LOS ANGELES – Fire tore through a hip nightclub at the storied corner of Hollywood and Vine on Wednesday, covering the landmark-studded neighborhood with smoke and ash. No injuries were reported.
The one-story building, built in the 1920s or '30s, is now home to the Basque Nightclub & Restaurant, but it was not open at the time, firefighters said. Lindsay Lohan celebrated her 21st birthday at the club and Kanye West partied there just last week.
Councilman Tom LaBonge said he was hiking near the Griffith Park Observatory at 5:45 a.m. when he saw the fire erupt a few miles away. "I saw what looked like an orange meteor busting through the roof ... a half moon of orange glow."
• Click here to see photos of the blaze
The fire was knocked down by 8 a.m., Battalion Chief Mario Rueda said at a news conference in front of the charred club.
The corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was a mecca for stars and fans in Hollywood's Golden Era when many nightclubs were nearby. The famed art deco Pantages Theatre and the 1950s-vintage Capitol Records Building — shaped like a stack of discs — are just a short distance away.
Hollywood likes to call it the world's "most famous intersection in the most famous neighborhood." Stars immortalized in the Walk of Fame at the corner include James Stewart, James Dean, Judy Garland, Deborah Kerr and Slim Whitman.
Many of the buildings in the area have been renovated and restored in recent years.
The building has been a Brown Derby restaurant, a Howard Johnson's restaurant, a nightclub called Deep, a music studio and other businesses through the years.
Matt Damon played cards in the building (when it was Deep) for scenes in the movie "Ocean's Eleven," LaBonge said.
Four businesses were damaged — the nightclub, a tattoo parlor, a beauty supply company and a vacant shoe store, Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva said. The extent of the losses were not immediately available.
Firefighters were lucky the fire took place so early and engines could get through the streets traditionally clogged with tourists, he said. Arson investigators were on scene but hadn't entered the building.
Twenty-six engine companies, six rescue units and 180 firefighters battled the blaze, forming a surreal scene as dawn highlighted palm trees from above and fire set them aglow from below.
Arriving firefighters were in the building for 15 minutes before they were ordered out because a massive billboard and air conditioning units on the nightclub roof were sagging.
"It was a hairy moment," Battalion Chief Mario Rueda said.
Firefighters then fought the fire from the outside.