Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
The Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, immortalized in Warren Zevon’s 1976 classic “Desperadoes Under the Eaves,” no longer exists. Instead, where it once stood, you can find the Princess Grace Apartments.
The Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel has a storied place in the history of the Los Angeles music scene, playing a supporting role in Los Angeles balladeer Warren Zevon’s mournful “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” from his self-titled 1976 album.
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Although the building that was once known as the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel is still standing, today the complex bears the name Princess Grace Apartments. It’s supposedly named after Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco), who allegedly lived here back in the day.
As the legend goes, when Zevon was tossed out of the house by his wife, he retreated to the Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard (then owned by former Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax). This well-known haven for Los Angeles musicians, demolished in 1987 (now the site of the Ramada WeHo), is where luminaries like Jim Morrison, Joan Jett, Stevie Knicks & Lindsey Buckingham, Janis Joplin, the Ramones, and Blondie stayed in its rooms and partied at its black-tiled pool.
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Eventually, Zevon couldn’t afford the rates at the Tropicana any more, so he downgraded to the more budget-friendly Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, just a block north of Hollywood Boulevard. The Hollywood Hawaiian had a reputation as a raucous rocker’s hangout — it’s where many British bands playing Hollywood gigs would often crash.
The HHH also had a reputation for attracting a seamy element. In the notes accompanying Preludes: Rare and Unreleased Recordings, Zevon writes that for the several weeks he stayed there, he’d trip over the junkies blocking his door and would share stories with the winos hanging out at Yucca and Gower.
Which brings us to the closing chorus of “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” where Zevon sings:
“Look away down Gower Avenue …”
Interestingly enough, there is no Gower Avenue in Los Angeles. There is, however, a Gower Street that serves as a major north-south artery through Hollywood, so that’s likely what Zevon was referring to. We’ll chalk that up to artistic license.
But the corner of Yucca and Gower referenced in those liner notes is a good seven blocks east of where the Princess Grace Apartments stands. It would be pretty difficult to “look away down Gower” from any of the building’s windows.
Taking this line and the address of the Princess Grace Apartments into consideration, could Zevon’s Hollywood Hawaiian have been in a different location?
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The Disputed History of the HHH
There is some small debate whether or not today’s Princess Grace Apartments is really the same building as the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel where Warren stared into empty coffee cups and listened to air conditioners hum.
On one hand, Zevon’s son Jordan posted on an old Warren Zevon bulletin board in reference to the Hollywood Hawaiian: “Believe what you want, but it’s now a mall. Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello filmed videos there.” (I think he was referring to Cruel to be Kind and High Fidelity, respectively.) Jordan would probably know the location of the hotel his dad was talking about.
But on the other hand, an old brochure for the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel places it right at “Yucca and Grace Streets” [sic], the current location of the Princess Grace Apartments. The front door even has a very similar appearance to today’s building.
Could there have been two Hollywood Hawaiian Hotels? Certainly. But that seems unlikely. Could Jordan Zevon be mis-remembering? That’s possibility, I suppose. But until Jordan reveals the real location of the former Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, most people are going to think that the Princess Grace Apartments complex fits that bill.
But no matter what you believe about the true identity of the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” remains one of the best songs about struggling with alcoholism and feeling hopeless in Los Angeles ever written.
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Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
- 1801 Grace Avenue (at Yucca)
- GPS Coordinates: 34.103926, -118.332204 [ Google Maps ]
- what3words: ///bright.crib.belong
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4 thoughts on “Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel”
Or, since “Desperadoes” touches on the subject of alcoholism, could the Gower in “Gower Avenue” have possibly been a reference to the character Mr. Gower in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, whose fate sits on a knife edge between successful professional and clownish drunk.
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A most intriguing hypothesis, Ned.
And Tiny Tim as well. I would phone him there when I was 12 years old, and he’d always take my call.
You can see the “Hollywood” sign if you look down Gower Street. But if you follow that street to its end, you see signs that say, “you can’t get there from here”.