The eccentric reputation of the Frolic Room is large. The Frolic Room itself is tiny. Visitors may find themselves stepping into the historic Hollywood Boulevard dive bar they’ve heard so much about and saying, “This is it?
The Frolic Room has been a local watering hole since prohibition. It opened as a speakeasy in 1930, when booze was illegal, and patrons entered what was then called “Freddy’s” through a secret door from the neighboring Pantages Theater. When it opened legally in 1934, the name was changed to Bob’s Frolic Room.
There’s an iconic mural on the east wall depicting caricatures of famous celebrities like Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clark Gable, and Marilyn Monroe. Only a few of the celebrities, like Gable and Monroe, were actual patrons of the Frolic Room. It was originally painted by notorious caricature artist Al Hirschfeld in 1963. Some say it was initially painted in black and white and later colored in by friends of the Frolic Room. In 2012, the caricature painting was restored by local artist Oscar Ropide and Plexiglas was placed over it to keep customers from drawing on it. Which means the litany of phone numbers and words of wisdom scrawled in pencil can no longer be browsed while a friend makes a trip to the bathroom. Fortunately, Hirschfeld often included the name of his daughter, Nina, in capital letters, hidden in his artwork so visitors can pass the time by searching for the secret letters.
The prolific author, Charles Bukowski, whose poetry and prose perfectly depicts the depravity of working-class America, was a Frolic Room regular in the 1960s. His portrait hangs above the register as a greeting to cult followers of the sage alcoholic.
Los Angeles is famous for a lot of things but one of the lesser known elements is its propensity for fluorescent neon signs. The gorgeous sign above the entrance to the Frolic Room was added by none other than Howard Hughes, who owned the Frolic Room, along with the Pantages, from 1949 to 1954. The sign is featured in the 1997 neo-noir crime film, L.A. Confidential.
One of the darker aspects of the Frolic Room’s history is that the bar was one of the last known whereabouts of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia. It was the last place she was seen alive before her gruesome murder in 1947. The bar is also featured in the 2006 crime thriller, The Black Dahlia.
A typical Frolic Room crowd tends to be on the older side and it’s a mixed bag of tourists, locals, dressed-up theater goers, and everything in-between. Cocktails at the bar aren’t fancy but they cost a lot less than other Hollywood drinking spots, plus the friendly bartenders are usually happy to share stories of recent encounters with Jon Hamm, Kiefer Sutherland, or Brad Pitt. All in all, it’s the perfect spot for anyone who likes their cocktails garnished with a side of kitsch.