The Viper Room from “Entourage”Jun 25th, 2014 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
Once I found the location of Zebra tattoo parlor, on which Jeremy Piven’s name was displayed during the opening credits of Entourage each week (I blogged about it here), I just had to track down the spot where cutie Jerry Ferrara’s moniker was showcased. Upon finally doing so, I was a bit embarrassed that I had not recognized the place beforehand, being that it is one of Hollywood’s most well-known landmarks – The Viper Room in West Hollywood.
Although arguably most famous for the fact that it was where River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993, The Viper Room had a long, storied history prior to that time. The space was originally the site of a night spot named The Cotton Club, which then became Greenwich Village and then the Rue Angel – all during the first half of the 20th century. When the Rue Angel was burned in a fire in 1950, its doors were shuttered. The site reopened shortly thereafter as The Last Call, a drag show venue, which did not prove fruitful. The Last Call was closed in April 1951 and was subsequently transformed into The Melody Room, a small jazz bar that opened on June 14th of that same year. The Melody Room was successful for almost two decades and was reportedly frequented – and maybe even backed -by mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen.
In 1969, The Melody Room was sold and became Filthy McNasty’s, a live rock ‘n’ roll venue. Sometime during the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, the property’s name was changed once again, this time to “The Central.” By 1993, The Central, which had remained a forum for rock ‘n’ roll acts, was on the verge of closing. When actor Johnny Depp found out, he decided to invest. Along with a few partners (one of whom, Anthony Fox, mysteriously went missing in 2001), he revamped the place and dubbed it “The Viper Room.” It opened to the public on August 14th, 1993, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers serving as one of the inaugural acts. The Viper Room was immensely popular from the get-go, especially with the young Hollywood set. Just a few of the celebrities who were spotted there during the early years include Christina Applegate, Drew Barrymore, Jen Aniston, Nicole Eggert, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, Tommy Lee, Pamela Anderson, Gwen Stefani, Ellen DeGeneres, and Michael Keaton.
Shortly after its opening, The Viper Room would be forever marred by the death of 23-year-old actor River Phoenix, who passed away on the sidewalk just outside the club’s front doors in the early morning hours of October 31st, 1993. Following the tragedy, the venue closed down for a full two weeks.
While stalking The Viper Room recently with Mike, from MovieShotsLA, we were shocked to see a payphone nearby. (I wasn’t aware those things still existed!) After some research, I learned that it was the payphone where Joaquin Phoenix made his now infamous call to 911 following River’s collapse. The phone is located in front of the Sun Bee food mart at 8860 West Sunset Boulevard. And yes, I realize how morbid this subject matter is, but I was absolutely astounded to discover that it was still standing, all these years later, especially considering the fact that payphones are such a rarity in today’s world.
In 2004, in the midst of a lawsuit with his partners, Johnny Depp sold his portion of The Viper Room. Today, the property is owned by Harry Morton, son of Hard Rock Café founder Peter Morton. You can check out some photos of the venue over the years in all of its many incarnations here and you can see some pictures of what the interior of the club looks like today here.
In the Entourage opening credits, Jerry Ferrara’s name was shown in neon lettering above The Viper Room awning. As I mentioned earlier, I am embarrassed to admit that I did not recognize the site during all my years of watching the series. No, it was not until a couple of weeks ago, when I did a Google search for “Terner’s Liquor,” a neighboring storefront visible in the Entourage credits, that I made the connection. In my defense, though, The Viper Room looked quite a bit different in the opening, as you can see below.
You can watch the Entourage opening credits by clicking below.
The Viper Room has been spotlighted onscreen several times over the years. In 1983, when it was still operating as The Central, its interior popped up in the movie Valley Girl as the site of the club where Randy (Nicolas Cage) took Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman) shortly after meeting her. Only the interior of The Central was used, though. The exterior was a bar in Hollywood that has since been torn down.
In 1991’s The Doors, The Central masqueraded as the London Fog where Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) and the group played in their early days. At the time, the exterior, which has since been painted black, looked considerably different than it does today.
The real life interior of the club also appeared in The Doors.
In 2005’s Be Cool, The Viper Room was where Chili Palmer (John Travolta) heard Linda Moon (Christina Milian) sing for the first time. Only the exterior of the site was used in the shoot.
The interior of the club that appeared in Be Cool is far larger than The Viper Room’s actual interior. I have been to The Viper Room a few times over the years (one of my acting class friends used to date a bouncer there, so we were VIP all the way, all the time! ) and the inside of it is tiny. I’m talking tiny. Like I’m pretty sure my apartment has more square footage. I am guessing that the interior of the Be Cool bar was a set. Either that or filming took place inside of a a different Los Angeles nightclub.
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Until next time, Happy Stalking!