Top left: Billy Wilkerson with Marilyn Monroe; bottom right: Wilkerson with Cary Grant and friend at Trocadero; left: Wilkerson in photo taken by George Hurrell
Top left: Billy Wilkerson with Marilyn Monroe; bottom right: Wilkerson with Cary Grant and friend at Trocadero; left: Wilkerson in photo taken by George Hurrell

William R. Wilkerson wore many hats. He was publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, of course, which, along with Variety, has been the go-to trade paper for the movie industry for decades. He was also a nightclub and restaurant visionary who had a genius for articulating Hollywood glamor through the decor and ambiance of his nightspots. But perhaps most of all, Billy Wilkerson was a gambler. It was the gambling, more than anything, that drove him.

Billy Wilkerson arrived in Los Angeles from New York in 1930. He immediately went into business publishing the Hollywood Reporter. Later, he opened Vendome, a lunchtime restaurant, in Hollywood near the Hollywood Reporter offices. In 1934, after Prohibition ended, he launched his first venture on the Sunset Strip, the Cafe Trocadero–named for the Trocadero Plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris–at 8610 Sunset Blvd., in Sunset Plaza.

The Troc soon became the top A-list place to be seen in the city and one of the most famous night clubs in the world. Wilkerson went on to be the creative force behind two other top Sunset Strip venues, Ciro’s and Cafe La Rue. He also was also the originator of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, which he lost to fellow Sunset Strip denizen, the gangster, Bugsy Siegel.

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