Passing of the Age of Aquarius

One of the syndications I read on LiveJournal is mark_evanier (which usually has some interesting “old time” TV memories). One of Mark’s recent entries discussed a Los Angeles Times article (which I had also seen) about the pending demolition of four historic Hollywood buildings: the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant, the Hollywood Palladium, the CBS Sunset/Gower Studios, and the Nickelodeon Theatre.

About the Nickelodeon Theatre, the LA Times wrote:

On the preservationists’ watch list is the Nickelodeon building at 6230 Sunset Blvd. It is being acquired by Palo Alto housing developer Essex Property Trust for about $25 million, according to real estate sources with knowledge of the transaction, who asked not to be identified because the deal hasn’t closed. [Observers] expect [Essex] to develop condominiums and shops. The seller is Sunset-Gower Studios, which acquired the building in 1983 and improved it into a modern facility that has been used for filming several television shows in front of live audiences, including “Star Search” and the short-lived “Chevy Chase Show.” […] Children’s entertainment broadcaster Nickelodeon confirmed that it must leave when its 10-year lease expires in April to clear the way for new construction. Spokeswoman Marianne Romano said Nickelodeon shot there frequently, recording such series as “Kenan & Kel” and “The Amanda Show.”

This doesn’t say much about the history of the building, by Mark’s article provide the clue:

The Nickelodeon Theater is probably even less practical. Just in my lifetime, that building has been a half dozen things, passed from owner to owner like a Christmas fruit cake. I remember when the one-time Earl Carroll Theater was all painted up in psychedelic decor and renamed the Aquarius to house the Los Angeles company of the rock musical, Hair.

Now, I never saw Hair in this building, but I did see Ain’t Misbehavin’ there. I’m also aware of the building’s long history as the Earl Carroll Theatre. It was built in 1938, and as Carroll had done in New York, over the doors of the entrance he had emblazoned the words “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.” It was a glamorous supper club-theatre with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling. It later became a nightclub under the name, the “Moulin Rouge,” and then the “Hullabaloo” Rock and Roll club, capitalizing on the popularity of the television variety show Hullabaloo. In the late 1960’s it became the “Aquarius Theatre” and was home for the Los Angeles tribe. As the Aquarius, it was made famous as the place where Jim Morrison and The Doors performed on July 21, 1969. Around 1978, it was the home to the touring production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ (which is where I got to see the incomparable combination of Ken Ross, Andre de Shields, Nell Carter, Armelia McQueen, and Charlayne Woodard). In 1983, the Pick-Vanoff Company purchased the property and converted it into a state-of-the art television theater used for “Star Search.” It later became the Chevy Chase Theatre and the Nickelodeon Theater.

In short, this is a building with history. I wish it was still a viable live-theatre performance venue, but that’s not in the cards. It looks like it is no longer a viable production venue either. They might do adaptive reuse, but I don’t believe the facade is the history.

History progresses. Just as most of 1950’s vegas exists now only in memories and books, so will (soon) the Earl Carroll/Aquarius Theatre. That’s life. I did want to share the memory, though…