presenting its ugliness to the street.  It just vibed dangerous and it looked like it couldn’t possibly be a home for anybody.  It had a wrought iron access door in the front, the kind you’d look over your shoulder several times anytime of the day or night, while fumbling for your keys to get in.

The VE, in-your-face on Vine Street

There were always old guys hanging out on the sidewalk, they seemed to be waiting for someone to let them in; or, for someone to come out, I could never tell.  Some of them wore fedoras and ill fitting suits and had the kind of look that in 1982 was decades too late to be fashionable but still years too early to be considered retro.

This just added to the Otto Preminger vibe of the place.

Right inside the gate and past the slightly creepy (unlit, dank) entry tunnel on the left was a little store on the ground floor.  It had a window facing out on Vine too, selling cigarettes and beer.  It was another place you just had to get past to get to your apartment and to me this sucked because it was INSIDE the security gate.  Weird.

But then, if you would, let’s take another few steps inside.

The “Villa” part that the name ‘Villa Elaine’ referred to was the inside.  What a difference.  There was a beautiful micro-jungle in the courtyard!  The courtyard WAS the middle of the building, open air, 4 stories of apartments on the left and right, and pretty narrow.  But it was filled with massive planters and a lot of what looked like tropical plants.  There was a palm tree that stretched out over the top of the building.  Several other trees (they were the skinny Italian-countryside type) and little grassy landscaped areas completed the picture.

Someone took a lot of time maintaining the courtyard but apparently they were never allowed to take their talents outside of it.  The paint was peeling on the outside and on Vine Street itself there grew a tree (the only one on that block) big enough to mostly obscure the name of the building (over the gateway) from anyone across the street.  Being the only tree on that side of the block, it looked like it was put there to hide the decrepitude that, by 1982, was the exterior.

At the back of the courtyard there was a pool (it was also well maintained and secluded), which was definitely another plus.  The courtyard level apartments were brick faced, each with their own arched entryways.  It was like a row of bungalows on the left and right, each with its own little mailbox on the left.  I found out years later that the one next door to us was once the residence of Man Ray back in the 40’s or 50’s.  And that Orson Welles had lived in the same building for awhile too (both guys seemed like they’d fit right in, wearing fedoras out on the sidewalk).

You could enter each apartment from a verdant green peaceful zone that you couldn’t believe was right in the middle of Greater Hollywood.  And luckily for us, we’d scored one of these exclusive bungalows.VE1

Each one was a split-level; so it had a stairway going up to a second floor bedroom, and really high ceilings in the living room.  I thought that was the greatest, a 2 story apartment, and as such was a real difference from our Ranch-Style Lido flat.  The kitchen was massive and very 50’s looking and even had a back door leading to a cramped concrete alleyway in between the VE and another building.  I treated that area like a back yard while I was there; taking my model cars out for painting (the fumes drove my mom nuts).

But just as there was this dichotomy between the inward and outward appearances of the Villa Elaine, there was also one with the apartments themselves.

Now…. let’s rewind, we’ll back up outside again and reenter the building.

After passing the creepy tunnel, if you took a left past the store you’d go into the main lobby.  There was an elevator there that took you up to the other floors, the other apartments, the hidden rest of the building.  You could go up there and it was like the outside of the building all over again.  Dark hallways with nondescript doors led to run down little apartments.  There were a lot of roaches too.  It was hard to believe all this stuff was in the same structure.

It was like the reverse of a rotten apple; here the core (the courtyard) was great and everything outside of it (at least in ’82) looked ready for the wrecking ball.

When I lived there I stayed in the courtyard, our fancy villa apartment, and the pool.  I’d quickly (with my head bowed down) scurry out onto Vine, cross to Fountain then casually stroll to school in the morning; then after school; slowly walk back up Fountain until I got to Vine, then quickly scamper back inside.  There was a great Music Plus across the street on the left and a Bob’s Big Boy with a really big Big Boy statue a block or two to the right.  The legendary arcade Rock City was just a few blocks walk away.  Importantly, I could see the Hollywood Sign from Vine.

So, my building had a good location as far as I was concerned; and Vine Street became my little neighborhood.

I’d hang out in the Hollywood Public Library, that is, until it burned down in April of ’82.  But not before I had checked out and read every Hardy Boys Mystery they had;  I may have considered them a little lame and beneath me but I kept checking them out, chasing the high from the first in the series I’d read a few years before.VE2

Otherwise I’d divide my time between Music Plus and the McDonalds on DeLongpre (where they’d introduced this thing called the “McNugget” early that year, we were pretty excited about that).  Then I’d head back home (hurriedly and embarrassedly entering through the front gate) then enjoy again the mystery of the courtyard and the different lighting aspects it always gave to the middle of the building (it was even tastefully lit at night too, with spotlights on the trees).

I REALLY liked not getting the “fussy end off the lollipop” (residentially speaking) for once in my life.  My memories of this place are very fond because I felt like I lived on the nice side of the tracks, at least for a bit.

A couple of my school friends had heard of this place and they’d said with pity “oh man, you live at the V.E.?!” until I brought them over and let them inside.  They couldn’t believe the courtyard either and grudgingly conceded it might be a cool place to live after all.

 

The inside reminded me of “Sunset Boulevard” but with no floater in the pool (thank goodness).  We even had a struggling actor neighbor that we befriended, named Terence Knox.  He also had a courtyard apartment and we’d see him out by the pool, he was a nice guy.  He was living at the Villa Elaine when his big break came and he landed the role of Dr. Peter White on “St. Elsewhere.”  He was excited as he came over to tell us the news and we congratulated him.  He’s been a busy actor ever since.

I remember a lot of fun times, finding a puppy that turned into a huge St. Bernard (we couldn’t keep him); watching the last episode of M*A*S*H, and listening to a ton of Vin Scully called Dodger games on my portable radio.  But, as with all places, my time in this virtual retreat couldn’t and didn’t last forever.  For we moved again, this time to Florida.

I returned to LA for visits in 1989, 2000 and 2008, every time visiting the VE but never being able to get inside to look around.  I wanted to show somebody, anybody, just how weirdly different and out of place it was in there, like some botanical biosphere, and to prove to myself I wasn’t just ‘misremembering.’  For all I knew, and owing to the unchanging feel of the place, the entry key we had back in ’82 might have let me in again all those years later (another reason to never throw away keys).

So I just had my memories to rely on, of how strange and wonderful it was for me back then, when I was 14 years old.   And even now this time capsule of a building remains, a forgotten sentinel of Old Hollywood, surviving in limbo, somewhere between historic preservation and the bulldozer.  A lot around it has changed but it is the same, the tree out front, maybe slightly more modern looking hobos on the sidewalk, even the same sign.

Back in the late ‘90’s a band called Remy Zero released an album called “Villa Elaine.” Apparently they were living there at the time of the recording.  The cover photo is of the old Villa Elaine sign out front.  I purchased it and listened closely, trying to glean some insight or nostalgia for that era.  Nothing, zippo, no mention of the place or its crazy courtyard.  It was a good record, I guess, but it turned out I was locked out of the place yet again.

34 replies
    • Bryan
      Bryan says:

      A few months later, attempting to relay some of your stories, so someone would know what I was talking about / what you were talking about.

      THE TREE IS GONE. ONE OF THE DETAILS, THAT KEPT IT ALL A SECRET. A FEW WEEKS AGO, GONE.

      Reply
      • Bill Hardesty
        Bill Hardesty says:

        I used to live at the Lido too, and they filled in the pool so they could make the parking lot bigger. Now the tree at the VE?! Nuts man! Is the VE pool still there?

        Reply
        • Remy Zero
          Remy Zero says:

          i hope it is…. it was never filled with anymore than a few inches of dirty rainwater, despite the `Heated Pool` ad on the front sign…. we filmed it in the middle of our video, which was Entirely shot at the Villa Elaine 😉 check out the stop-motion shoes the director wanted to `walk through` 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEEJecwFG0w
          ( by the way, that`s me riding my beach-bike through the courtyard 😉 and my brother doing his `Nosferatu` imitation in the courtyard window 😉

          Reply
  1. Tom Osborne
    Tom Osborne says:

    Dear Bill, It was very fun reading this. I, myself, lived in the Villa Elaine from about 1975 or 1976 to…I’m kind of hazy on the exact year, but I am going to say to about 1980. I lived in apartment 1, the very first one on the ground floor on the right, right after you get through the tunnel. It was to the left of the door leading down into the basement where there were washers and dryers and also there was a fire escape right there. The building really was a fantastic place for young people to live (although there was a world of difference between the “luxurious ground floor apartments” and the “seedy flophouse hotel type” other ones on the upper floors; but I was friends with people who lived in both kinds of units).

    I loved the two-story high living room and the stairs going up and the balconies looking down from the second story. I also loved the large living room windows that opened all the way up the ceiling; I’d have them wide open in the summers. Also, the living room was actually sunken about three steps down, which gave the illusion of even more upper space as you walked in through the front door. There was a separate dining room (I had never had that before, or ever since!), and tons of little alcoves for storing things. I made the very tiny little “second bedroom” upstairs into a kind of “guest bedroom” (there was nothing in there but one twin bed), mostly used by guests who were too drunk or stoned to even move. Thanks to a roommate I had during a part of the time I lived there, we were party central. He was always trolling for party people, you would not believe the people he would comb up from the Hollywood scene to bring home (discos, bus stations, even just walking down the street). We always had the stereo blasting and the liquor flowing and party kids passing in and out and sometimes crashing for entire weekends. I didn’t use drugs, but my roommate used, and sold, every conceivable thing, plus he smoked marijuana more than he smoked cigarettes. Every piece of upholstery he ever got near ended up with little marijuana seed burn holes in them. How we both didn’t end up in prison because of HIS activities in MY apartment…well, it just seems that the Villa Elaine was a little bubble way far out of the mainstream. My roommate was always astonished by the vibe at the Villa Elaine. He used to say with wonder, “You can get ANYTHING you want at the Villa Elaine!” and I think that was certainly true. Every kind of drug or any other kind of illicit thing, and any sort of prostitute (female, male, and people changing their gender from one to the other in either direction). There were characters of every stripe living there (or visiting there), and there I was, a perfectly normal guy living right in the middle of that circus, a “super-straight” person who soberly went to work every day as a market research project director testing television commercials and movie marketing.

    Normal friends of mine (friends from beyond the realm of the Villa Elaine) were scared to death to come visit me there, and I suppose I couldn’t blame them (I, myself, have always been an adventurer). There used to be a LOT of black people (and every other kind of race) living there, but there was ALWAYS (day and night) a large group of black men hanging out inside that tunnel beating on bongo drums and singing and partying. This to my friends was a phalanx from Hell that they could not pass through, so I used to have to go get them and usher them safely inside (THEN they would be amazed at how nicely I was actually living!). It’s funny about those blacks–they were to me, like bikers, which means “very, very scary” to people who don’t know them, and yet actually the sweetest, kindest, and most generous guys you would ever want to meet. My experience with bikers, and with these fun-loving blacks hanging around in the Villa Elaine tunnel, is that they would do anything imaginable to help you if you needed it. I never felt safer in my whole life than when I lived there in the “underworld” where everyone was a true outsider, and yet all had hearts of gold for those who were part of the society there. For a young man starting out in his post-college life, this was a phenomenal lesson for me about what people are really like and how wrong prejudicial judgments can be. Getting to know all walks of life can be enlightening.

    The swimming pool at the Villa Elaine was wonderful in those days (clean and cared for, and was another great hang-out place, as well as the courtyard, itself, where people would bring chairs outside (and we’d bring my huge stereo speakers outside), and also a bunch of us took to sitting up on the roof in the warm evenings, which I think was against the rules, but what did rules mean to the people who lived in the Villa Elaine?

    I only had two complaints about the Villa Elaine–one was that the building had no parking, and I had at the time a beautiful Thunderbird that I loved that was slowly getting destroyed by having to park it out on the street wherever I could find a place. The other bad thing was all the cockroaches. There just was no solution to them. This old building…I would cockroach-bomb my apartment monthly, but the cockroaches would just come back from elsewhere in the building. There always seemed to be one walking across my pillow or standing on my toothbrush. I think the only way to get rid of the cockroaches would be to get rid of the building itself, and that I would never recommend!

    Like you, I did go back to visit the place a few decades after I had moved away (it was easy to be let in through the gate by any other resident who happened to be going in or out). It seemed that a lot of the ground floor apartments had been renovated (or maybe had been heavily decorated by the tenants over the years), to the extent that the rent that was being charged then was actually beyond what was affordable for me at that time (whereas what had made me look into living there in the first place originally was that the rent was so cheap). It was peculiar to see how a place I could easily afford during my carefree young adulthood was now unaffordable to the more solid and supposedly successful older man that I had become. I have no idea what the situation is there, now, but it looks like the building is still standing, and I hope it is full of people who still feel lucky to have bravely found this secret little oasis in the middle of crazy Los Angeles. May the Villa Elaine continue to work its magic on those who are open to its unique charms (may it still have those charms!).

    Sincerely, Tom

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      Thank you Tom, your reply is a great addendum for my story. The VE really worked the imaginations of the people that lived there, no matter how long. I was only there for about 6 months in 1982 but it left a helluva mark. You reminded me of some detail I had forgotten, like that the entryway to the ground floor apartments had three steps down and how it made the size of the place bigger. Also, the risk/reward factor of entering the building itself. Like getting jumped out of a gang (somedays) in reverse (maybe jumped INTO a gang). I was 14 years old and not as adventurous as you but I learned comparable life lessons a few years and a world away in Brooklyn. And man, the bugs, they were rent-stiffing roomies we could never get rid of.

      Reply
      • Bill Hardesty
        Bill Hardesty says:

        I am not sure. Only my mom would remember that and she’s been gone a lot of years now. Thanks for your comments about your time spent there. The bugs, man, the bugs.

        Reply
  2. dana hartmann`
    dana hartmann` says:

    hi all. well i lived in the villafrom about 1969 to about 1973 I think it was. I lived there as a child. its sad to her the old girl is getting run down, My mom and dad used to manage it when i was a child. I remember when the show “Emergency: was on, the shot a scene in our elevator . We had fun watching that., The swim scene in minnie and moscowitz was shot at the villa. David Doyle of Charlies Angles fame used one of the court yard appts as an office and drama school( I took lessons for free) I remember Rock Hudson coming in to look at an apt. I didnt know who he was. There was a deli next door that sold brine pickles when i was little, I would meet up with Walter matthau ( still cant spell his name) around lunch time and he would lift me up so I could get at the pickles, That was our ritual. Ranch market was across the steet, and i can remember them selling gold fish in necklaces. I thought that was so neat. So I also have alot of fond memories. Im just sorry you couldnt see it in its splendor Also there was no gate in front when I lived there. There was a treasure trove of old actors and singers that lived there. Some even babysat me, here was a lady, by the name of Kay who lived there. she was a gangsters girlfriend in the 20s. She was also fairly famous in Chicago. Her only daughter died when she was 12. Kay had a little drinking problem, but as a young child, I loved her to death

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories. What you describe is exactly how I always felt the Villa should have lived its life as a residence when I was there. I went to LA last month and a kind person let me in to the front gate. I was able to walk around and take pictures and remember. Inside it’s in pretty good shape, it was very pretty. The pool is now and empty, clawed out mess, however.

      Reply
      • Remy Zero
        Remy Zero says:

        oh, the pool, the pool…. infinitely Depressing… i so wish i had ever seen it useable. it might have Completely changed my memory of the V.E. but at least there was the Venerable History :
        ` I found out years later that the one next door to us was once the residence of Man Ray back in the 40’s or 50’s. And that Orson Welles had lived in the same building for awhile too (both guys seemed like they’d fit right in, wearing fedoras out on the sidewalk).`

        Reply
    • Tony Rose
      Tony Rose says:

      I lived there from September – December, 1973. Miss Jones was the manager, the roaches were horrendous, the Ranch Market was across the street with an old guy who played harmonica and they sold milk in a bottle that had cream at the to, a beautiful place and I played David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zepplin records all day. I was twenty two years old, from Boston, Ma and I made it in Hollywood and went to the world.

      Reply
  3. JOHN BUZZELL
    JOHN BUZZELL says:

    How nice to read some of these memories. I just started a Facebook page based on my life in Hollywood. My mother and I lived at the Villa Elaine from 1972 – 1975. So any of you who lived there during those years, I probably knew you. I was only 12-15 during those years (having been born in 1960), but it was a world of fun I’ll never forget. Being young, police activity, drunken brawls, loud arguments seemed a magnetic curiosity. I was always sticking my nose out in the front line when something was going down. I guess when you’re a kid, you’re spry, you can run fast, and you don’t feel the immediate sense of danger. I never felt the Villa Elaine was dangerous. It had its activity, and it had its tranquility. And yes, many people from Hollywood’s heyday still inhabited the building. There was Charlie Sherman, a music composer, lecturer and former theatrical agent. Always quick-witted. There was Aaron Bramer who lived on the 2nd floor. You could hear him blowing the trumpet while listening to the Big Band music of his era. Mae Coe who had lived there for so long, she was given an exemption from having to pay any additional rent. A guy named Nick (I can’t remember his last name) was in multiple TV shows (mostly as just an extra). Chief Tug Smith, his wife Fredelia (Fiddle) and son Brian lived there too. The Chief played his Indian heritage in multiple movies in the 60’s and 70’s. Mrs. Jones owned the building but had semi-retired on a few occasions and put management into the hands of others. She would then usually return after a while. On various occasions we lived in apartments 303, 222, 316 and 424. I knew several people who lived in the courtyard apartments. They were beautiful. Hey, I’d welcome hearing from anybody who would like to have a look at the pictures I’m putting on my Facebook page. Right now it’s just the Villa Elaine and Bob’s Big Boy (my second home back then). I’ll be posting more and more as I dig out old photo albums and boxes of pictures. I was only a kid back then, so my pictures were all taken with a Kodak Instamatic 110 camera. And yes, my wretched finger obscured the bottom portion of the lens on multiple occasions. I tried this link and it wouldn’t let me see the details unless I was logged into Facebook. But here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007053137880&fref=ts . I have everything public, so you don’t have to link with me to see what I’ve posted. However, if the Villa Elaine holds some memories for you from that time frame, or even just Hollywood itself, and you’d like to link, please do. If you have any difficulties in viewing the pages, please feel free to write me directly at JohnSBuzzell@gmail.com. It would be great to chat and trade memories. Once again, I was not a professional photographer. I was a kid with a camera and the pictures can look a bit hazy and not too clear. But it’s the best I’ve got. I hope you all enjoy, and please drop a hello on my page or at my e-mail. There is still more to post. I’ve only started. Take care everybody. -John

    Reply
  4. Paul Ricci
    Paul Ricci says:

    Hi Bill – My wife and I lived at the VE in the summer of ’69. We were struggling ballet dancers taking from an incredible teacher named Gene Marinaccio nearby in Hollywood. When we blew into town from SF we needed a place to live and the other dancers all said try the Villa Elaine – it’s cheap! We lived on an upper floor and I remember staying up at all hours and hanging out our streetside window watching the all-night show across the street at the Hollywood Ranch Market. That was our TV and internet.I don’t remember much in the way of of junkies or loud parties or black guys drumming. (I also don’t remember roaches.) There seemed to be a lot of older show business people and since my parents were nightclub singers in the 40s and 50s I felt right at home. I don’t remember the entrances to the courtyard apartments being so slick and gentrified – more like William Atherton’s apartment in “Day of the Locust”. The courtyard was also dustier and more open than the pictures here show. I spent a lot of time at the pool, which was usually empty of people.
    I remember there was this big guy who worked in movies, not an actor but something technical, and he would have to be away periodically. He had this big old cat, and very time he returned from a trip the cat would tear across the courtyard and leap up into his arms and they would hug. The whole place would turn out to see it. Our entertainment was simpler then. Anyway, despite my short stay there I miss that time. I had no idea the place was so storied. I don’t know what made me google the VE today but I’m glad I did.

    Reply
  5. David Mauldin
    David Mauldin says:

    I have many memories of VE. 1970 my mother divorced her second husband and we moved to the VE from OC. She worked at Knight’s Restaurant down the street and my brother and I attended Vine Street School. It was an introduction to the world for my brother and I. The building was filled with characters, broken down people from the Hollywood movie industry. There were the elderly shut-ins. We played ding-dong-ditchem with these people. There was old fixtures everywhere. Our “refrigerator” was an ice-box from the 50s? The elevator was as old as the dumbwaiters at the end of the hallways. An old group of people would sit in the lobby at night. My brother an I would run around unsupervised. One day the police escorted me home because I got caught shoplifting at The Broadway. They marched me right past the group of fogies in the lobby. We were there during the 1970 earthquake. The building really rocked back and forth. On the west side of the building there was a ballet school. My brother and I could watch the women dancing in their tights.

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      I’ve had replies so far from several people who were there just a few years before I was. I think Paul may have mentioned Kay at some point. The Hollywood Ranch Market was already gone. Thanks for sharing your memories, especially the ’70 earthquake.

      Reply
    • Remy Zero
      Remy Zero says:

      HA, Really Great Memories… it was Surely a Tiny piece of Magic in the midst of the Hollywood dog-piles… is Brandon McCulloch still in Courtyard Apt 1? he was my best friend…. and Rome and the Amazing Artist who did Variations of Sharks, which became Highly popular with so many A-list actors…. may days were filled with `Leo-Watching`, or maybe Spacey-spying` 😉 He made such Beautiful paintings….. the whole courtyard was full of Creativity. it was Always Inspiring to be there….. that is why we called our record, `Villa Elaine`… does Anyone know what happened to the old sign, the one on our( Remy Zero`s) record cover? the one that bragged,`Heated Pool`! i would SO Love to find that….

      Reply
  6. tracie
    tracie says:

    so great to read all your stories about the Villa Elaine.
    my sister just moved in there. when i went to check it out with her, i was stunned. i had to walk back out to the street and look in to see wherefrom i had entered. it’s like being somewhere that you can’t remember getting to. which recalls some fond times growing up in the heart of hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s anyway. my hometown. but i didn’t live here. so there i was now…. you walk through that huge corridor and there you are! i fell in love with the place, in the way you can fall in love with a moment, a photograph, just a piece of life. there is something about that place … the courtyard, the archways, the bricks, the bathtubs, the closets, the old time kitchens. but it’s more than all that. there is magic. someone left it behind or perhaps it was created by the combination of so many who have been there before you…. but certainly, it is there — entirely unexpected, entirely unpretentious, inconspicuous, even dubiously camouflaged… but yes, undoubtedly, it is there.

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      Magic is a great word to describe it, isn’t it? I get the feeling of having to back out again and then re-enter. Thank you for your comments, I’m jealous of your sis, I would like to live there again myself. But they’ve gotta fix the pool.

      Reply
    • Remy Zero
      Remy Zero says:

      it is Truly Magical. it was the `Glue` that held so many things together, despite all the Hollywood Storms…. i hope it Exists Forever! i remember we did a `battle` with the city council, hoping to have it designated `historical`….

      Reply
  7. Bobby
    Bobby says:

    I lived there from 1971 thru 1979, my mom had seperated from my dad and we lived in apt.427. I have such fond memories. Miss Jones was the owner and Honey was the onsite manager . My transgender aunt lived in a courtyard unit and I lived this place. The Hollywood ranch market was across the street and Joes Deli was downstairs and he’d give us credit. When my dad came to live with us he then frequented The Waterhole 5, a bar right downstairs. ABC studios was across the street to the north and a lady with extreme osteoporosis would feed the birds. My mom worked at the PIC N SAVE another block down the street. I remember Sue Lyons from LOLITA fame moved into the bldg and it was a big deal. Never any crime, but a very diverse group of tenants. I miss that era

    Reply
    • Gary
      Gary says:

      I cannot believe all the postings regarding the Villa Elaine. I lived at the VE for a year: 1978-1979.
      I got a Bachelor Apartment somewhere on second floor on my second day in Hollywood. $175 per month. The cheapest place in town. The old Hollywood courtyard and architecture was certainly right out of an old Black & White. My first night, there was a rape in the alleyway on the south side. Screams, Sirens and Helicopters, Welcome to L.A.. The Ranch Market was still thriving and the drugs and prostitution on Vine were right at my feet and I loved that place. I find myself sometimes going out of my way to still go by it and get all nostalgic. I made some good friends who knew how to get by in the city and showed a very naive country boy the ropes, and then lost them to somewhere….Brent. Jesse Debbie and RIck where dya all go. I sure do miss though days.

      Reply
  8. Chris Chabot
    Chris Chabot says:

    Great stories! I lived there in 1980 and 1981. I was there when the Ranch Market burned down – heard all the fire trucks and went outside. At the time there was an adult bookstore on either side. There was a doo wap group practicing in the lobby at night. The front of the building burned one night when a hair stylist store caught fire in the front. There were rumors stars had lived there decades earlier and that a few people from the silent era still had places on the ground floor where the windows were covered in aluminum foil. Quite a place.

    Reply
  9. Jim Hausch
    Jim Hausch says:

    Great posts. First time on this site. The Name of the hotel in 1957 and 1958 was the Elaine Apartment Hotel and at only 18 years old; I recall the Hotel as very nice. Tne Ranch market was across the street. I attended California Air College that was waking distance from the hotel. Just down the street at 1539 N Vine was the ABC Studios offices, my employer. A little further down the street at 1735 N Vine was the El Capitan theatre where Frank Sinatra ‘s ABC TV show was recorded live. I was assigned as Frank’s body guard during rehearsals and the shows. Many of the TV extras and aspiring actors stayed at the Elaine. Needless to say, as a young kid fresh off the farm, I was in awe. Many good memories.

    Reply
  10. Remy Zero
    Remy Zero says:

    Hi there,
    i really enjoyed reading your impressions of the old Villa Elaine….
    My name ( legally ) is Remy Zero, and we did all live there for a few years.
    It was indeed the Amazing courtyard that pulled us in at First. But as we lived there for a bit, and lived in many of the different apartments, we got to know a small community of actors, painters and musicians, etc., and we ended up having Great parties together in the courtyard, etc…Sometimes we`d have friends from all over the world joining us for the breezy Spring evenings….
    Listening recently to the record we did while living there – our singer, my brother Cinjun, got married to Alyssa Milano during our stay, so we kind of straddled the old Hollywood with the Amazing Hills of Beverly- a Totally different Universe from the poor old Villa Elaine 😉
    Many of the songs on the record are Definitely about Many of the Very Unusual people we encountered daily living in the neighborhood, especially this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9SEHuNVfTc…. maybe you even saw some of them, pushing their carts, imagining the were still in their 20`s but Obviously in their 60`s, absolutely Drenched in heavy make-up and youthfully tight, colorful clothes 😉
    It was definitely full of Tragic figures- and we were`t really any different, I suppose…. and most of the songs on the record are more about them than the actual building, I guess…
    We were always told Marilyn Monroe, Orson Wells, Man Ray, and others had passed through the V.E. on their ways to their respective destinies. That all inspired us somewhat, even though at that time the Villa Elaine was probably more at the Heart of Hollywood than the sad suburb that it was when we lived there …
    Btw, I also spent a Lot of time at the library- i didn`t know it had burned down…
    I think there are some really nice pictures of Man Ray and Orson playing chess ( using Man Ray`s hand-made chess pieces ) in the Villa on the internet if you search around some…..
    Many of my good friends lived- and still live- in the great split-level courtyard apartments. i was never so lucky, living mostly on the top floor as well as a few of the `box-like` studio rooms…
    i don`t remember everyone`s names, but there was an Amazing artist in the courtyard whose pieces would often attract several A-List actors and actresses( Kevin Spacey, Leo DiCaprio, J-Lo, etc) came to see his Wonderful paintings-usually centered around images of sharks… we hired a very well-known London video-maker to make a video of our single from the record, `Villa Elaine`, called `Gramarye` ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEEJecwFG0w ) this was all filmed at the V.E.. i even rode my beach-bike thru the courtyard a few times. and the `heated pool` 😉 for all the years I lived there, it was never more than a few inches deep with filthy rain-water, but alas….that was the Villa 😉
    And eventually some friends opened a coffee-shop and a restaurant in front of the apartment. We would often meet there to nurse hangovers and plot new adventures…. I went by there several months ago and noticed the fabled sign was taken down. I know several people-myself included- who would really love to try and purchase that sign if anyone knows where it ended up…..
    I suppose it`s when i had a son and his cries were often drowned out by the drunk man in the dumpster downstairs that we decided it was maybe time to move to a more `civilized` home. But I do hope the Villa Elaine still will exist at least a few more years as an affordable spot for new Dreamers, coming to Hollywood with just a Fearless Hope and some Fragment of Talent….
    It will Always mean a lot to me, as a spot where i was able to put my toes into Hollywood while pursuing a Dream that i was`t Totally sure was even Real 😉

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      There’s so much good stuff in here I can’t believe that I just thought to open my admin settings today and look for new comments (shame). I bought your CD a few years ago, looking to glean a few more insights into the VE and really liked the music. I loved the old building but my enchanted structre was and remains the Lido over on Wilcox. I even wrote a novel based on a ‘could have’ life lived there. Have you seen Minnie and Moskowitz, filmed extensively there in ’71? Maybe the only person we could have know mutually was Derek Galloway, who I think overlapped the eras.

      Reply
  11. jim L
    jim L says:

    I posted this last night but it looks like it didn’t get saved, so here it is again . . .

    I had moved to Hollywood to get into the recording business in the spring of 1976. Twenty years old from a small town in southern Ontario. I had maybe $50, but a job about to start at a studio on Monday.

    Every apartment in the newspapers wanted first month, last month, security which I couldn’t afford, but I kept seeing these ads (unbelievable really because it was so affordable) for “a modern, secure building, with a swimming pool”, and eventually figured I had to give it a shot.

    I went down to Vine street and walked through the front alcove towards the fountain. There I met a young man, Gary (who turned out to be my best friend all the years I lived in Los Angeles, and by the names in his story, the author of one of the posts above), and he asked me if he could help. I said I needed a place to stay and had seen the ads about the Villa Elaine. He looked me up and down (I think sizing up my lack of big city experience), and said “listen man, you don’t want to stay here”. I explained the situation – job, no money, etc., and he said, “okay, come with me and I’ll introduce you to Honey”. He took me in the office, explained the situation to Honey and she gave me a room, I think she took $20 from me, left me with some so I could eat, and trusted me to pay her when I got paid.

    I was on the 4th floor with a window that had the iconic view north on Vine of the Broadway Hollywood building and the Hollywood sign. Those rooms had a bed, a hot plate and a bathroom.

    The Villa Elaine, there is no other way I could put it, but to say it was a “real trip”. You could write movies about the people and the lifestyles. There were people from all over, every walk of life, each with a story, some good . . . most not so good, but all just trying to survive. It was a special introduction to big city life for someone from a small town. Lots of excitement and danger, not like I felt threatened, but I think you could really get lost there if you didn’t have a foundation.

    But I made it out of there after a month. Saved enough money to rent an apartment on Las Palmas, just north of Hollywood Blvd (by Musso and Frank’s).

    There’s certainly things I’ll never forget. The guys singing in the entrance way, I’ll always remember the wonderful natural reverb in that alcove. The pool, well it was beautiful but never warm enough that I saw a person in it. The apartments on the ground floor were pretty nice (or at least you could see that they had been at one time). I was told Bette Davis and Lucille Ball had lived in this one or that one. The courtyard and fountain. The Hollywood Ranch Market.

    Seems like the building is being taken care of a little bit better than it was then. Reviews on Yelp!? I’m guessing the mid 70s had to be about as low as the beauty could sink. Nice to read your stories, hope you’re all well.

    Reply
  12. Chanson Jones
    Chanson Jones says:

    My dad oversaw the maintenance and upkeep of the Villa Elaine for about 30+ years, up until about 2015 or so. Perhaps some of you knew him – Chandler or Chan. We siblings all grew up going to work with Dad cleaning carpets, painting, scraping gum off the sidewalks. I have so many fond memories of the Villa. It’s been neat to read some of these posts :).

    Reply

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