In many ways, the Frolic Room bar in Los Angeles is the opposite of the city where it’s located. While LA is huge, sprawling, and soaked in California light, the bar is small, cramped, and dark. The Frolic Room remains unchanged through the decades, while LA vibrates with change and youthfulness. There’s no room for the old in a city that manufactures dreams and is always looking ahead. Apart from the Frolic Room, that is.
Text: Martin Brusewitz | Photo: Emil Wesolowski
This little bar is so dimly lit that everybody who enters stays by the door for a moment, standing still, before they walk up to the long bar along the left side. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust. The bar officially opened in 1934, then called Bob’s Frolic Room, but it had already been in operation illegally for several years during the prohibition era, when selling alcohol was illegal in the USA.
“There’s a secret door in the roof over there, with a passage leading to the Pantages theater next door. The actors used to crawl through it to get a drink after their performances. Now, we just use it for extra storage,” explains Troy, the bartender, when we visit the bar one Wednesday afternoon.
Over the decades, the Frolic Room has been visited by many of LA’s legendary citizens. Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland were regulars. The dive was one of the drunkard and writer Charles Bukowski’s favorite bars. This was also the last place Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia, was seen alive before she was murdered in 1947. The bar is rich in history, and countless souls have stepped into the haze in this little cavern on Hollywood Boulevard. Perhaps it’s precisely because it is so different from the city outside that this bar has been so loved over the decades? The darkness gives you something else, a distinct contrast. Or maybe, this contrast simply obscures the true reality? Maybe the bustle and luxury of Los Angeles, with its sun-kissed hills and glamor, the ever-glistening dream factory, is so much a facade and a projection of a desired reality that the charm of the Frolic Room lies in the fact that this tiny, pitch-dark, beer-scented, claustrophobic little place affords space to the real spirit of the city?
6245 Hollywood Blvd |Los Angeles