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Posts tagged “Vintage L.A.

The Original Superstar of a Hollywood Lost ~ Rudolph Valentino • 1895-1926

Long Before Clark Gable or Brando, James Dean or Elvis, Paul Newman, Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp – the First Pop Icon Glam Rock Superstar Held the World at His Feet. His Name was Rudolph Valentino. And Long before National Enquirer, Vanity Fair or TMZ, Valentino managed to Achieve SuperStar Fame & Weave a Tangled Web of Personal Scandal to rival that of any Modern-Day Star….and so it Begins ~

At the Turn of the 20th Century, Los Angeles was but a sleepy Pueblo, just coming into its own as a City. San Francisco had already established a huge Shipping trade by virtue of its Great Bay, however crippled she was by the Earthquake of 1906. The City would rebuild to hold the Panama-Pacific International Exposition just nine years later.

Other Cities in Southern California were sought out by Easterners as a Place to flock to for the Climate. Towns like Redlands and Riverside were Reached by Rail from parts Eastward for their Hot Springs and balmy climates in the Days before Modern Medicine, as Folk travelled West for a Climate to Cure what ailed them, or an opportunity to work in the New Agricultural Paradise, Miles and Endless Miles of Lemons, Oranges and every kind of Virgin FarmLand Crop to Sow as Far as the Eye Could See. California Towns South and East were larger and more Established than Los Angeles at that time, nearer and more accessible from the East by Railway and Rural Roads in the Days before Highways.

San Dimas Orange Grove ~ Early 1900's

But The Sleepy L.A. Pueblo had begun to grow, with an incredibly varied terrain, Mountains, Sea, Growing Cityscape and cheap, endless land just waiting for any Entrepeneurial Spirit to Come Along. Recent improvements to the City Infrastructure had only recently arrived, like Electric Streetlights. In 1912, A Former New York actor came to town, his name was Mack Sennett. With financial backing from Adam Kessel and Charles O. Bauman of the New York Motion Picture Company, Sennett founded Keystone Studios in Edendale, California, (which is now a part of Echo Park). The original main building, the first totally enclosed film stage and studio in history, is still there. Many important actors started their careers with Sennett, including Mabel NormandCharlie ChaplinGloria Swanson,The Keystone CopsBing Crosby, and W. C. Fields.

Mack Sennett Keystone Studios ~ Edendale (Now Glendale) 1915

Charlie Chaplin on set in "The Circus"

On the Other Side of the World, a Young Italian named Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi, born in 1895 from the small village of Castellaneta, had moved to Paris at the age of 17. However, unable to find much work, he returned to Italy, then still struggling, made his way to America by way of Ellis Island and New York City in 1913. As Irony and Fate would have it, the very first ‘moving picture’ was shown in Paris the year of Valentino’s birth. Rumor has it that Rodolfo, the middle child, (his siblings were Alberto and Maria), was his mother’s favorite and a handsome son. She doted on him and lavished him with attention. As one would expect, Rodolfo grew into a wild child, spoiled and of the belief that he could get away with anything. His teachers didn’t share that belief, and Rodolfo was expelled from many schools before he managed to graduate from the Academy of Agriculture with a diploma in the Science of Farming. Rodolfo moved to Paris and studied apache dancing while still a teenager. He obtains a position working as a dancer at Maxim’s. In 1913, after he had collected the $4000 inheritance coming his way, Rodolfo took off for New York.

a young Valentino in New York before a handbill for 'The Masked Model' 1917

He meets Bonnie Glass, who is in need of a new dancing partner to tour New York clubs and the Vaudeville circuit. Valentino is billed as Signor Rodolfo. After Ms. Glass retires, Rodolfo dances with Joan Sawyer and continues to tour in vaudeville on the East Coast, all the while perfecting his penchant for Argentine Tango. Valentino did whatever else he could to get by: he bussed tables and became something of a gigolo. During this time, Valentino fell madly in love with a married society woman named Blanca de Saulles. Mme. de Saulles had been unhappily married long before she had met Valentino and eventually divorced her husband John. Perhaps trying to win de Saulles over (she had never returned his affections) Valentino testified at the trial.  John de Saulles was extremely powerful and had Valentino arrested on trumped up vice charges.  The arrest was highly publicized and shortly after Blanca shot and killed her husband over a custody dispute. Rodolfo wisely left New York with a traveling musical that included Al Jolson and changed his name from Guglielmi to the now known ‘Valentino’.

A Young Valentino ~ as yet Unsure of The Screen Persona that would Make him a Star

Valentino soon joined an operetta company that travelled to Utah where it disbanded, then travelled to San Francisco where he meets the actor Norman Kerry, who is Mary Pickford’s leading man. Kerry convinces him to try a career in films. Many of Valentino’s peers had delved into acting in New York before making their migrations West, and as many stars would do later, Brando, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean – all acted extensively in New York before coming to Hollywood. Around 1917, Valentino made the exodus to Hollywood, completely bypassing the New York movie scene before making his migration West. Almost immediately he procured his first movie role – albeit a small one – in the film Alimony, thanks to his Tango abilities. There is some discrepancy on what his first movie role is-he apparently appeared uncredited in a few other films before Alimony, such as My Official Wife (1914, starring Clara Kimball Young) and The Foolish Virgin (1916). Rudolph Valentino made just over 20 films before his big breakout role, and in none of these did he play the smoldering lover he would become so famous for. He was still finding his footing in Hollywood, and this included finding the right name for himself. Handsome Irish or English white men were the romantic types of the day, (Jack Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Thomas Meighan) while anyone deemed ‘not white’ was unable to obtain such roles.  Foreign looking actors usually were given nothing but evil villain roles. Valentino would eventually be the first to change this with the help of his mentor June Mathis. Despite playing ‘heavies’, Valentino’s early roles show his natural acting talent.  At a time when some stars still overacted (remnants of early 1900 stage acting) Valentino portrayed his characters in a natural way.  He also showcased his skill for comedy during these years in films like “All Night” in 1918.

At various times, he has been credited as M. Rodolfo De Valentina, M. Rodolpho De Valentina, M. De Valentina, R. De Valentina, Rudolpho De Valentina, Rudolpho De Valentine, Rudolph DeValentino, Rudolpho Valentina, Rodolph Valentine, Rudolph Valentine and Rodolph Valentino. Some of these early films include: All Night (1918),Virtuous SinnersEyes of Youth (both 1919), Passion’s Playground and The Sinner (both 1920). He primarily played the ‘villain’ in these early films. Most, but not all of these early films are Lost Forever, the highly soluble, flammable and volatile film stock from the period meant many were lost or destroyed due to minimal copies made, exposure to light or simple poor handling and archiving.

Jean Acker in 1921 ~

In 1919 Rodolfo began a courtship and impulsively married the actress Jean Acker—who through her later affairs in the Garden of Allah would prove to be a lesbian—on their wedding night, she locked him out of her bedroom. The marriage was never consummated. Rudolfo struggled with his reluctant wife and seemingly still unaware of her being a lesbian, writes her impassioned letters and sends her three photos inscribed with endearments of a loving husband. His efforts failed and in late December, an announcement is made of their official separation and they divorced in 1921. She and Valentino remained friends for the rest of his life. Jean Acker went on to have a minor career as an actress for the majority of her long life, she died in 1978. She kept the name Valentino her entire life, obviously no doubt to some advantage.

Several factors now came into play as to the direction of Valentino’s career, about to soar on a steep path of fame. Valentino would meet his Mentor. Her name was June Mathis, and she was the first female movie executive, having wrote the 6th best selling silent film of all time, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ms. Mathis saw an Exotic, Erotic persona in Valentino that other Studio Execs had missed, always passing on him for the White Leading Men of the Day….Douglas Fairbanks, Chaplin, the Lot of Them, and their Stars were about to be Eclipsed.

The Mentor ~ Jean Mathis ~ the First Female Film Mogul in her office at Metro Studios, early 1920's

Mathis was the Staff Scenarist at Metro Studios and the Driving Force behind the new film, “Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse”. Calling Valentino to her office, she offers him the plum lead role of Julio – a decision that proves to be a Huge Hit for Metro, making Valentino an Overnight Sensation.

Another Factor to give rise to Valentino’s ‘Exotic’ looks and persona, halfway Around the World in Egypt, though several of the foremost excavators over the past century had declared there was nothing left to find in the Valley of the Kings, Howard Carter and his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, spent a number of years, 31 in all – and a lot of money searching for a tomb they weren’t sure existed. In November 1922, they found it. Carter had discovered not just an unknown ancient Egyptian tomb, but one that had lain nearly undisturbed for over 3,000 years. What lay within astounded the world….The Nearly Unbelievable Solid Gold Treasures revealed in King Tutankhamen’s Tomb.

Sid Grauman's Egyptian Theater ~ The World's First Hollywood premiere, 1922

Suddenly All the World and of course the World of Hollywood was Mad for all Things Art Deco Egyptian. Or Aztec, Mayan, Arabian..Chinese…Anything Exotic. Hollywood Built Shrines to All of Them in form of Huge Exotic Theaters, even naming one The Shrine. All Still Stand in Hollywood Today and are All California Cultural Treasures. Much to his Good Fortune, His Rising Star, Exotic Looks and the Persona of Rudolph Valentino – all just happened to perfectly coincide with This Exotic Moment in Time…He Would Fill Those Theaters One and All, without ever Speaking One Word on Film.

Egyptian, Mayan or Chinese ? Take your pick in '20's Hollywood

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, released in 1921, became a commercial and critical success – being one of the first films to make $1,000,000 at the box office. One of the best selling silent films ever. The film made Valentino a sensation, earning him Instant Fame, merging his emergence perfectly to The World’s Sudden Obsession with Everything Exotic Era of the Roaring 20’s ~

The Origins of Cool ~ Valentino ~ Overnight SuperStar of the Four Horsemen, 1921

Metro continued only paying Valentino $350 a week (when most stars made several thousand a week). Valentino was never wise with business dealings and suffered from similar contract and money  issues his whole life. When he died in 1926, his estate was heavily in debt, something not expected of a star of his stature.

To add to his troubles Metro threw him into a ‘B’ picture, “Uncharted Seas” (now lost), which would foreshadow his artistic and power struggles with studios and movie moguls his entire career. During this period Valentino meets the great Russian actress Alla Nazimova, who is preparing to film an adaptation of “Camille”.

Esteemed Russian Actress Alla Nazimova ~ 1921

Natacha Rambova ~ The 2nd Mrs. Valentino ~1922

Mr. & Ms. Valentino ~ Ole ! The 2 James Abbe Sepia 7x9" Prints shown sell for $3-5000. (each) in today's Art Photography market.

By 1918, Alla Nazimova had signed a contract with Metro and continued to make 11 films for them over the next three years. She was making around $13,000 a week in 1917. Nazimova lived with actor Charles Bryant during this period, although the two never married. It was well-known that Nazimova was bisexual. She apparently had affairs with not only Valentino’s not-quite ‘ex’, but with several of his other lovers of the Day. Lucky Girl, indeed. Her first real artistic triumph came with the filming of “Camille” in 1921 which had sets designed by Natacha Rambova and co-starred Rudolph Valentino. This marked the beginning of the Rambova-Valentino love affair.

Natacha Rambova – was an American silent film costume and set designerartistic director,screenwriterproducer and occasional actress. Ms. Rambova was born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy, in Salt Lake City.  (What a difference a name makes) ! At age 17 Rambova fell for 32 year old Ballet & Opera star Theodore Kosloff . While in England she posed as a governess to Kosloff’s wife and child. Rambova returned to America and began touring with the Kosloff company. In addition to dancing she began costume designing as well. After the tour ended Kosloff had been hired by Cecil B. DeMille to perform as well as contribute designs. Rambova joined him and was dismayed to find herself as part of Kosloff’s “arty harem”. Kosloff had taken several lovers amongst the dancers, who would perform with his company, teach at his studio, and assist him uncredited in his film work. Rambova took to researching historical accuracy for her designs, which Kosloff would then use without giving her credit, stealing her sketches and claiming them as his own.

Rambova soon had enough of Kosloff stealing her Ideas & with him. Being Talented, Smart & Beautiful, who better to latch onto than the Most Available Hollywood Batchelor of the Day? And Voila ~ Mr. & Ms. Valentino were married in Mexico in May, 1922. Only One Problem ~ Mr. Valentino was still married to his former wife Jean Acker ~ No Bueno.

And So the Valentino Saga Shifted into High Gear, with Fame & Modest Fortune, a list of upcoming Films that would make Rudolph Valentino known to the World ~ His Life was about to become increasingly Complex. Ruled by by his Heart more so than his Head ~ On & Off-Screen, Valentino’s own life was like that of one of his Romantic Characters..and so a California Icon he Became. He was 25.

Valentino’s next Film was Camille. Having met Alla Nazimova, who had been at work on the film adaptation, his Rising Star and the astute business sense of June Mathis evolved him into starring opposite Ms.Nazimova. Natacha Rambova was elected as Costume Designer on the film and she possessed a great talent in her role. Pictures of her costumes and the film itself showcased her skills. Valentino began pursuing her and a courtship with Rambova during filming. Initially he makes a poor impression but perhaps his skill at Romance and Growing Fame persuaded her toward him. At any rate they are living together by the close of production on Camille. And the Plot thickens. The former Ms. Valentino, Jean Acker files for divorce.

The Valentino’s, objects of derision in the Press for charges of Bigamy, had been living in Sin within the Romantic Paradise of The Garden of Allah, a Group of Spanish Bungalows built on the grounds of the Palatial Home of none other than Valentino’s co-star, Ms. Nazimova. Paramount Studios had bestowed Nazimova with the home and grounds when the star was at her apex so she might enjoy a glamorous retreat in the burgeoning Hollywood community. A 1959 LA Times article discusses those early years:

To garnish the gift, [Nazimova] built Hollywood’s largest swimming pool—65 x 45 ft.—and had it shaped like the Black Sea of her girlhood. The pool hung like a dewy sapphire around the heart of her garden.

And when she made her garden over, Nazimova was bountiful. In the big revamp, she showered $1.5 million on the place, built 25 unique villas of Spanish design and packed them with the last word in charm and fashion’…

The Garden of Allah ~ Circa 1920

The Garden of Allah was torn down in the late 1950’s, nearly forgotten and having fallen into disrepair, before the days of Hollywood’s Cultural Awareness and Preservation for her Landmarks. It is now a generic shopping center, devoid of any of the Hollywood History, Scandals, Fashionable Parties, Romance, and the ‘Black Sea’ swimming pool for which it was known.

2 excellent articles on this time :



“They Paved Paradise, and put up a Parking Lot”

– Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi” ~ 1970.

Truer Words were Never Spoken.

The Valentino's Home on Wedgewood Place ~ 1922. Torn down to build the Hollywood Freeway

And So ~ although Rudolph was briefly arrested and jailed, the Valentino’s were able to move on from his bigamy charges & scandal to be legally & officially married. And, as all Hollywood SuperStars are Wont to Do, it was time to go House-Hunting…

Rudy and Natacha jointly purchase a home in the fashionable Whitley Heights section of Hollywood at 6770 Wedgewood Place, in December.  Natacha moves in while Rudolph lives in a bungalow nearby until the divorce proceedings are concluded.  They anticipate a Spring Wedding…Rudolph is about to embark on his Next Picture -“Beyond the Rocks“, co-starring one of the Biggest Stars of The Day, Ms. Gloria Swanson. It is a Busy, Rapidly Accelerating Time & A Happy One. However ~ as in the Theatrics True to Every form of Melodrama, from Ancient Rome to Shakespeare to the Modern Day Silver Screen of the Roaring 20’s,  Alas, Forever it is Not to Be…

The Young Nobleman ~ Valentino & Gloria Swanson - "Beyond the Rocks" Filmed on Catalina Island, 1922

And What of Valentino the Man ? For now he had Become truly a A Star ~ Known to Millions, with the means to indulge in The Roaring 20’s Life to its Fullest. He was an avid horseman, not only as his screen persona but in his personal life as well. Hollywood and Los Angeles was almost rural in those days. A ‘Freeway’ was an unknown contrivance, unnecessary for another 20 years. The Red Line streetcars were ‘urban transportation’, automobiles had been on the recently paved streets no more than 10 years. Wealthy and indeed all classes of people were still well-versed in horses and their presence throughout the land. Valentino maintained an increasing stable of horses and loved riding them in the Hollywood Hills. By all accounts he was an excellent rider.

Valentino & 1923 Avions Voisin at his Woodley Place home

A New Wife, Hollywood Home, Fame and the relatively new mode of transportation ~ The Automobile. Valentino had Distinctly European tastes in all. No doubt in todays terms he would have had a garage full of vintage Ferraris and their equal. He was an avid lover of Dogs as well, and from this point on in his personal life, a majority of photographs show him with his beloved dogs by his side. Upon the death of one of his favorites, Kabar, Valentino had the dog interred in his own plot at a Hollywood Cemetery normally reserved for the human species, such was his love for him.

This seems to say a lot about him as a man.

Natacha Rambova ~ Ms. Valentino 1923

Rudolph Valentino went on to become an Even Bigger Star ~ perhaps the biggest star in Hollywood, ever. It’s quite easy to find that to be an arguable point, however I daresay nearly no one reading my story was around to experience his Fame at that time. In researching and writing this entry,

I found just an incredible amount of information and images about him, certainly more so than I have encountered on any other California subject I’ve written about, including 60’s Rock, The Doors, and almost any subject I’ve ever researched online. Images of him and his Film Posters in several languages, Spanish, Dutch, German, French, Arabic. An Incredible Cultural Presence in the 1920’s era of Communication – He certainly was adored by his public. I think not only for his films but also a certain sensitivity to life, and the enjoyment of at all costs, having risen from a mixed life of middle-class, then near poverty to achieve his Glorified position. Having grown up in Southern California and influenced by Grandparents somewhat similar in styles and tastes to Valentino and his wife, it became quite clear to me where, as a young couple, they got their inspiration. And for whatever remains of that, I appreciate having grown up in a place touched by those influences. Valentino, Nazimova and Rambova, along with other Famous People in California of the Day, established a Style & Culture level that influenced Fashion, Architecture and an entire environmental persona in California that, However Lost we have become in a Modern Day World of strip malls, urban crime, media, freeways, ‘impersonal internet sociability’, cellular & digital communication filling the air around us, density and a jaded hurried non-awareness of the Place We Live. Somehow images of how California was, and what remains ~ seem important to seek out. There are many, many places, facts & trivia to detail the remainder of Valentino’s Life, and Death, the Endless Mystique of A World Without Valentino Since. Indeed the majority of his fame began at the point I leave us here in my dialogue ~

What made him so vital in the Hollywoodland Days of his Fame and now, were Visual Images Without Words that are Timeless.

The Courtyard of Falcon Lair ~ The Home Valentino built for Rambova ~ She never set foot there. A most excellent website on Falcon Lair, and of Valentino is http://www.rudolph-valentino.com/

Blood & Sand ~ 1922

Still from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ~1920

Moran of the Lady Letty ~ 1922

Valentino & his Arabian Jadaan ~ Son of the Sheik 1926

Valentino on set with his crew ~ 1925

The Sheik ~ U.S. 1-sheet poster 1923

Valentino's Favorite Bistro, Musso~Franks Grill • On Hollywood Blvd. Since 1919


LA aGo-Go : The Music & Club Scene in L.A. part3 • The Doors Emerge

The Doors ~ Venice Pier 1967

The Doors-early pre-performance rehearsal, Venice Beach 1965

The Doors & The Lizard King ~ 1965

When it comes to this era of The L.A.Club Scene, the Doors undeniably made a bigger mark on that history than any other band, by far. Even as an 8 year-old kid, I knew who they were, early on. They were from L.A, so they got a lot of L.A. Radio time & Press. The Doors were also signifigant as to marking the Emergence of L.A. based record label, Elektra, which later became Elektra-Asylum Records. An L.A. Rock powerhouse, producing records for not only the Doors but gaining considerable prestige on the music scene by being one of the first labels to sign up other leading acts from the new wave of American psychedelic rock of 1966–67. After All, Jim Morrison did write L.A. Woman, and This Story IS all About The L.A. Music Scene in the 60’s.. The Doors should be credited with bringing arguably the Biggest Notoriety to the Burgeoning L.A. Music Scene, especially with regard to the Sunset Strip & Whisky aGo Go. More than any other Band or Musician, The Doors Established L.A. as Rock City on the Map for Good.

Doors- pre-1st performance rehearsal, Venice late 1965

Rick & The Ravens, founded in 1961, was the band Ray Manzarek was in before he joined The Doors. The band recorded three singles on Aura Records before splitting up and reforming as The Doors in early October of 1965.

The band used to perform on weekends for college crowds, mostly from UCLA Film School, at a bar on 2nd Street and Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica,California, called the Turkey Joint West[1], a British pub operated by the Santa Monica Soccer and Social Club[2], since 1974 known as Ye Olde King’s Head[3]. Their setlist consisted of their own originals, padded with standards such as “I’m Your Doctor, I Know What You Need,” “Louie, Louie,” Smokey Robinson‘s “Money” andWillie Dixon‘s “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

During that summer of ’65, Manzarek was living in Venice, south of Santa Monica. By accident, he ran into Jim Morrison. “I had been friendly with Jim at UCLA, and we had talked about rock ‘n’ roll even then. After we graduated, he said he was going to New York. Then, two months later, in July, I met him on the beach of Venice. He said he had been writing some songs, so we sat on the beach and I asked him to sing some of them. He did, and the first thing he tried was ‘Moonlight Drive’. When he sang those first lines…
“Let’s swim to the moon/ let’s climb through the tide/ penetrate the
evening/ that the city sleeps to hide” ….
I said, “That’s it”. I’d never heard lyrics to a rock song like that before. We talked we talked a while before we decided to get a group together and make a million dollars.”

In an interview conducted by Rainer Moddemann, Manzarek stated the first song Jim Morrison performed with Rick & the Ravens was Richard Berry‘s “Louie Louie.” Morrison was not officially part of the band at that time; Manzarek simply invited his former college colleague on stage, much to everyone’s surprise. Morrison was reportedly not prepared for this — his first public performance — and sang himself hoarse[4]. Morrison and Manzarek had met previously and found each other sharing a lot of musical and artistic interests. Later Manzarek asked Morrison to join the band; Morrison accepted.

Rick & The Ravens, Ray Manzarek on guitar, pre-funky organ, 1963

Although Rick & the Ravens do not sound at all like the Doors, they did play their small part in the early career of the Doors. On September 2, 1965 the band entered World Pacific Studios and recorded six songs that would eventually become Doors songs; “Moonlight Drive“, “My Eyes Have Seen You”, “Hello, I Love You“, “Go Insane” (the early title of “A Little Game” from the “Celebration of the Lizard” suite, known simply as “Insane” on the acetate), “End of the Night”, and “Summer’s Almost Gone“. The recording session was a relatively quick affair, only lasting three hours in total[5]. Singer Morrison was reportedly delighted to hear his voice on a record for the first time. The demo was released in its entirety on The Doors’ box set in 1997. The tracks on the box setwere mastered from what was originally Jim Morrison’s acetate–now in the possession of Ray Manzarek–which was one of only 5 made.

After the demo was recorded, the band tried to pass it around. Both Jim and Rick Manzarek were disappointed in the response to the demo — additionally both of the Manzareks, along Sullivan, were not impressed by the new Morrison songs[7] — and subsequently the Manzarek brothers, sans Ray, quit the band, stating they felt the band was “going nowhere fast

At Morrison’s suggestion[10] the band changed its name to The Doors a month after they had recorded the demo, shortly prior to Krieger joining the line-up. The band took their name from the title of a book by Aldous HuxleyThe Doors of Perception, which was in turn borrowed from a line of poetry by the 18th century artist and poet William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed , everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite.”

The 4 rehearsed for four or five months and played at a few private parties, including one given by Krieger’s parents.After practicing daily in a friend’s house behind the Santa Monica greyhound bus depot, The Doors made a humorously premature debut on the stage of UCLA’s Royce Hall, providing “live sound track” to a screening of Manzarek’s design film, “Who And Where I Live”. Krieger played guitar, Manzarek played flute, and Densmore, Morrison, and sundry girlfriends pounded on drums, rattles, claves, and tambourines.

Doors performance Poster - The London Fog, Sunset Strip 1966

The London Fog on the Strip, A banner announces the gig, 1966

A small, funky club called the London Fog located between the Hamburger Hamlet and the Galaxy on Sunset Strip was the first real club date for the Doors. They played for five dollars apiece on weeknights, double on weekends, seven nights a week, four sets per night. Because at the time they didn’t have sufficient original material for such a long gig, over half their set consisted of blues and rock ‘n’ roll classics, such asGloriaLittle Red Rooster and Who Do You Love? Once again, a faithful core of students from the UCLA film school followed them, but on the strip, a cross section of other listeners joined them.



More than anything else, the London Fog job provided them with the opportunity to play together steadily, experiment with their songs, and to develop as a working group. Jim Morrison in particular changed, progressing from a reserved stage style to his present flamboyant manner.

The Doors’ music was ardently defended by a growing segment of the Strip population, but it also just plain scared a lot of people. Eventually they were fired by the London Fog. But on the very last night of their four months at the London Fog, Ronnie Karan, the chic chick who booked talent for the Whisky aGo Go, came in to hear them.

“We were the house band at the London Fog, a pathetic little nightclub just down the street from the Whisky,” Manzarek says today. “The Whisky was mecca for us. That’s where all the big bands played. On our breaks, we’d walk down there and look in the doors and say, ‘We’re the band from down the street,’ and they’d just sort of laugh at us.”

When Ronnie Karan, the booker from the Whisky, finally caught the Doors’ act, she was impressed by Morrison’s primal stage-appeal and offered the group the house-band slot: The Doors would open for the headliners, playing two sets every night. Their very first night at the Whisky, the Doors opened for Them, culminating in both Morrisons (Van and Jim) jamming onstage to “Gloria.” Unfortunately, none of them had telephones (Morrison was then sleeping on the beach) and all they could give me was a number where John ‘sometimes’ could be reached. It took a month to contact them again, but I finally booked them into the Whiskey.” Miss Karan also helped The Doors join the Musicians’ Union, get new clothes, and organize the business side of their lives. Her tenacious insistence upon using them as more or less the Whiskey house-band, despite management objections, was the important break The Doors needed. They played second billing to everybody, including groups such as Love, Them, The Turtles, The Seeds, and the number one band in Mexico, The Loco’s. “The Loco’s were a real low point in our careers,” recalls Manzarek. “they were terrible, the kids hated them, and we were caught in the cross fire.” Exposed to a wide-ranging audience – hardened groupies to Iowa tourists – The Doors began to intensify their musical Gotterdammerung and to experiment daringly. Allegedly, the experiments often took the form of drug trips. “They all arrived stoned and started improvising at random- I  don’t know what it was, but it was great!” according to one friend of the group, Morrison was so consistently high on acid during this period that he could eat sugar cubes like candy without visible effect. But, inexplicably, the music kept getting better.

The Doors onstage at the Whisky

At the time, the Doors had only about fifteen songs. They would throw in some James Brown and Chicago blues covers, but playing two sets a night forced the group to quite literally expand its repertoire, thus shaping the band’s sound. “Repeat and stretch,” says Manzarek. ” ‘Light My Fire’ took off into solos. ‘The End’ became the epic we know now.”

Soon the house band developed a following of its own, and the Whisky became a destination for local counterculture types. Says Manzarek, “There were these guys named Carl and Vito who had a dance troupe of gypsy freaks. They were let in for free, because they were these quintessential hippies, which was great for tourists. God knows if they were even on anything, they were so out of their minds, but they danced like crazy. And they loved ‘The End.’

“There’s a point where Morrison has a section where he can do a little improvisation, and he put his hand out to soften us down,” Manzarek says. “And for the first time, he says, ‘The killer awoke before dawn. He put his boots on.’ And one by one, the dancers all stopped and stared. When he said, ‘Father, I wanna kill you,’ we’d never heard this before, but I thought, ‘I know what’s coming next. Please don’t do it.’ ”

Morrison, of course, did it. When he howled, “Mother, I want to fuck you!” the band, which had been softly accompanying his recitation, kicked into overdrive. As Manzarek recounts, “John [Densmore] whacked on his drums, I pounded on my organ, Robby [Krieger] made his guitar scream like a banshee, and all hell broke loose. The people began dancing madly. Everyone went into a Dionysian frenzy. It was Greek! Oedipus Rex had been exorcised right there on the Sunset Strip.”

The Doors left the stage thinking they’d killed, and they had. They had also offended Tanzini’s sense of propriety. He went backstage, asked Morrison, “How the fuck can you say that about your mother?” and fired the band on the spot. Krieger asked, “Do you want us to play through the weekend, or are we fired tonight?” Tanzini thought for a moment, then said, “Oh, right. You play through Sunday, then you’re fired.”

In the end, things worked out for the Doors. Two days earlier, the band had signed to Elektra Records: The L.A. rock scene would have new standard-bearers to lead the dancing gypsy freaks into the Summer of Love…

LA aGo-Go : The Music & Club Scene in L.A. part2 • The Venues & Roots

Cream ~ Ginger Baker & Eric Clapton, Whisky a Go Go 1967

The Lighthouse ~ Hermosa Beach, early 1960's

L.A. in the 60’s and All That Happened back then Obviously has Power Now like it did Then. Immediate Feedback from those who Remember it..I was just a Little Kid. Listening to the Music. Checking Out The Cars. The Movies. The People. The Girls. All The Crazy Events in the News. JFK. Space-The Astronauts, The Surf Scene. Drag Racing. It was a Powerful Time. It all came out in The Music. My Swinging 60’s Single Dad had a Triumph TR-3 sports car identical to the one above…he was probably in the Lighthouse grooving on the Jazz when this picture was taken for all I know…or maybe he was over in the Valley at Shelley’s Manne Hole, owned by Shelley Manne, of course. My Dad once punched out Jazz pianist Les McCann in one of these clubs, after McCann made a pass at my Mother from onstage. Decked him in the middle of the guy’s gig. My Dad was a Pretty Cool Cat .

Wish I had that Hemi Plymouth 2-Tone Station Wagon parked out front. The Ultimate SUV. Super Cool.Worth about $250. bucks back then. I Saw 50’s & Early 60’s Black Chevys jacked up with Flames down the sides, pinstriped to the max & Corvettes on Used Car lots for like $650.-700 bucks. Brand-New Hobie & Jacobs 8’6″surfboards were around $100. and gas was .23 cents a Gallon to run all those V-8’s. I wanted a Roth Rat Fink shirt so bad but my Dad wouldn’t let me buy one. My Dad had been in England in WWII in the AAF for 4 years fighting the Germans. Big Daddy & all the Chopper guys used to wear these plastic German Nazi helmets around & my Old Man didn’t think that was too cool at all. Can’t say that I blame him. So no Rat Fink shirt for me. They cost $1.50 in the mail-order Big Daddy ads in all the magazines. My allowance was .50 cents a week. I used to draw his style hot rods with the giant Slicks in back and Monster Freaks inside with a giant Blown Chevy Rat Motor in front belching flames & smoke out the back. So Cool..& I never stopped straight through school, college & straight into a Design career pura vida~for Better or Worse. Now I can make my own Roth shirts from digital scans and heat-press ’em on shirts myself. I just made ’em for all the kids around here for Christmas. They dug ’em just like Big Daddy would have wanted. In my 20′ I met him one time when he worked at Knott’s Berry Farm in the Sign Shop. My buddy’s Dad was his boss. Ohmigod. Big Daddy. He pinstriped out the entire old school Knott’s sign shop, top to bottom, inside& out. Wonder if it’s still there, it should be a California State Cultural Landmark. That guy was & is still one of my Heroes. He was a lot Cooler than Tiger Woods or some NFL Football Geek, that’s for Damn Sure.  A Cool Role Model. I was in awe of meeting him.

At the same time my Dad was going to the Lighthouse in Hermosa, Grooving to Chet Baker & Bud Shank West Coast Style, My Big Sister was very likely in the photo below at the same time..on the same night…She must be out there..looks just like Her Crew.

Meanwhile I was the Little Kid at home, shredding the Neighborhood on my Sting Ray, Skateboarding & Playing Baseball, Checking out the Mercury Astronauts and the X-15. But I Caught Up Later.

Orange County Quasi-Surf-Folkies -The Prison of Socrates, Balboa 1963


Go to the beach, Hermosa had the Lighthouse, a world-renowned Jazz Club.There were a lot of Music Sub- Cultures, reflecting on the California Culture..Jazz, Folk.Country/Western. All sub-cults of L.A. Go to the Valley and although the Postwar  50’s had brought housing tract subdivisions, many parts of the Valley still had a distinct rural Country Western Cowboy Vibe. It’s still like that if you look for it. These here folks went to The Palomino on Lankershim Blvd.

A venue that later in our story we will witness the Crossover of Country into Rock. California Rock, they called it.

Palomino Club ~ All C/W All the Time, Before California Rock 1967

'Mr. Record Man' Willie Nelson, pure C/W before the Big Time, Palomino Club.

In the 1940’s & 50’s L.A. had an emerging Jazz Scene that came to be known a West Coast, or ‘Cool Jazz’. The roots of Be-Bop, & West Coast Jazz derive from Swing Music, Country Swing, Country/Western, Black R& B, Blues, JumpN’Jive. The earliest Jazz L.A.Clubs were centered on Central Avenue in L.A., running into what is now Inglewood & Compton… the precursors of Rock.

Back Then Central Avenue was the center of the L.A. Music ‘Hood, Now instead of Bands playing Jazz from the doorways at night, we’ve got the 47 Hoovers & Crips Shootin’ it Up down there. But That is Another Story. Big-name Musicians from all over the U.S. played on Central Avenue. Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington. Be-Bop Greats Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie, and a guy named Louis Jordan, whose Jump N’Jive sound I associate most with The L.A. Central Avenue ‘sound’ These predominantly Black musicians infused Big-Time Jazz on the West Coast…

By the Way, All those punk-ass White kids you see wearing their little Faux Fedoras they got at The Mall & thinking they’re rocking it ?..well, The Brothers were rocking that Look Big Time on Central 60 years ago…

Problemas a Los Cholos ~ East L.A. Mid '50's

West Coast white players like Alto Saxophonist Art Pepper, Baritone great  Gerry Mulligan and Trumpet player/Singer Chet Baker emerged from this  predominantly Black Music Scene and it all blended into West Coast Cool  Jazz ~


L.A. Cool Jazz Greats Chet Baker & Art Pepper, 1950's album cover

This was an altogether entirely Different Scene as to The Rock Scene that was happening at Gazzari’s, The Whiskey a Go Go, The Cheetah, Pandora’s Box, The Prison of Socrates, The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, The Rendezvous Ballroom on the Newport Peninsula, although the True Hipsters, then as today, were moving around & checking out all of these Sub- Scenes…

Los Angeles, with Specialty Records (Little Richard) and Imperial Records (Fats Domino) based in L.A., and records like Chris Kennner’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” making their way on that pipeline to places like East L.A., where Cannnibal & the Headhunters would make it a huge hit :

This Transition from a Black-infused roots music base, filtered through a largely L.A White interpretation, with some exceptions al Latino Estilo East L.A Locales, Set The Stage for The Sunset Blvd. Rock & Psychedelic L.A. 60’s…

Rockin' Out at Gazarri's- '65

The Real Rock Music Scene was Really Happening at the Whisky a Go Go & Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip. A lot of Other Bands & Musicians were in On the Act, but Winds of Change were in the Air, and L.A was About to Experience Something that Would Change The Face of Rock Forever..