Alla Nazmova (left) and Rudolph Valentino (center) in her production of "Camille," 1921
Alla Nazmova (left) and Rudolph Valentino (center) in her production of “Camille,” 1921

Bohemian Elite

For 32 years, the Garden of Allah was an oasis of sophisticated hedonism in Hollywood. Its long list of celebrity guests included movie stars, world-renowned musicians, East Coast and European aristocrats and even a mobster or two.

By reputation, the Garden was a favorite stopping place for Hollywood’s bohemian elite. It functioned like a frat house for the famous. The motto was “Work hard, play hard.” There were raucous parties all-night and, by day, hungover denizens chilling by the pool as and world famous musicians rehearsed in their villas.

It was one of Hollywood’s favorite trysting spots. Lovers on the low down liked it because they could avoid the hotel lobby and go directly to their paramours’ villas from the street or the parking lot. It was also the only celebrity hotel that did not have house detectives on watch.

Alla Nazimova, the hotel’s founder, was a popular Broadway and film star in her day. An independent-minded actor, director and producer known for her liberal politics and sexual fluidity, she was figuratively West Hollywood’s Founding Mother.

In this digital exhibit, the West Hollywood History Center presents the hotel’s history based on contemporaneous newspaper and magazine articles, and biographies of Alla Nazimova and the hotel’s famous guests. The exhibit also relies heavily on the book, The Garden of Allah, by Sheilah Graham, a nationally syndicated gossip columnist who spent time at the Garden in the 1930s and ’40s before, during and after her affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby.