Though the heyday of the Sunset Strip as LA's music mecca's long gone, the Viper Room lives on not just as a historic back-in-the-day hangout spot for Strip icons like Slash and Mötley Crüe, but as one of the few still-relevant clubs (along with The Roxy and The Whisky) remaining on the Strip. Of course, the most well known facts about the Viper are that River Phoenix died there, and that Johnny Depp was one of the original owners. But there's a lot you don't know about the Viper Room -- like these 11 facts:

Courtesy Viper Room

1. Before it was the Viper, the building had a checkered past

In fact, it was once the Melody Room -- a known gangster hangout, where Bugsy Seigel and Mickey Cohen would get together and watch live jazz -- and was also once known as The Central. But the spot really locked its LA cultural significant in the '70s, when it was Filthy McNasty's -- a divey Strip trend-setter that was featured on an album cover for the band Sweet, and was a regular hang for Tom Waits and Evil Knieval.

Courtesy Viper Room

2. Adam Duritz -- the singer from Counting Crows -- was once a bartender there

And, if faux dreads aren't your thing, so was Christina Applegate.

Courtesy Viper Room

3. The first band to ever perform there was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

It was August 14, 1993 and the timing makes sense, since right around that time venue co-owner Johnny Depp appeared in the band's "Into The Great Wide Open" video.

4. The Pussycat Dolls got their start there

They're best known as a washed-up pop group now, but for a while in the late '90s they were the best-known burlesque group in LA, thanks to their Viper residency.

Courtesy Viper Room

5. There is a hidden, secret whiskey bar downstairs

It's just past the cashier, is open almost every night, is generally free to enter, and has a ton of artisan booze, including Slow Hand white whiskey and Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock & Rye.

6. The backstage area is abetted with a stripper pole

It's not just an urban myth: we've seen it with our own eyes.

Courtesy Viper Room

7. It's not the only Viper Room

In fact, they're embroiled in a trademark lawsuit with another club called the Viper Room in Portland... and there's a brothel called the Viper Room in Australia. There's also a total rip-off club in the Netherlands decorated to look like the Sunset Strip version.

8. Queens of the Stone Age once got paid $20 and 20 Coronas to play there in 2005... after they were famous

It was under the secret name The Clocks, and they just wanted to play, man!

Courtesy Viper Room

9. In the '90s, the Viper was also the site of Hollywood's most high-rolling poker game

It had a $10,000 buy-in, and players included Leo and Tobey. Of course.

 

Courtesy Viper Room

10. Internationally renowned artist Louis Carreon recently added art to both the inside and outside of the club

The interior art, which covers the hallway to get into the club ,looks like a wall of graffitied quotes, peace signs, and word soup, with backwards-writing on the other side and RIP River Phoenix and Hunter S. Thompson homages up top; the outside now features a giant, seemingly stained-glass man smoking a cigarette.

11. The Viper recently launched a line of licensed, high-end merch

It includes T-shirts and undies. Because why should CBGB get all the residuals?


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Jeff Miller has performed at the Viper Room five times. Seriously. He's at @jeffmillerla on Instagram and @ThrillistLA on Twitter.

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