The Italian Renaissance beauty (all 54,000 square feet of it) was built in 1927 as the Hacienda Arms, a luxury apartment building. In short order it became the home of Marie Dressler, Loretta Young, child star Leon Janny and others.
Starting somewhere in the early 30's and ending in 1940, the well established Los Angeles madam, Lee Francis ran her operation out of the Hacienda Arms. It's elegance, rich appointments and clubby atmosphere was unsurpassed. French champagne and Russian black caviar were the snacks of any given day (and night). And then, of course, there were the girls. All of them beautiful and skilled. They may have been frustrated that they hadn't made it as movie queens, but the $1000 per week, on average, that they were making with Lee at the height of the Depression certainly soothed the pain. It is said that MGM had an account at the house under a different name. Erroll Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable were regulars. That's right, I said Jean Harlow. When Lee Francis got around to writing her autobiography (you just knew she would) "Ladies On Call", she explained that Harlow's frequent visits would always have one of two outcomes. Either she would selected a handsome man from the clientele lounging about (for which she always gave Francis $500 considering she was walking out with a paying customer) and take him home, or she would simply go upstairs with one of the girls for a round of fun and games.
Francis expained it this way: "I had several well known women who would come by my house. They would come in, hire the services of my girls, and take them upstairs with the same candor and obvious purpose as any man. One must not confuse the average society woman who takes on one of my girls with (lesbians). She is merely sex hungry and either afraid to risk entertaining a man because of the possible consequences or squeamish at the thought of sleeping with any man other than her husband. So, in the strict sense of the word, she is not a woman-lover." Oh, okay. In any case it was also noted that both the girls and the male customers often complained about Baby Jean's rough taste in sex.
The money (40% of her profits) that Francis paid the Vice Squad insured her certain courtesies. She was given an ample 'heads up' of any police raids, so she could clear everyone out and greet the cops with the 3 C's: champagne, caviar and cash. Everything was jake until a change of policy and heart on the part of the LAPD in 1940. Lee Francis was finally pinched and the party was over.
If you ask me, a classy set up like the House of Francis is a lot hipper than Jason Seacrest, Tori Spelling or any old Japanese joint any day!