Opening its doors in 1940, Ciro’s nightclub was the original Sunset Strip hotspot for the who’s who of Tinseltown. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford and notorious members of the mob were among those who performed and played here.
So with 70-plus years of storied history – as well as some illicit scandal from the mob days – under its belt, it should be no surprise that the building that now houses the world famous Comedy Store is considered one of the most haunted landmarks in Los Angeles.
On Oct. 8, The Store kicked off a month-long series paying tribute to its specters in residence with “Haunted Midnights.” Part history lesson, part tour and all laughs, the night had a great balance of spooky Sunset Strip lore and comedic performance.
Hosted by comic zombie Jeff Scott, the night started with a vintage episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” Filmed on location and narrated by former Store staff, the classic show featured hilariously campy reenactments of real life ghostly encounters at the historic venue. The viewing was followed by a testimonial from marketing director Alf LaMont who set the tone for an evening of haunted happenings with his own, personal pant’s wetting experience while using a ghost meter in The Store.
The night also featured footage of renowned psychics making contact with some of the recurring spirits that inhabit the building. Now famous resident haunts like “Gus” and “Sharon” made their presence known during The Store’s own comic take on "Ghost Hunters."
One of the more stunning highlights of the evening featured the close-up magic of Illusionist Georges-Robert, who performed mystifying mentalist tricks with the help of volunteers plucked from the audience. Drawing on seemingly supernatural powers, the magician, who is a featured performer at The Magic Castle, kept the crowd on the edge of their seats with his frighteningly unexplainable interactive illusions.
The hour plus “variety” show culminated with an end-of-night flashlight tour of The Comedy Store grounds.
With Store employees serving as personal guides, small groups were taken through the labyrinth of rooms that make up the venue’s offices and basement. Recounting their own individual experiences as well as providing history about some of the building’s less savory periods, the tour was a fascinating and spine tingling climax to a night that got everyone in the Halloween spirit.
“Haunted Midnights” takes over The Comedy Store every Friday night in October. Advance tickets highly recommended. www.thecomedystore.com
Photos: ghosts of The Comedy Store past.
--Brent X Mendoza