Alison Martino Explains the History of the Original Classic Cat Club on Sunset Strip

Exterior of the Classic Cat on the lower left side of this 1974 photo of the Sunset Strip. The sign on the club’s roof announces the club is “Bottomless”

With the new incarnation of the Classic Cat restaurant making news this week because of it legal troubles operating its patio dining, many are wondering about the original Classic Cat.

While not as famous as other establishments like the Trocadero, Ciro’s or the Macambo, the original Classic Cat holds a place in Sunset Strip history

“The original Classic Cat was a strip club,” explained Los Angeles history expert Alison Martino, who does the popular Vintage Los Angeles blog.

Matchbook from The Classic Cat

“The Classic Cat was at 8844 Sunset, on the southeast corner of Sunset and Larrabee,” said Martino. “That space later became Tower Video. There’s a Chase Bank there now.”

In the 1940s, there was a Russian café/tavern located in that space called Bublichki’s Russian Café which featured a Russian orchestra and a bar.

That building was torn down in the late 1950s, replaced by a restaurant owned by actor-comedian Jerry Lewis.

Following the break-up of the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the two became rivals.

When Martin opened his Dino’s Lodge on the Strip near La Cienega in 1958, Lewis responded by opening Jerry’s restaurant at Sunset and Larrabee in 1960. Even though ads touted Jerry’s as “America’s Most Beautiful Restaurant,” it was never very successful and closed in 1964.

Flier for the Classic Cat

The Classic Cat replaced it and did quite well. It was packed virtually every night of the week with both tourists and locals.

Exterior of Classic Cat

“The Classic Cat was the largest, most luxurious topless club of them all,” said Martino.

The Classic Cat attracted a number of celebrities too, including luminaries of the era like Adam West, Jim Morrison, Robert Conrad, Doug McClure, Evel Knevel and Charlton Heston, according to the Hollywood Hangover blog.

Martino reported the Hogan’s Heroes actor Bob Crane was a regular at the Classic Cat. In fact, several scenes from the 2002 bio-pic “Auto-Focus” about Crane’s life and his sex addiction were set in a recreated Classic Cat.

While a majority of the clientele were men, some women came too. The Hollywood Hangover blog reported spotting Don Knotts arriving with a date and Lana Turner in the audience.

The Classic Cat was owned by a man named Alan Wells, who had been an actor in the 1950s and early 1960s. Originally from Michigan, Wells appeared mainly in TV Westerns of the era. The best known of his movie roles likely is playing Young Blade in 1962’s “Cape Fear.”

Flier from The Classic Cat

Shots of the exterior of the Classic Cat were also included in the 1972 French thriller “Un Homme est Mort,” known in America as “The Outside Man.” That movie was filmed in Los Angeles and starred Ann-Margaret, Angie Dickinson and Roy Scheider.

The Classic Cat can be seen in several shots of the movie’s trailer below:

The Classic Cat closed in the late 1970s, replaced by University Stereo. After that, Tower Records opened its Tower Video store in that space. Following the closure of Tower Video in 2006, it became a Chase Bank.

This new incarnation of The Classic Cat at 8830 Sunset Blvd. is located next door to the original location, in the space that recently housed Pono Burger.

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