A concrete den of sex, scandal, and intrigue. A stunning example of Mayan Revival American architecture. A glamorous Hollywood haunt. And perhaps where Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, met her deadly demise. For more than 90 years, the Sowden House has captured the morbid curiosity of true crime fiends, Old Hollywood lovers and architecture admirers alike. Today, the Sowden House exists as equal parts history and mystery thanks to shocking headlines, crime theories, and on-screen portrayals, not to mention its ominous presence looming high over Franklin Avenue. But aside from the home’s scandalized tales that have long been seared into the popular imagination, what do we really know about the Sowden House?
Those famous words, "through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world," emblazoned in bright neon above Sunset Boulevard, once beckoned people from across Los Angeles to come to see one of the most glamorous, risque, and tantalizing shows the world had ever known. This was the famous Vanities at Hollywood’s Earl Carroll Theater; a revue known as much for the soaring music, infectious comedy, and elaborate costumes as it was for the scantily-clad performers themselves. Yet today, the now-empty theater shows no signs of the grandeur that attracted a packed house of moviegoers and movie stars alike during its brief, but unforgettable mark on Los Angeles during Hollywood’s heyday.