The Paradise Ballroom
It all began innocently enough at a wedding on Santa Monica beach. It was sunrise on February 5, 1972. The bride, due in April or May, and the groom had flown to Los Angeles from New York to tie the knot before the moon left Libra. It was during this celebration that I met Cary Lippman.
Cary had just moved to L.A. along with Electric Circus nightclub guru Jerry Brandt. They were about to build the hottest nightspot in town, and it was rumored that Hugh Hefner's neighbor, Bernie Cornfeld, the international financier who sold investments in mutual funds was Brandt's primary backer. There was no shortage of intrigue and scandal swirling around the Paradise Ballroom.
The real question was What would it take to make an L.A. nightclub successful? Unlike New York people didn't hang out at clubs. Hippies, musicians, artists and Hollywood hipsters frequented the Whiskey, the Troubadour, and the Roxy to hear music, network and drink.
If you wanted to go to a club in Manhattan you could walk, jump on the subway or grab a cab. In L.A. you had to have wheels. Everything was spread out and the public transit system was everyone's last resort.
With these distinctions in mind Jerry Brandt envisioned hordes of revelers driving to West Hollywood every night to dance, hook up and let off steam. His Build it and they will come enthusiasm was infectious. There was going to be original Day-Glow art, hallucinogenic lighting, and the bands that played the Electric Circus - the Grateful Dead, The Chambers Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, etc. - would play the Paradise Ballroom.
There was only one minor problem - the neighborhood. The dilapidated shopping venue Jerry had chosen was smack in the middle of a quiet residential community. He knew he had to put something on the table before the club opened - something that would appease the neighbors. How about a children's theater?
That was how it started. Cary Lippman asked my friends and I if we would like to create an original children's theater production. We jumped at the chance. After all, I'd majored in theater, and this would give me an opportunity to put that expensive education to good use. My friends had been living in Ojai, about an hour and a half north of L.A. They considered the pros and cons, and based on Jerry Brandt's success in New York and what felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, they took their children out of school and relocated to Santa Monica. With our creative wings outstretched we negotiated a deal and started our ascent towards the sun.