Vintage Photos Show The Odd World Of LA's Sunset Strip In The '70s And '80s

Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip is an odd place. Not many other places on Earth let you see wildly wealthy people and homeless people on the same street, along with unkempt free-spirited folks, well-groomed hip young people, street performers, and a million tourists taking pictures of it all.

Turns out, in the late 70s and early 80s it was pretty much the same.

In 1979, at the age of 17, photographer Matt Sweeney packed up his things and moved to Los Angeles to make it as a filmmaker. It didn’t quite happen right away (or at all, as it would turn out), so Matt spent a lot of time on the streets of LA, photographing the people and things he saw.

He fell in love with photography, and the rest is history.

Recently, Sweeney began posting these old Kodachrome photos on his website. Spanning from 1979 to 1983, the photos give a great sense of how the Strip was at this point in time. Here are our favourites.

Sweeney says he spent much of his time in LA walking, driving his moped, or riding the bus.

Sunset Strip

Matt Sweeney

He met a lot of unusual, intriguing characters on the Strip. Sweeney says this women obliged his request to pose for a picture, saying, “Of course, dear. We’re all vain.”

Some people, of course, didn’t like to get their pictures taken.

For a street photographer, the Strip is full moments and bits of visual interest.

Weird stuff was everywhere, like this nature diorama seen in the back of car on the Boulevard.

Back then, the Hollywood Strip was a cool place to go for young people. Here, we see a Samurai and a cigarette girl, dressed up for Halloween, in front of a Pussy Cat Theatre, a chain of pornography cinemas that is no longer in existence.

Here, Sweeney’s young friends climb around a parking structure and show off for a passing bus full of tourists.

Of course, there were older people on the Sunset Strip, too.

The Frolic Room, which opened its doors in 1934, is still in business today. It was originally connected to the Panteges Theatre, located next door.

People came from all around to shop at the Strip. Here, a big shoe store on Hollywood Boulevard is having a sale.

The Broadway Hollywood was once a fine department store. Today, it’s upscale residential lofts. The Plaza Hotel is still open, though.

The famous Capitol Records building was finished in 1956 and still stands today. It’s only a coincidence that it resembles a stack of records.

Hairstyles were a little different back then.

A women stands on a corner. Over his time photographing the Strip, Sweeney grew an affinity for photographing women in bright red.

You can still see any number of interesting odd people, like this cowboy statue street performer, outside of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, seen here.

A family poses for a picture in front of the theatre, by one of the almost 200 hand prints, footprints, and signatures created by celebrities.

Frederick’s of Hollywood, which sells women’s lingerie, still exists today as well. We’re not sure this lady wants anything to do with it, though.

This photo booth was just down the street from Frederick’s. Remember photo booths?

A scene at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Check out how it looks today.

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