City: Los Angeles
Neighborhood: Mac Arthur Park Area
Address: 715 South Park View
Closed doors in: 1985
Famous for: Featured in the documentary Breakin’
- Radiotron opened up a chapter in L.A. hip-hop history when it came out from a nightclub titled Radioclub, where Ice T served as the MC. While it wasn’t a music venue per se, it was a safe haven for youth, as it fused all the aspects of hip-hop culture under one roof: DJing, MCing, tagging, and breaking. Many performers at Radiotron served as the pioneers of West coast rap including the Radio Crew featuring Ice T, Chris “The Glove,” Egyptian Lover, and Henry G. The film Breakin’ was filmed here, and the club’s closure in 1984 inspired the film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
8117 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood (map)
The rambling purple house at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights never felt quite like a proper rock club. The layout was too cramped and funky; for any band larger than a trio, the stage felt like a postage stamp. But it was precisely that ramshackle quality that, for nearly two decades and especially throughout the ’90s, made the Coconut Teaszer such an appealing alternative to its more famous, touristy neighbors further down the Strip.
Hollywood Athletic Club
6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood (map)
Since its construction in the 1920s, the Hollywood Athletic Club has had many guises: awards hall, record company, recording studio, billiards club, restaurant. Nearing its centennial, the incredibly unique, labyrinthlike space is arguably best remembered for its run as the venue for Frequency.
Scream at Park Plaza
607 S. Park View St., Westlake/MacArthur Park (map)
Scream had several incarnations at different locations, but the most iconic version of the 1980s hard-rock oasis was when the club was housed in the elegant Park Plaza Hotel, which rose like a marbled art-deco phoenix above the squalor of its then-perilous and crime-ridden neighbor, MacArthur Park. such crucial underground and metal performers as Ministry, Jane’s Addiction, X and Iggy Pop in the contrastingly lavish setting.
6160 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (map)
Located beneath the Hastings Hotel (now a parking lot), Raji’s was a marvelous, grimy, ramshackle hang — essentially a large beer bar with a subterranean stage. The staff were great, shady proprietor Dobbs was a local legend, and during its 1985-to-1990 heyday, the bands were always nutsy good — Top Jimmy, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nirvana, Arthur Lee and Love, Redd Kross, The Hangmen, Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Rik L Rik, Vidiots, Little Kings. It was always a fun, relaxed, dysfunctional family atmosphere, but it could also get really weird, even downright ugly when The Mentors or Tex & the Horseheads were having a bad night. For a brief time, everybody in town hung out in that glorious hellhole, and after hours, Dobbs (God rest his soul) was always good for an illegal 12-pack and some crappy Mexican dirtweed.
303 S. Hewitt St., Downtown Arts District (map)
Al’s Bar was one of the earliest victims of downtown L.A.’s gentrification when the longtime Arts District fixture closed in 2001, as a new corporate owner began to renovate the old, brick-walled American Hotel, which housed the bar on its ground floor. After the former trucker bar began hosting live performances in the late 1970s — attracting a bizarre mix of punks, art-school students, intellectuals, poets, Bukowskian barflies and stragglers from nearby Skid Row — Al’s became one of L.A.’s hottest clubs, both literally and figuratively; the graffiti- and art-encrusted dive bar never had air conditioning, and the bookers preferred adventurous, arty experimentalists in favor of pop and metal careerists. The Replacements, Christian Death, L7, Girl George, Beck, Popdefect, Betty Blowtorch, The Flesh Eaters and Imperial Butt Wizards were among the hundreds of disparate musicians who crowded the bar’s tiny stage.
949 Sun Mun Way, Chinatown (map)
For a brief but crucial period in L.A. music history, from 1978 to 1985, a Polynesian-themed Chinese restaurant doubled as one of the hottest rock clubs in town, playing host to a who’s who of punk, new wave and power-pop bands: X, The Go-Go’s, The Motels, Oingo Boingo, The Knack, The Police. Even the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup played a sparsely attended gig there on July 4, 1985, shortly before then–69-year-old owner Esther Wong shut the place down, complaining of high rent and “spoiled brat” bands and clientele covering the venue in graffiti. (A less celebrated satellite venue in Santa Monica, Madame Wong’s West, lasted until 1991.) Upon Wong’s death in 2005, the Los Angeles Times hailed her as L.A.’s “godmother of punk,” which isn’t quite accurate — although Madame Wong’s did book many punk and hardcore acts, especially in its early days, the owner’s own taste ran toward power-pop and Paisley Underground bands such as The Plimsouls and The Three O’Clock. But though Wong herself could be a polarizing figure (and remains so to this day), without her Chinatown club, L.A.’s early-’80s music scene would have been a whole lot less interesting.
1655 N. Cherokee Ave., Hollywood (map)
There were no places for bands in L.A.’s new punk scene to play in the late 1970s, so Scottish immigrant Brendan Mullen began putting on shows in August 1977 in a run-down, bare-bones basement underneath the Pussycat Theater, which was reached through an alley entrance just off Cherokee Avenue. The graffiti-slathered room was the equivalent of Manhattan’s CBGB, and numerous crucial early punk performers grew up in public there, including The Weirdos, The Controllers, The Eyes, The Bags, X, The Germs, F-Word, The Skulls and The Avengers. The basement also was used as a rehearsal room by various groups before the ubiquitous fire marshals shut down the Masque in 1978. For decades, the room was shuttered intact like a punk-rock time capsule before it was finally renovated. The alley entrance remains there today.
6907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood (map)
The fabled mother church of L.A. country music (now Le Monge Banquet Hall) was opened in 1949 by acclaimed Western swing bandleader Hank Penny and quickly became a world-famous hot spot that featured every major midcentury country star. The site of more insane drunk George Jones and stoned Waylon Jennings shenanigans than any mere mortal could imagine, the Pal had an indefinable appeal — the artists themselves, for no good reason, held it in almost mystic regard. It was, at best, a modest honky-tonk, with a tiny stage, low ceiling and walls lined with fluorescent, hand-painted placards announcing coming attractions (Cliffie Stone once joked, “The staples are the only thing holding the place together”). Long after the Nashville cats forsook it, Jerry Lee Lewis still came through at least once a year, and when he did, it was honky-tonk paradise all over again. The music finally ended in 1995.
8151 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (map)
In the mid-1970s, there were few live music clubs in Hollywood apart from the Troubadour and the Whisky a Go-Go, and even those venues booked a lot of cover bands. But the Starwood soon became home base for musicians from the parallel heavy metal and punk-rock scenes. Such hard-rock groups as Van Halen, The Runaways, Quiet Riot, Cheap Trick, Ratt and, later on, Mötley Crüe began mixing original songs into their sets of classic-rock and glam-rock covers. Before long, numerous punk and new-wave bands, including The Damned, Blondie, Devo, The Alley Cats, The Gun Club, X and The Go-Go’s took over the large room. Just four days before his infamous rock & roll suicide in 1980, Darby Crash played his final show with The Germs there, when he memorably cried, “Dump the whole balcony!” in reference to the hipsters and record-industry execs who hung out on the club’s second level. In 1981, club owner and underworld figure Eddie Nash was forced to close the wildly unsupervised Starwood under pressure from L.A. County’s sheriffs and fire department. Today, it’s a nondescript mini-mall with a Russian deli and restaurant.
Rumored to be an uber-exclusive speakeasy lounge opened by a dude allegedly named “Freddy Frolic”, this dive bar officially opened to the public in ’34. A Charles Bukowski favorite and possibly the last stop for the ill-fated Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia), the art deco neon and vested bartenders continue to welcome fans of small dark dives, cheap pours, and strange murals that feature caricatured celebrities.