Stan's Santa Monica Apartment
Visited by Mike Jones
On June 15, 1958, Stan Laurel and his wife Ida moved into the Oceana Apartment Hotel in Santa Monica, California. They lived there for the rest of Stan's life, with him spending a good part of his time answering fan mail, the telephone (for he was listed in the phone book!) and greeting friends and admirers who came to visit. The apartment was small by Hollywood celebrity standards, but quite spacious for a retiree and his loved one.
The complex is now an exclusive 5 star hotel known as the Oceana Beach Club Hotel and can be found at 849 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403.
In 1961 while living at the Oceana, Stan was given a special Academy Award for his contributions to film comedy but was unable to attend the ceremony due to poor health. Danny Kaye accepted the award for him, and I found a great picture of Stan with the statuette he dubbed 'Mr Clean' which was taken in the Oceana apartment.
You can see Danny Kaye's acceptance speech on behalf of Stan here:
And colour footage of Stan in the apartment with some Stan and Ollie puppets and Mr Clean in 1964 here:
Anyway, my wife and I were in Los Angeles for a day at the end of a cruise in March 2017 and we took the opportunity to travel down to Santa Monica to spend some time on the beautiful coastline before our flight home. I did of course have an ulterior motive...
As it happened, unusually it was raining quite heavily when we arrived so I left the boss in 'Ye Olde Kings Head', an English pub (she'd just had her hair done) right at the junction of Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Avenue, and set off in search of the Oceana Apartments. I'm sure Stan would have loved the pub which is modelled as a traditional old British boozer and is managed by a Liverpudlian.
The apartments can be found about 0.7m north of Santa Monica Blvd on Ocean Avenue between Idaho and Montana and are a 10 minute walk from the pub if you run like hell. Happily, the rain stopped pretty much straight away and by the time I arrived it was virtually dry.
I've seen several photographs of the building over the years, so I was surprised to see that the complex is now almost completely covered in Ivy. There was a doorman on duty - a young chap - but following a taxi ride through Culver City last year where our 40ish taxi driver hadn't even heard of Laurel and Hardy, I thought I'd better ask him if the name Stan Laurel meant anything to him. "Sure", he replied, "He lived in 203 in the sixties, right up there "!
Even though I knew which one the apartment was, he kindly pointed it out and offered to take a photograph - which I was going to ask for anyway! Stan and Ida lived on the middle floor and their balcony and picture window are immediately to the right of the smaller palm tree.
Mike at Oceana
Even at ground level, there is a magnificent view of Palisades Park which overlooks the Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica State Beach and the pier, so Stan's view from his balcony would have been amazing.
From the Oceana website:
In the 1950s, the luxurious Oceana Apartment Hotel was "California's newest apartment hotel." Hand-lettered advertisements pitched its private balconies, TV, maid service and ocean views. Such amenities and services captured the attention of none other than Stan Laurel (one half of the comedic duo of Laurel & Hardy), who moved to Oceana in 1958 with his wife Ida. He entertained dozens of celebrity friends in apartment #203, including Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke and Marcel Marceau, and answered thousands of pieces of fan mail, correspondence that is enthusiastically collected by his admirers.
When checking out the location on the interweb before we got there, I came across a wonderful piece by Dick Cavett. He is an American television personality and former talk show host and I feel sure he would have no problem with me sharing it with you. Dick does refer to the apartment as #204 in the article but I suspect that might be a typo.
As you probably know Stan was a heavy smoker until suddenly quitting around 1960. He died on 23 February 1965 aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack on 19 February.
When in hospital he famously was said to have told his nurse that he wished he was skiing. The nurse said "Do you ski Mr Laurel?"
"No" he replied, "but I'd much rather be skiing than this". A few minutes later, the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had gone.
Perhaps typically he had earlier quipped: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face I'll never speak to them again".
It was really nice to see Stan's final home. While I would've liked the opportunity to visit the apartment itself, this wasn't really an option in terms of time (and cost!). I intend to visit the area again in the future and follow up on last year's filming locations trip, so watch this space!