Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hacienda Hotel and Sam Cooke

"Tales of the macabre at L.A. Hotels"--an Oct. 22 story in the Los Angeles Times Travel section--tells of three hotels where big names checked out the hard way:

  1. Janis Joplin died at the Landmark Motor Hotel (now the Highland Gardens) in Hollywood
  2. NightStalker Richard Ramirez hung out at the Cecil Hotel near Staples Center
  3. Sam Cooke was shot and died at the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo.

You know Sam Cooke's music: Chain Gang, You Send Me, Cupid, Shake, Bring it on Home, Wonderful World, etc. In the 50s, he was a gospel singer who switched to soul...in fact, he pretty much designed soul. On December 11, 1964, he checked into the Hacienda Hotel. Late that night, one woman called police claiming she'd been kidnapped and escaped. Minutes later, a friend of the manager of the Hacienda called police l, stating that she'd heard gunfire. The manager claimed she'd shot a near-naked Cooke in self-defense.

Wikipedia has a summary of all this. Was the first caller, who ran from Cooke's room, really a near-rape victim who grabbed both their clothes in confusion as she ran away? That's what she claimed, but she was arrested for prostitution a few weeks later. The initial report in the LA Times of 12-12-1964 called this woman a "Eurasian vocalist" that Cooke met at a party. Hmmm. His family has a different version of events in a book that you can get online. Another bio is Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick.

Cooke's life and death were controversial. Five thousand people tried to attend the services for him a few days later at Mt Sinai Baptist Church on Adams (now Apostolic Faith Home Assembly). Lou Rawls and Ray Charles sang hymns. Cooke's widow married Bobby Womack about two months later.

As for the Hacienda, if it's the hotel on Sepulveda in El Segundo (as the 2008 Times reported), obviously it's come up in the world. Some websites refer to the Hacienda as a 'two-bit joint' in south central LA. The Times of 2008 says it's in El Segundo, but the Times of the times (always wanted to write that!) claims the Hacienda was on S. Figueroa. 9137 S. Figueroa, to be exact--no where near El Segundo.

9137 S. Fig is now the Star Motel, according to SeeingStars.com. Looking at Google, it looks like an apartment building.

Hmmm again. I've not caught the Times in this sort of error before. I really intended to blog on the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo, but that's not where Sam Cooke died. The papers from the 1960s are very clear on the address, and the place was called the Motel Hacienda.


Sam's Neph said...

Sam was murdered in the Hacienda Motel on Figueroa, which was torn down several years ago. The article's connection of Sam's death site to the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo was in error, and I alerted the Times as such.

And thank you for mentioning the existence of a "different version of events." Sam's life and legacy have been misunderstood for several years now, and it's been my attempt to set the record straight.

Erik Greene
Author, “Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective”

Vix said...

Thank you for the clarification! Your book sounds wonderful.

Sam's Neph said...

Thanks, Vix. There has been so much misinformation about the details behind Sam's death (the L.A. Times article, case in point) and unknown facts about what was going on in his career and business dealings, the facts all needed to be brought back to center. Of all people, I'm sure you can appreciate the relevance of historical accuracy.