This may seem like a weird place to start a hotel story. But I could immediately tell that at Gold Diggers, a hotel-meets-nightclub-meets-recording-studio, there was no normal place to start. I liked that. Around an hour after I’d landed at LAX, I found myself underneath their neon-yellow backlit sign that read “The Gold Diggers Entertainment.” Underneath it, was a line of unpretentious party-goers waiting to get into the mysterious pitch-black door. Thanks to my carry-on and post-airplane disheveled look, the bouncer knew I was checking into the hotel and let me skip the line. I had never looked worse, and never felt more special. He proceeded to point me inside with seemingly simple instructions, “Get one of the bartender’s attention and they’ll give you the keys.”
As soon as I got my keys, I scurried up the stairs to drop off my things. I opened the door to Room #1, and it immediately struck a chord. It led me to imagine my alternate life as an up-and-coming Angeleno rockstar. How I’d lay on the room’s red velvet couch, have a cigarette, and pull out one of my own vinyl records to play on the in-room turntable. I imagined late-night after-parties jumping up and down on the fluffy 2920 Sleep Mattress fully naked. I imagined roaming the halls, knocking on doors and meeting fellow musicians who would later become bandmates or at the very least, lovers. But then I stopped imagining, picked up the two drink tokens that were left on my bed, and went back downstairs to try and live my rock-n-roll fantasy in real life.
As I re-entered the sultry club with drink tokens in hand, I was ready to rock-n-roll. The DJ was spinning classics (depending on your definition of classics—but it was certainly mine) like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Get Your Money.” I sat at the bar bopping by my lonesome, pretending to do things on my phone like most people do at other bars. This didn’t last long. The gentleman next to me, who I would later come to know as Bryan, had just ordered two shots. Apparently one was for me. In no position to pass up friends or conversation, I obliged. One tequila and a token down soon turned to three more drinks and another shot. In between sips, we talked about Bryan’s work for an inconspicuous yuzu brand out of Japan. Another party-goer to our left sporadically shouts profanities across the bar, his girlfriend apologizes and says he’s just super excited about the night. So were we.
My new best friend Bryan and I decided to go to a dive bar next door called Prime Time. He described it to me as “one of those places you can only go if you have a few shots in you.” Which upon entering I realized, was entirely the perfect description. It’s a karaoke bar, and up on stage was a long-bearded character belting a classic rock song in wardrobe straight out of the 70s. Me and Bryan, being the only ones clapping, caught his attention. He came up to us and introduced himself. His name is Randy (pictured in the middle above sporting a blue bandana) and he had no shortage of wild stories from his time in East Hollywood. But my mind was stuck in 5AM in New York City, and it was time to go back to my new home.
We walked back to Gold Diggers for one last cigarette before bedtime. Little did I know I would also be getting a bedtime story. The few stragglers left outside gave me my first insight into Gold Diggers’ history. Once upon a time, in 1924 to be exact, this apparently used to be The Greene Building. It housed an inn above a ground-floor tavern on what was then Route 66 and is now Santa Monica Boulevard. I’ll spare you a few details and fast-forward to the 70s, when the ground floor was turned into a ‘bikini bar.’ I didn’t necessarily pry further as to what that really meant. But based on the smirks and giggles, I could tell. I knew I was going to have to get more of the story in the morning, but for now, it was late, and time to bid Bryan adieu.
As I awoke from my tequila-induced slumber, I knew there was only one way to start the day. I turned to my Audio Technica turntable and pressed play on Al Green’s greatest hits. Before my stay, I was told that each room had a handpicked selection of vinyl from Aquarium Drunkard’s very own Justin Gage. Each season, he curates Aquarium Drunkard’s limited edition 12” vinyl release, mixed exclusively for Gold-Diggers. And lucky for me (and any guest who stays here) I had a complimentary copy that was mine for the taking.
I took my time getting ready. There was the extra long shower and overuse of the delicious Malin+Goetz amenities and scents by Sanae Intoxicants. There was the hour spent browsing the selection of art, music and literary rarities on my coffee table and shelves. I walked around and started to pick up on the details. There wasn’t a nook or corner that wasn’t designed for music lovers. The paintings that adorned the walls were done by none other than Andrew Savage—vocalist, and guitarist for Parquet Courts and Grammy-nominated visual artist. He created a series of paintings specifically for Gold Diggers, combining abstract realism and surrealism. And when I paused to look at the palms outside my window, the morning did feel really surreal.
Before I checked out I simply had to check out the on-site recording studios. I peered into the office and met Sarah, who was so kind as to show me around and unravel the stories held within the studio walls. She shared that it was first a drama school until the 50s when it became famous for being Ed Wood’s sound stage, Quality Studios. If you look up, Sarah said, you can see Wood’s original catwalks preserved in the architecture. After Quality Studios came and went, the building became home to Shamrock Studios. During this saga, it was a rehearsal space for many of your favorite punk and metal legends. Think: Guns N’ Roses when they were Hollywood Rose.
Today, the story lives on through the vision of David Neupert. As Gold Digger’s newest custodian, he has created a haven that seems to incorporate every one of the building’s prior lives. According to an interview with LA Magazine, David “envisions a band coming to stay in the hotel, work in the studio, and then play in the bar, without ever having to leave the property.” Which is safe to say, he has accomplished. The world-class recording complex boasts nine studios plus a multi-use sound stage for everything from live recordings to private events. Musicians who get to spend time here, not only get the best acoustics and equipment, they’re also are in the hands of studio experts with over 25 years of experience.
As I looked back at the building one last time, everything came together. While owners and uses have changed, much of the culture has remained the same. It seems that rockstars, exotic dancers, inn guests, bar dates, drama students, actors, directors, and DJs could be walking through the same doors as they would when the building was born in 1920. And whether in 1920 or 2020, those same people would have still felt at home here.