Eighty Years Ago Today — At The Mermaid Club

18 Jul

July 18, 1938

“Errol Flynn alone at the Mermaid Club.”

Erskine Johnson
LA Examiner, Behind the Makeup

It’s very hard to find imagery of the Mermaid Club, but the 1930s WPA film video below does show the club, about three-quarters of the way into the film, between Western Market and Cafe Lamaze. It’s also shown briefly in the second video.

The Mermaid Club was later renamed Villa Nova, and ultimately the Rainbow Club, by co-owner Vincent Minelli it is said, after his former wife Judy’s most famous song. Their daughter, Liza, used to party there much later, in her heyday.

This is the where Joe Dimaggio first met Marilyn Monroe, introduced by Mickey Rooney. It’s also where John Belushi had his last meal. For decades now, it has been a rock-and-roll landmark, where legends from Elvis, to the post-Beatle Beatles, to most all of Rock royalty, have raised hell.

Please note that this first video has negligible action until about 45 seconds in, then it has great old film of what one side of Sunset Strip used to look like during Errol’s early years in town.

According to this very cool Vintage Los Angeles video interview of the owners:

“Errol used to hang from the rafters!”

— Tim


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  1. David DeWitt

    July 18, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    This is fascinating. You cannot get better information that first hand as from the lady at the Villa Nova and to see how LA looked back in the day was a treat! There is a comparison video to the black and white video and it is so sad to see the difference! The traffic weaving dangerously close to each other was amazing. I especially like seeing people walking about and wonder how many of you waved back to the fella who lifted his hand? I am always trying to find vintage film of Googies. I and two friends of mine sat in Googies way back in the day during a trip to LA. We didn’t realise the history of the place until I was in touch with Steve Hayes who once managed the place and so many old time stars frequented the cafe. We were lucky to have been there before it was torn down. I remember seeing the Swabs Drugstore sign as we entered the cafe. What we did not realise (it was getting late) is that the site of the old Garden of Allah was across the street from Googies. Two young guys started getting emotional about something as I recall and got loud. They were told to tamp it down, and soon left. If not for Steve, I would not have realised that I had set foot in the famous Googies.

    Googies and Schwabs

    • Gentleman Tim

      July 18, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      Wow! To have been to Googies! So great, David! Next to Schwab’s, no less.

      Btw, that Jai Lai sign refers to the very fronton Errol used to visit South of the Border. This one:…

      Googies was so cool it inspired it’s own genre of architecture:…