TIFFANY CLUB & SURF CLUB
© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
The March 10, 1986 obituary for Chuck Landis in the Los Angels Times noted that he was a “burly, gruff man who survived in the hotly competitive nightclub wars of Los Angeles.” He was best known for the rock and burlesque clubs that he owned toward the end of his career like Largo, a former supermarket on Sunset strip, that he turned into a lucrative burlesque house (the fate of many jazz clubs in the late 1950s and early 1960s). When the burlesque business faded he converted the club into The Roxy, heeding advice from Lou Adler and Whiskey owner Elmer Valentine. The Roxy became one of the hottest rock clubs on the Sunset Strip. But before Largo and The Roxy, Landis ran the Tiffany Club and the Surf Club. Landis had a predominantly jazz policy for both clubs and the list of jazz artists who appeared at each venue was like a “Who’s Who” of jazz in the early 1950s.
Newspaper ad from September 4, 1952
The Tiffany Club was located at 3260 West 8th Street between Normandie and Mariposa Avenues [2 on the map]. The Surf Club was a short distance away on the other side of Wilshire Boulevard at 3981 West 6th Street at the southwest corner of 6th and Manhattan Place [1 on the map]. The Haig was also close by at 638 South Kenmore Avenue where it dead ends at Wilshire Boulevard [3 on the map]. When Stan Getz and Bob Brookmeyer were sneaking up to The Haig to catch Chet and Gerry, they left the Tiffany Club walking two blocks up Mariposa Avenue to Wilshire and then a block and a half to Kenmore. Another popular jazz club was located a block west of the Tiffany Club at the intersection of Irolo Street, The 400 Club, 3330 West 8th Street, a regular hang out for traditional jazz fans [7 on the map]. There were three other clubs that had live music on 8th Street, the 331 Club at 3361 West 8th Street [4 on the map], Peacock Alley at 3188 West 8th [8 on the map] and Agua Caliente at 3131 West 8th Street [5 on the map]. The Ambassador Hotel with the Cocoanut Grove nightclub [6 on the map] was located across the street from The Haig.
The interior of the Tiffany Club featured a mirror that was angled behind the piano to allow patrons to observe the keyboard. If the drummer was positioned within the area covered by the mirror patrons could also watch that action. The back wall on each side of the suspended mirror featured a pastiche of musical instruments, piano keyboards, vinyl albums, musical staff paper, and other music related memorabilia in a musical mural.
The Nat King Cole Trio opened at the Tiffany Club on December 27, 1951, and his engagement continued until mid January of 1952. The Johnny White Trio was playing the Surf Club at the same time with Johnny White on vibes, Milt Norman on guitar and Bob Whitlock on bass. White was a versatile jazz musician who never received the recognition due him.
The Oscar Peterson Trio with Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Brown on bass took over from Nat King Cole in mid January of 1952, and over at the Surf Club the Art Pepper Quartet opened on January 18, 1952, after the Johnny White Trio exited the club. Altoist Pepper was accompanied by Hampton Hawes on piano with Joe Mondragon on bass and Larry Bunker on vibes and drums.
The George Shearing Quintet followed the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Tiffany Club with Al McKibbon on bass, Chuck Wayne on guitar, Don Elliott on vibes, and Denzil Best on drums. Chuck Landis booked the Dave Brubeck Quartet into the Surf Club following the close of Art Pepper’s engagement. The quartet was still widely known as Dave Brubeck and His Trio before Dave Brubeck settled on referring to his group as the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Members of the quartet during their engagement at the Surf Club included Paul Desmond on alto, Bob Bates on bass, and Herb Barman on drums. The National Broadcasting Company regularly broadcast remotes from the Surf Club and the Tiffany Club with local deejays hired to emcee the broadcasts. Los Angeles deejay and concert promotor, Joe Adams, was frequently the emcee.
The Shearing Quintet was followed by Billie Holiday in mid March of 1952. Billie Holiday was backed by a combo led by Wardell Gray. Bob Douglas, the photographer who took the photos below was one of the most gifted jazz photographers who regularly worked Los Angeles jazz clubs. Before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1950s Douglas documented the jazz scene in Detroit, Michigan. His excellent work can be seen in the history of jazz in Detriot, BEFORE MOTOWN, Lars Bjorn & Jim Gallert, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2001.
The Johnny Hodges Sextette replaced Billie Holiday on April 9, 1952 with Al Sears on tenor, Lawrence Brown on trombone, Joe Benjamin on bass, Sonny Greer on drums, and Emmett Berry on trumpet. The Brubeck Quartet would continue their run at the Surf Club through the end of April.
June Christy backed by a combo led by Vido Musso followed the Johnny Hodges Sextette into the Tiffany Club beginning the last week of April 1952 and extending into the first week of May. Chuck Landis installed Nina Russell at the Surf Club. Russell was an accomplished jazz organist who had recorded for the Juke Box label with The Sepia Tones and jazz violinist, Ginger Smock.
Howard Lucraft’s photo of Christy at the Tiffany Club caught Chris Connor joining June for a number with Jimmy Rowles at the piano.
The May 21, 1952 issue of Down Beat magazine noted that Cab Calloway had returned to the west coast for a series of gigs with a quartet format. Chuck Landis booked Calloway into the Tiffany Club for two weeks.
Chuck Landis followed the Calloway booking with a brief one week fill with Harry The Hipster holding forth until the opening of Landis’ blockbuster booking of Charlie Parker.
A short column in Down Beat noted the booking of Charlie Parker at the Tiffany Club and announced that Landis had sold the Surf Club as he realized that he was competing with himself by operating two clubs in close proximity to each other and by booking the same modern jazz acts which he seemed to do regularly with Peterson/Pepper, Shearing/Brubeck, Holiday/Brubeck and Hodges/Brubeck.
The above ad from the Daily News of May 28, 1952 notes that the Charlie Parker engagement at the Tiffany Club would commence on May 29th for two weeks. Parker was represented by the Shaw Artists Corporation who had their west coast representative, Cliff Aronson, handle the details of Parker’s engagement at the Tiffany Club. Aronson contacted Donn Trenner who acted as the contractor to organize backing for Parker during the two week engagement. A variety of jazz musicians backed Parker including Chet Baker, Harry Babasin, Lawrence Marable, and Helen Carr, Trenner’s wife at the time.
The Los Angeles Mirror and Daily News published a column in October of 1957 that announced the change of policy at the Tiffany Club.
The above photo was taken after the Tiffany Club had evolved into a burlesque club, with the booking of major jazz acts a thing of the past.
The above photo was taken in 1994 and shows some of the same exterior facade.
The image above, from Google maps, displays the current store front with essentially the same business that was operating in the space in 1994.
The photo of the facade of the former Surf Club was taken in 1994. The building facade was remained fairly intact as seen in the current image from Google Maps, below.
The Howard Lucraft photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of CTSIMAGES. The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Howard Lucraft Collection. Please note that these photos remain the property of the Howard Lucraft Collection and are used here with permission. Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to: Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.
The other photos above are © by the photographers noted.