A BIG SQUARE BOX OF MEMORIES
Music memories. The best kind, in my book. Conjured up by an LP-sized box (12 x 12) of matchbooks, from so many nights out reveling in live music.
A novel idea I’ve had for a long time, is a fiction set in the epic era of legendary music clubs in LA in the 1980s. I outlined it, started it, and had a friend in the movie biz guide me toward creating the script from the book. But it stalled as he advised me, too much backstory, better write the script first. I always saw Mick Jagger as the second lead, the really interesting mystical character, but I guess I’d better hurry up and make that happen. He’s 77. But still moving pretty good. He has a ballerina girlfriend he hooked up with six years ago when she was about one-third his age, so that should keep his batteries charged a while longer. His character needs wrinkles, anyway.
I always thought my memory jogger for a book could be some old issues of the LA Weekly I have around, with ads and listings every week for dang near every club in town. I handled all the club advertising there from ‘81 through ‘84. Great gig/horrible gig. But these matchbooks could be the spark too. After all, they were there, those nights. They have mojo.
I’m not too concerned about whether a book gets written or not. But these NOTEWORTHY columns, 155 of them so far, have bits and pieces and you could probably assemble a book from them. (Oh thanks Dad, says daughter Nicole, not what I had planned for my retirement.)
In the meantime, today, and maybe again in the future, I will paw through those matchbooks and note the music memories they dredge up for me. Certainly, a lot of you, of a certain age, spent time in these places too, and maybe this will bring a smile of your own memory making. But keep the illegal and immoral stuff close to the vest, hm? I don’t want your book to outsell mine.
FILTHY MCNASTY’S – CENTRAL – VIPER ROOM
Like the Club Lingerie I wrote about last time, this would take its own book. In the heart of the Sunset Strip, this legendary location has a music history from the 1940s through today, but it is set for demolition. And “reconstruction” — yeah, forget that. You think all the ghosts will wait around? Stupid developers are building new hotels to capitalize on the reputation, but they are sweeping aside places like this and the House of Blues that created that reputation and history. So, I guess, people will come from all over the world to grab a guidebook that informs them, “This was where the world-famous House of Blues hosted amazing live concerts, and down the street is where the Viper Room was packed with Hollywood celebrities…”
I never saw many celebs at any of the three incarnations, but I was there for music, not autographs. There were certainly a few noteworthy shows, but it was not my favorite music hang. I just learned that larger (and filthier)-than-life owner McNasty (his legal name, after leaving native Berlin for Hollywood) died in 2016. The piece I read was highly respectful and praiseworthy — and highly inaccurate. Filthy certainly was known for some very kind moments, but I’ll never forget the one time he came into the LA Weekly office to place his ad himself (usually his normal girlfriend did it) and people literally backed away as he marched through. Very strong bad vibrations.”WHO was THAT?!” I was asked. “Just one of my clients,” I replied. “Now you see why I get the big bucks.”
He and brother Wolfgang took over the Melody Lounge, a hangout where Bugsy Siegel and Micky Cohen and other gangsters were said to have gambled. He gave it his distinctive name, did a smart thing by banning all photographers, and soon had celebs like Little Richard, Evil Knievel, Mick, John Belushi, John Wayne and Elvis hanging out (Filthy and the King shared the same birthday). McNasty sold the club sometime in the ‘80s, as it was making money hand over fist, but the story was he was forced out by mobsters. It became the Central, which I liked a lot more, and they had a Monday night jam that was rightfully legendary. Pretty much every English rocker you could name got up on that stage. One night I saw Belushi sit in on drums, but it was sad because he was so wasted he couldn’t play, and actually fell off his seat.
KIT KAT CLUB
A strip club, but Hollywood hip. Always full of rockers, and then somebody smart decided to mix bands into the regular show, and for a while it was THE place to be. Good fun, and some really good music.
Tucked away where Crescent Heights curves southwest into Santa Monica Blvd., this second-level legendary rock club was a musicians’ hang. I only went a couple of times, but once was when the Knack were at the top of their crazy if short-lived popularity. “My Sharona” was on the radio 10x/hour. That show was pretty cool.
Was any club ever hotter than the Roxbury at its peak? How many had movies made about them? So hard to get in. I wasn’t into “discos” but lots of high rollers were, and I did take clients there (kind of reluctantly) through my VIP music-night-on-the-town tour company LA NightHawks. I don’t think I ever went inside myself. Could have. Wasn’t interested.
From two weeks ago: The piano at Simply Blues was against one wall, not in the middle of the room with tables circling it.
I don’t know where I saw an address for Mark’s jazz club where we saw Nina Simone perform and shared a drink with her afterwards, but it was not on north La Cienega, and my memory was accurate when I said it was around Echo Park: 3938 Sunset, where it angles down and runs into Santa Monica Blvd.
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Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com