How Frank Corrente Became L.A.’s Cadillac King

The celebrity car salesman behind Frank Corrente Cadillac Corner on his more than 50 years in the business

When my father was mad at me, he would say, “Frank, where will you end up?” and I would say, “Dad, I’m going to Hollywood.”

I came here in 1957 to be a part of the glamorous City of Angels. It was a perfect match. Early in my career I worked for Roy Rogers, who owned a sports car dealership. Steve McQueen was one of his frequent visitors.

I started my own business in 1962 on a corner lot, hence the name Frank Corrente Cadillac Corner. I have endured over the years by reinventing myself and changing with the tides of the economy and the people of Los Angeles. I’ve survived five armed robberies and the City of Los Angeles telling me that my business of 21 years was not zoned correctly.

In the early 1960s, mobster Mickey Cohen brought me his girlfriend’s Cadillac to sell. She was known as Candy Barr, a stripper and former girlfriend of Jack Ruby’s. She was going to prison for being in possession of one gram of marijuana. Today, a marijuana store is two doors down from my business. At that time, I lived at the Park Sunset apartments, which is now the Grafton Hotel. It was a hub of comedians, celebrities, and mobsters, and they all wanted Cadillacs.

Frank Corrente and James Brown in 1997
Frank Corrente and James Brown in 1997

Photograph courtesy Frank Corrente

During the Jimmy Carter administration and the gas rationing, I owned a fleet of 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertibles, and no one could buy gas for them. The Wall Street Journal featured my fins and me—it was the end of an era for the 1976 Cadillac Convertible.

In the ’80s I was the largest independent Cadillac dealer. As new Cadillacs declined in popularity, I transitioned into selling classic and exotic cars.

My place has always been a hangout. James Brown was a regular. He arrived with at least three stretch limousines and beautiful women. We would visit and he would admire my cars. Although he didn’t want to be noticed, he arrived with an entourage and left with an even bigger entourage. Pat Boone stopped in on his way to Elvis Presley’s funeral. I extended an offer to assist with Elvis’s cars. And yes, Colonial Parker sold me Elvis’s Cadillac!

Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram