Friday, September 5, 2014

Pan Pacific Auditorium

 In Memory of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium

The venue that hosted Elvis and the Ice Capades was demolished in 1992. For Alison Martino, the loss was personal

September 5, 2014 by Alison Martino

Photo: George Mann Estate

The 100,000-square-foot masterpiece was used as a sports arena, for political events, car shows, circuses, conventions, and concerts. Elvis Presley performed there at the height of his career, in October of 1957. The King of Rock ‘n Roll was so determined to win over his celebrity-studded audience that he played 19 songs in front of 9,000 lucky guests, and closed with an encore of “Hound Dog.”

Elvis Presley, DJ Fontana and Scotty Moore rock the Pan Pacific Auditorium 1957. 

 Elvis grabbing RCA’s Mascot Nipper around the neck with is left arm and lifted him to the floor while continuing to sing into the microphone.  

“Queen for a Day” also broadcasted from the venue, and it once housed the largest ice rink in the world. The auditorium held the Ice Capades and the annual Motorama car show, where a futuristic looking car key was once given out as a souvenir. Pan-Pacific is also where Dwight Eisenhower spoke to an audience of 10,000 just one month before he was elected President of the United States

A massive crowd entering the Pan Pacific Auditorium to hear General Dwight D. Eisenhower speak to a crowd of 10000. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Daisy in Beverly Hills

"The Daisy",  which bloomed in 1962, was Beverly Hills' first  members only - private discotheque. It was a place were actresses in skin tight pants would dance the Watusi jerking elbows and hips with Steve McQueen or Robert Redford.

Jack Hanson,  bought the property on Rodeo Drive where the original Romanoff's had stood. Night spots like The Mocambo, Ciro's and The Trocadero were slipping away and discotheques and Go Go clubs were moving in. The timing of the Daisy's infancy was perfect. A new culture of music was just about to arrive from London, mod fashions were featured in all the hip boutiques and a new young Hollywood crowd was taking over the scene in Los Angeles during the early '60's.

 The original Romanoff's before it moved to it's second location and became the Daisy

For a better perspective of where it once thrived, you can see the  original brick structure of this stunning image of the Anderton Court Shops located at 332 N. Rodeo Drive by Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by the brilliant, Julius Shulman

On any given night you'd see Sonny and Cher on the dance floor, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie canoodling on the brick patio or the Jackson 5 performing a few of their very first sets on stage. 

Glancing around the intimate booths, one may have spotted Paul Newman,  Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Sammy, Tony Curtis, Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate, Angie Dickinson, John Derek and Linda Evans. The Daisy was also one of the first night spots Frank Sinatra was seen publicly with Mia Farrow.

Shooting 8-ball in another room will be a Richard Conte or an Omar Sharif, properly galleried. Scattered around the tables in the main room, will be the Zsa Zsas, the Joan Cohns, the Oleg Cassinis, the David Hemmingses, the Ryan O'Neals,  and 17 different varieties of teen-agers, each fully capable of saying, "Well, hi," and making it sound like, "Where's the acid?"

                               Fabian and actress Carol Conner dancing the Watusi in 1965
                                                            Menu card featuring Jack Hanson 
 Compared to The Daisy, all other discotheques are slums. And, sitting there one night, a good actor named Norman Alden gazed at the dance floor, swirling with Hanson's scented, glowing human decor, and put it all in perspective with a joke. "Oh, this crazy tinsel town with its popcorn machine for a heart. It's all alabaster and sham," he said. "Think of all those young girls, going from casting office to casting office, willing to sell their souls for a part. I can't tell you how happy I am to be a part of it."

 Vintage Los Angeles member Dave Etchie recalls, " I was on the "Dating Game" and the producers and my date went to the Daisy as part of the prize. Unfortunately my winning date was only on the program for the exposure as an actress. The producers and I enjoyed the Daisy and we didn't see the date the rest of the evening".

Hordes of celebrities from the entertainment and sports fields were members. And those that weren't of course still managed to get in like Dean Martin and Wilt Chamberlin.

Hanson also owned the wildly cool boutique, "Jax" with his wife Sally located on the corner of Wilshire and Bedford and made beautifully cut pants for Jackie Kennedy, Barbra Streisand, Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn. He socialized with showbiz players and hobnobbed with all the Hollywood swingers that frequented his club. James Elroy described him as, "Noir Personified!" Jack 'firmly' believed women should show off their best features, so sensations such as Twiggy or Diana Ross would be seen inside "Jax" trying on the latest tight slacks or thigh-high miniskirts before attending a night out.


The trademark of "Jax" slacks was their extreme tightness (because the pants zippered up the back) which emphasized the female butt. You needed to be very slim to carry this off. One of his best customers in the early days was Marilyn Monroe. The shop  had a number of interesting salesgirls, namely Frank Sinatra's daughters, Nancy and Tina, and Dean Martin's three daughters, Deana, Gail and Claudia. By day their backyard is headquarters for a Hollywood sport-in. By night his own discotheque became a Beverly Hills drop-in for the likes of Dickie Smothers greeting Jack with Peter Sellers. Nancy Sinatra Jr. once said, "The most important men in America are my father, Hugh Hefner and Jack Hanson."

A rare documentary of Beverly Hills in 1965 featuring rare film footage of Jax starting at 2:51 (but the entire 8 and 1/2 minutes is worth a watch!)

The Chic destination was also where Aaron Spelling met 18 year old, Carole Gene,  also known as, Candy. Their first dance together was to "My Funny Valentine" and that song had been their "song" ever since.

Lovely Jill St. John and the talented Jack Jones were also  seen frequently together at the Daisy Club in Beverly Hills around 1967.

James Garner's character in the Rockford Files referenced the Daisy in an episode I recently watched. " I went to the Daisy and then cruised Rodeo Drive for a half hour”. 

Jack Hanson also put together a celebrity softball team that included, Anthony Franciosa, Peter Falk, Bobby Darin, Mark Goddard, Michael Callan, Ryan O'Neal, Peter Stone, Aaron Spelling, and Danny Thomas.  The team's cheering section consisted of Anne Francis, Suzanne Pleshette and Nancy Sinatra.

Nancy with Sharon Alpert at The Daisy"
If there is anything that delighted Jack Hanson as much as being in his New World rumble at The Daisy it was the weekly Softball games he had arranged between a couple of power-loaded outfits called Raskin's Raiders and, big surprise, The Daisy. When someone once suggested that Raskin's Raiders perhaps seek a different opponent for a change after they had just won a series, Producer Jimmy Harris (Paths of Glory, Lolita, The Bedford Incident), a Raider mainstay in center field, said, "What? And not get to see Tony Curtis try to pitch?"

 My folks used to frequent The Daisy with Joey Bishop, Gene Barry and Buddy Hackett. This photo was taken at one of Buddy's parties. He had requested on the invitation that everyone show up dressed like construction workers. (which explains my parents overalls). 

Joey Bishop's wife Silvia, my parents Al and Judi Martino and actor Gene Barry in 1969
Mel Brooks also held a cast party for "Young Frankenstein" at the Daisy in 1974 and director,  Paul Schrader" captured a scene on celluloid for "American Gigolo" staring Richard Gere in 1980


   Scene from "American Gigaolo" filmed on location at The Daisy

And on August 11, 1969 Diana Ross invited Hollywood’s media to come and meet Motown’s newest act,  The Jackson 5  between 6.30p.m. and 9.30p.m. at The Daisy, 326 Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills! Berry Gordy boldly predicted that The Jackson 5′s first three singles would be number one hits (they were) and that they become one of the biggest-selling acts of the decade at the club.

It was at this party that ten-year-old Michael, just over two weeks away from his 11th birthday, was instructed to tell interviewers that he was only eight years old. Ever the professional, young Michael understood the importance of publicity in show business, and eager to please, he gladly did as he was told. 

Vintage Los Angeles member, Jeff Jansen recalls this awesome memory. "I remember seeing the amazing stage show of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo at the Daisy. That band eventually morphed into Oingo Boingo and launched the career of the now famous Danny Elfman."

Eddie Bales, another member of Vintage Los Angeles also shared his recollections: "I was one of the Daisy's valet parking attendants.  I was old enough to drive but not enough to go in (though I did on NYE 1983).  I was ALWAYS tipped extremely well. Edy Williams was a regular with her friend, a character named Skip E Lowe. Edy was in "Beyond The Valley of The Dolls", "Batman", and tons of classic TV series of the '60's and '70's. She became known for crashing the Oscars with those scandalous outfits in the late 80s and ALWAYS wore revealing outfits and would flirt with me.  I was barely 18 and beyond nervous and had absolutely no idea what to do". 

As far as MY own personal memories of The Daisy,  growing up in Beverley Hills during the 70’s still had little fragments of elegance and fortunately I took afternoon cotillion classes on Saturdays at 10 years old. But let's face it - our parents enjoyed it way more on those late night evenings dancing the night away, while us kids were stuck home with the babysitter watching "The Love Boat" or "Fantasy Island". But one thing I do remember clearly besides that dance floor was the the food.  This was the first place I ever tried a club Sandwich and The Menu was always naming dishes after dedicated customers and and powerful heavy hitters. 

 I can't help but notice how eerie O.J.Simpson's dish is -  also  
 considering The Daisy is where he met Nicole Brown

    Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tony Curtis and Red Buttons at the Daisy

Sadly the Daisy has since been banished from Beverly Hills and felt it needed a worthy tribute. Please feel free to leave any additional information on the Daisy in the comment box. I would love to hear your reflections, informative facts or photos if you have any to share.

Your personal DeLorean of the Internet, 

Alison Martino

Sections for this blog came from a Sports Illustrated article. Click here to read the entire article on Jack Hanson and additional information from members of Vintage Los Angeles.
Photos and memorabilia: Vintage Los Angeles Collection

What Third Street Promenade used to look like

This is What Third Street Promenade Looked Like Before the Gap Even Existed

What’s changed—and what hasn’t—about Santa Monica’s outdoor mall by Alison Martino

    Photo: Fashion show 1965.

        Photo: UCLA                                                                     Music Box Photo: by Julie Wilson
This modernist outdoor space was once home to Sears and Woolworth’s ($11.98 for a pair of Wallaby’s!) plus dozens of mom-and-pop shops, which made it unique. The list of smaller businesses included Kress’, Lerners, Hartman’s, Bartons Candy Store,  Leeds", The Smuggler,  The Silver Cup Diner, Nana’s, Texas Records, the Music Box, Apollo Electronics, Out of The Past, Muskrat, The Midnight Bookstore, Bay Music (which sold musical instruments) and Ralph’s market, which later became “Europa,” where my mother purchased the most beautiful lace curtains.               
   "Europa Linens and Gifts"  Photo courtesy of DowntownSantaMonica on Facebook                                                     
Screen grab from "Pee Wee’s Big Adventure".

Scene from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"

 The mall is well preserved on celluloid in the Tim Burton film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The bicycle store featured in the movie was actually a real shop called Chuck’s Bike O Rama. Some of you may also remember seeing this real record store in John Hugh’s 1986 film, Pretty In Pink. The Music Box is where John Cryer does his best impersonation of Otis Redding in the flick.

During the ’80s the mall fell on hard times and rapidly became a row of struggling shops and vacant storefronts, something the popularity of Westwood Village may have had something to do with. But since the mall’s massive make over late in that decade, it’s completely turned around. Today as many as 15,000 visitors squeeze every weekend into each block of the narrow strip that stretches from Broadway to Wilshire. Meanwhile, Westwood Village is in need of a comeback itself. (That would be a magical, since most of the original structures are still there.)

Some of the stores on the Promenade today occupy Art Deco structures from back in the day. Banana Republic, for example, was once J.C. Penny.

And here’s a photo of the Criterion Theatre in 1949! During the 1940s and ’50s, cars could actually drive through.

And this one goes WAY back... This is Third Street at Oregon Avenue in 1880, now it is the current home of Third Street Promenade! 

Why am I writing about Third Street Promenade now? Because the outdoor mall has such a dear place in my heart. My favorite childhood treat was an Orange Julius and a burger from Magoos. My mother took me to this J.C. Penny for my back-to-school shopping at Thom McAnn for shoes and Contempo Casuals for the latest trends. When I became older, I was all about the 3 2 1 Club. It’s the end of summer now, and that makes me miss those good old—very fashionable, if I don’t say so myself—days. 

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. Alison is currently a columnist for "Los Angeles Magazine and muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Viper Room turnds 21! A look back at its past incanations.

It’s been 21 years since the Viper Room—a place famous for great drinks, legendary music performances, and being where actor River Phoenix tragically overdosed—opened its doors on August 14, 1993. To celebrate the anniversary, the 250-person-capacity venue has scheduled special guests this month. Meanwhile, we’re looking further back in time.

The square-shaped marquee that graces the Viper Room today once listed the names of three previous establishments, all equally as well known in their time. 8852 Sunset Boulevard was once the address of these three businesses:

The 1950s and ‘60s

The Melody Room was a 1950s jazz club popular with Los Angeles gangsters, such as Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Not a lot about its history is known, but author Domenic Priore documented the venue in his book, Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand In Hollywood. According to Priore, “The Melody Room was primarily a lounge/ music place. Acts like Billy Ward and the Dominoe’s, who were most famous for having Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson in the group, gigged there. Bobby Troup, who wrote "Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” and singer Julie London also hung out there, as did actors Cesar Romero and Jackie Coogan, who would hang together. Imagine seeing Uncle Fester and The Joker with each 
other during the 60s!”  Musician (and Vintage Los Angeles member) ‪Dave Provost used to perform there himself. “Bill Gazzarri was fixated on all things mobster. In the late ‘60s, he would take us outside, point to The Melody Room, and proclaim ‘that was Mickey Cohen's headquarters!’” he says. 

In fact, Cohen’s headquarters, called Michael's Exclusive Haberdashery, were one block east at 8804 Sunset. “I used to play The Melody Room fairly often,” says Provost. “One night the Allman Brothers were appearing across the street at The Whisky. All the doors were wide open and Duane Allman was so loud we couldn't hear a note we were playing.

In fact, Cohen’s headquarters, called Michael's Exclusive Haberdashery, were one block east at 8804 Sunset  "I used to play The Melody Room fairly often,” says Provost. “One night the Allman Brothers were appearing across the street at The Whisky. All the doors were wide open and Duane Allman was so loud we couldn't hear a note we were playing"
    The 1970s

Filthy McNasty’s opened in 1973 and was frequented by Evil Knievel and Tom Waits. Tower Records had open 1971 and was east at Sunset and Horn. At the time, rock and roll billboards covered the Sunset Strip, Glam was at its zenith, and Filthy’s was in the center of it all. 

One of the venue’s claims to fame that lives on: Filthy McNasty’s was featured behind the band the Sweet on the cover of their biggest album, Desolation Boulevard, which was released in 1975

According to the bartender, “Filthy thousands of left over matchbooks he had had made for Filthy McNasty's,” says Sylvanus, “so he paid his staff to put stickers with the new name and logo over the covers of the old matchbooks rather than pay for new ones!”  
  Filthy McNasty with Stephanie McDermott and friend outside the club with Filthy's car!

 Photo courtesy of Vintage Los Angeles memeber, Stephanie McDermott in 1974

                   Filthy's can be seen from the corner of Sunset and Horn behind Tower Records

  The 1980s 

    Tower Records reportedly held employee staff meetings at The Central

During the 1980s you could easily catch a set by Rickie Lee Jones or bump into John Belushi at The Central. In 1981, The Who’s John Entwistle participated in an open jam night there on Tuesdays. Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience), Buddy Miles, Les Dudek, Carlos Castenada, Jr., C.C. DeVille (before he was in Poison) Pearl (Janis Joplin's back-up singer) and Ray Gange (the Clash's roadie and star of “Rude Boy”) would sit in or be seen drinking at the bar. The Central had a stage that was four feet high, nice monitors, and a great PA system.   

The club also featured Chuck E. Weiss and the Goddamn Liars every Monday night for 11 years. “The Central’s interior was modeled after the Central line trains in the U.K.” remembers Weiss, “The owners originally called the club All That Jazz, then changed it to The Central in 1981. Magical and fun times for everyone.

 Billy Vera and the Beaters performed at The Central once a month for several years during the ‘80s, and Vera has this to say about his monthly residency: “It was straight up rock and roll. The place was very dark and dingy, the kind of joint where drunken roadies would hang out. On Halloween, instead of dressing up as monsters, the band used to dress up in the ugly polyester clothes and we called it Lame Night. Bruce Willis stopped in once. I recognized him from Moonlighting and told him he was going to be a big star.”

  Billy Vera and The Beaters with Bruce Willis on Halloween night at The Central in 1987.        
  Photograph courtesy BillyVera. Photo by Ellen Bloom

Billy Vera with Keith Robertson and Bruce Willis at The Central in 1985.The club’s profile continued to rise in the ‘90s. In 1990, Oliver Stone shot the London Fog scenes for his biopic on the Doors at The Central. I myself stood in as an extra and can be spotted at the front of the stage with about 10 other girls screaming “Jim!” to Val Kilmer. Life’s most embarrassing moments caught on celluloid at The Central.

In Valley Girl, the Plimsouls can be seen performing "A Million Miles Away" at The Central, and it’s where the GoGo’s filmed the music video for “Our Lips Are Sealed.” See the videos below:

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