By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
A big band playing as tobacco smoke curled toward the ceiling, the tinkling of glasses and muted laughter, and a cigarette girl making her way among the tables. This was a scene commonly found at the famous Ciro’s nightclub on the Sunset Strip in the ’40s and ’50s. These memories and more are shared in the recently released book “Ciro’s – Nightclub of the Stars.” The book is a picture- heavy work compiled by Andra Clarke and her mother Regina Denton-Drew, who worked in various capacities at the club during its heyday.
Ciro’s captured the imagination of Americans who were eager to consume the gossip columns of Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons and Florabel Muir to find out what their favorite movie stars were up to. Stars frequented the popular nightclub to listen to live music, to enjoy a meal and to be seen. Denton-Drew worked at Ciro’s for seven years and in that time met many stars, whether taking their picture, selling cigarettes or overseeing their coats, and sometimes their pets, while the stars enjoyed dinner.
The book was a labor of love completed by Denton-Drew’s daughter Andra Clarke, a La Crescenta resident who works as a special education teacher in the foothills. Denton-Drew died in December 2012 leaving it to Clarke to catalogue and present the hundreds of photographs in “Ciro’s – Nightclub of the Stars.”
“It was bittersweet working on the book,” Clarke said. “I felt my mom should have been there [for its completion].”
Clarke spent a lot of time doing research on the photographs for the captions used in the book, saying that it was interesting to read about the stars her mother had talked about. She added that Denton-Drew had dreamed of doing a book for “decades.”
“She wanted to create this for years,” Clarke said.
Denton-Drew loved the glamour and glitz that was found at Ciro’s, rubbing shoulders with the stars and getting to know these high-profile celebrities. Clarke said that her mother had a lot of respect for patrons of Ciro’s and that the book shows a generous side of Hollywood.
On Thursday, Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Cañada held a booksigning for Clarke when she took attendees down her mom’s Memory Lane.
“My mother was there for the debut of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis,” Clarke told the standing room only crowd adding that the time at Ciro’s was some of the best of her mother’s life.
“Finishing the book brought everything full circle,” said Clarke noting that Denton-Drew’s mother had come to Hollywood for a career in music and Denton-Drew was pinning her hopes on the big screen. “We’ve created a little piece of history. It was very gratifying.”