The Lost Art of Nite Club Souvenir Photos

It’s no secret I’m a fan of collecting vintage California souvenirs, and awhile back Patrick and I stumbled upon a souvenir photo from the Hollywood Palladium, which was tucked inside a delightful folder. It combined my love of California souvenirs and his love of photography, so we decided to start collecting vintage nite club souvenir photos. Perhaps you may have even spied these small folders scattered amongst the vintage cameras in our living room post, but today I want to highlight each of them and even show you the photos within. And because I can’t help myself, there are some history tidbits on the locations!

We started with Los Angeles area locations, and have expanded to include some from the Bay area, one from Las Vegas, and one mystery one.

Folder is in shades of blue, with a couple dancing under a spotlight. Text reads "The World Renowned Biltmore Bowl Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, California"

Photograph of a man in a WWII uniform.

The Biltmore Bowl is the ballroom located within the Biltmore Hotel, which is still operating in downtown. The Bowl was also the original home to the Oscars. The hotel is also where Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, was last seen alive. The photo of this serviceman is dated to November 29, 1945.

A girl dressed in a German style dirndl holds a camera on the left. A girl in hula attire holding a camera stands on the right. In the middle text reads "YOUR SOUVENIR PHOTO FROM Clifton's Los Angeles, California." Below a ribbon reads "The Brookdale The Pacific Seas" Images of a deer, church, water wheel, thatch hut, ukulele, and pineapple.

Four images, a thatch hut, a water wheel, a couple signing surrounded by bamboo, and a small church in stone. Text reads "Clifton Cafeterias are the result of a long cherished ideal. Their operation is based on the 'Golden Rule' principle - which has served as a guiding light throughout the many years of their operation. The beautiful settings and backgrounds, displayed here, are part of the panorama of forest and tropical life, transplanted to the heart of the daily metropolis, for everyone, rich and poor alike, to enjoy."

A couple sits at a table in front of a massive cross section of a giant redwood tree.

Illustration of evergreen trees on the left, amazing pink flowers on the right. Text in the middle reads "Information About Clifton's. DINE FREE UNLESS DELIGHTED - Your meal check is a price tag. Only you can judge the real value of our service. Our cashiers will cheerfully accept whatever your wish to pay - or you may dine free. PARTIES - You furnish the birthday (or anniversary) or bring your returning service man or woman. We furnish the cake and 'fancy' the table for 'party of one ore more.' No check too small."

Illustration of a wooden door with leaves around it. Text reads "Clifton's Brookdale Clifton's Pacific Seas Doors Lona Mae Dorman Some doors have hearts, it seems to me, They open so invitingly: You feel they are quite kind - akin To all the warmth you find within. Some doors, so weather-beaten, grey Swing open in a listless way, As if they wish you had not come: Their stoney silence leaves you dumb. Some doors stand closed and barred, As if their beauty might be marred If any sought admittance there, Save King or prince or millionaire. Oh, may mine be a friendly door: May all who cross the threshold o'er, Within, find sweet content and rest, And know each was a welcome guest."

Interior of the Clifton's photo folder, which features photos from the two locations, and a place for a photo, however, none is there.

Illustration of wood grain, with green leaves on the edge. Text in the middle reads "Information About Clifton's. DINE FREE UNLESS DELIGHTED - Your meal check is a price tag. Only you can judge the real value of our service. Our cashiers will cheerfully accept whatever your wish to pay - or you may dine free. PARTIES - You furnish the birthday (or anniversary) or bring your returning service man or woman. We furnish the cake and 'fancy' the table for 'party of one ore more.' No check too small."

Long time reads of the blog may be familiar with my love of Clifton’s Cafeteria. Both folders represent the first two locations, Brookdale, and Pacific Seas. While Pacific Seas opened first in 1931, and closed in 1960, Brookdale, which opened in 1935, remains open, er…somewhat, it seems to be in a constant state of flux…To pay homage to Pacific Seas, one of the upper floors of the Brookdale location was transformed into a tiki bar under the Pacific Seas name.

A couple years ago I had the pleasure of meeting two women who are the daughters of a woman named Vilma, who was a Clifton’s camera girl. She kept an amazing diary of her time there, and her daughters have been transcribing it as a blog. Read it here.

Black folder with white illustration of a woman's face. Text around the woman's face reads "Thru These Portals Pass the Most Beautiful Girls in the World" below reads "Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant - Hollywood"

Black text on white reading "Through These Portals Pass The Most Beautiful Girls In The World This photograph is a souvenir of a breathtaking visit to the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood. Yes, Earl Carroll IS an international celebrity! The millions who annually visit his luxuriously appointed theatre, attest to his world-wide reputation. For years his name has been synonymous with the very best of the American stage. His muchly paraphrased slogan, 'Through These Portals Pass the Most Beautiful Girls in the World,' has been honestly earned, and to be chosen by him as an Earl Carroll Girl is an honor for which every girl eagerly strives. But, being America's premiere authority of feminine beauty is only one of Mr. Carroll's many attributes. Very few people know he actually produces, directs and lights every revue which bears his name; that he selects all the music, in fact he is a composer in his own right, with over four hundred published songs to his credit, and that he stages and creates each and every one of the spectacular girl numbers for which he is unquestionably famous. As you witness one of his glamorous productions, you are conscious that Earl Carroll possesses an innate appreciation of refinement, of niceness - which is reflected in every costume, in every scene, in fact, in the smallest detail of his work. Did you know that he has produced over sixty first-class legitimate productions? A record never equalled by any other producer of stage attractions. Further, he is the only director who has built three wonderful theatre during his lifetime - two magnificent edifices on Broadway and this lates triumph in Hollywood. He is one of the few acknowledged authorities on theatre construction. He is the master of stage mechanics, and, all in all, a true worker and lover of the theatre. Yes, this photograph IS a lasting souvenir of a glamorous visit to Earl Carroll's. With its lavish revue, its all-star cast, its unbelievable stage settings, its sensational double revolving stages, its sixty most beautiful girls - it is indeed a memorable, never-to-be-forgotten experience!!"

A woman is seated at a table.

The Earl Carroll opened in 1938, and lasted until 1948. This particular photo is dated to June 12, 1947. A few years later, in 1953 it opened as Frank Sennes’ Moulin Rouge.

Purple, white and black illustration of the Eiffel Tower, and Arch, text reads "Frank Sennes' Moulin Rouge 'showplace of the world' Hollywood"

A large party wearing nice suits and dresses is seated at a table.

The Moulin Rouge shuttered in 1966, and the location went on to have many more incarnations, including the groovy Aquarius, and more recently Nickelodeon’s west coast HQ. After Nickelodeon vacated, the location was repainted to its Aquarius stage for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. You can read more about this Hollywood hot spot here.

Green and yellow folder, with an illustration of a band and dancing girls. Text reads "Memories of a Marvelous Evening Where Celebrities Meet! Florentine Gardens"

A large party with both men and women in suits, the woman wearing hats, and floral corsages, sit at a large table.

Florentine Gardens opened in 1938 and struggled for a few years, going through different incarnations over the years, including a dental school, but eventually it returned to its nite club status, however, no where near as glamorous as it once was.

In the lower left corner a green illustration of three women dancing. Red text reads "Souvenir from...Hollywood Casino 6000 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood"

Two young couples sit at a table.

Hollywood Casino opened in 1942, however, like the Catalina Casino, no gambling was here. Its life was short, as it closed in 1950, and today the location is a recording studio.

A yellow folder with pink illustration of a couple dancing. In the background another couple sits at a table with a band playing in the background. Text reads "Souvenir Photo Hollywood Palladium Dancing Nightly"

A couple sits at a table, smiling for the camera.

The Hollywood Palladium opened its doors in 1940, and has played host to many stars over the years. Thankfully, it remains relatively intact, and still serves as an amazing venue.

A grey, orange, and black abstract design with text that reads "Laff Spot of California Slapsy Maxie's Hollywood San Francisco"

A man in a WWII uniform sits at a table.

Slapsy Maxie’s in Hollywood opened in 1943, by fighter Max Rosenbloom, and was supposedly bankrolled by gangster Mickey Cohen, a story that was perpetuated in the 2013 film Gangster Squad.

Over the years we a two neat Bay Area folders as well.

A large Asian style building, with red text across it that reads "Souvenir From Andy Wong's New Club Shangri-La 960 Bush Street San Francisco, Cali."

A group of three men and one woman sit at a table.

Illustration of an Asian style building.

Illustration of a scantily glad girl dancing with a man seated at a table. Text at the bottom reads "Club Kona! 303 San Pablo Ave. El Cerrito, California"

A groupe of six women sit at a table with a tropical mural painted behind them.

These Bay Area nite clubs have proved rather elusive in trying to figure out their history. Thankfully though the Club Kona photo dated to August 11, 1944.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the glitz and glamor of old Las Vegas, so when I finally saw a photo folder for the Stardust, one of my favorite old casinos, we just had to add it to our collection.

Blue dots and diamonds scattered around text that reads "Stardust Las Vegas, Nevada"

A large party is seated at a table, wearing formalwear.

This last one is a bit of a mystery, however, based on the illustrations and copy, I think this is from Hawaii.

A red cover with illustrations of a man surfing, a girl on an outrigger, a wedding, a luau party, children at play, a couple dancing, another couple dancing in front of a large band. Text reads "A Photograph By Pictures at Play 'Every Night at Your Favorite Night Club' ...or a Luau Keiki Parties For a Wedding or Welakahao."

Three sailors sit at a table with wallpaper of a tiki nautical theme behind them.

Back of the folder, with illustrations of a man with a large fish, a woman leaning against a palm tree, and a man sitting on a boat fishing. Text reads "Complete Candid Photographic Service. BE SURE to have a permanent record of your good times. A CAMERA GIRL at your service, especially trained in Candid Photography, specializing in Luaus...Wedding Receptions...Banquets and Special Parties. SPORTS EVENTS...Surfing, Outrigger and Beach Pictures. OUTDOOR Glamour Shots. ALOHA PICTURES at Plane and Ship Arrivals. A SPECIAL OFFER for Children's Parties..."

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