Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Boss!

Ciro's, the last great Hollywood nightspot, hobbled along into the 60s (after reopening with new management in 1957). In 1964, Ciro's Nightclub (The Comedy Store today), former haunt of celebrities and Bugsy Siegel, became Ciro's Le Disc, the only club on the Strip to maintain its heyday name in a new, less glamorous era. When that incarnation failed, despite hiring The Byrd's as the house band, and after losing its liquor license, Ciro's Le Disc became It's Boss, the "Only Night Club Where You Can Dance at 15 Years of Age!"

"Boss" was the precursor to "Groovy," and a key term in teen vernacular. In Los Angeles the big AM radio station was clear channel 93KHJ. Their top song listing was called the KHJ Boss 30 and each week the station would distribute a wallet sized survey through record stores and head shops (see post from 11-3-14). With that familiarity and the element of cool, It's Boss was one of the hippest clubs in town. One would think that the lack of alcohol sales would diminish profits, but the new teenager had deep pockets and wasn't adverse to spending two bucks on a little green bottle of Coke. Didn't hurt that the Byrds as the house band helped to solidify a brand new Strip ideology.

Before the Byrds played Ciro's in '65, the pop music scene in L.A. was predominantly old-school, with crooners and artists like Trini Lopez or Bobby Vinton. It was the twilight of an era that dwindled in nightspots like PJ's (The Starwood) and Sneaky Pete's (just down from the Whiskey). The big draw on the Strip was Pat Collins, the "Hip Hypnotist," or the topless bars; gone were the days of starlets and mobsters. And then, January 16, 1964, along came Elmer Valentine's Whisky A Go-Go, where the concept of "go-go girls" was born at a Johnny Rivers show. The mini-skirted lass (Rhonda Lane) who spun records in a cage high above the floor began dancing and the crowd figured that she was part of the show. 

While The Byrds became the house band of Ciro's and It's Boss, within a year the Whisky had The Doors. The Whisky quickly became so iconic that in 1967, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is seen exiting the club in Mike Nichol's The Graduate. Unlike other clubs on the Strip, from The Trip to London Fog, the Whisky has remained one of the world's most famous rock showcases, ushering in each new era, from glam to Punk, with bands like The Tubes, Souixsie and the Banshees and PIL. 

The new folk scene set up shop at Doug Weston's Troubadour (still at it), The Ash Grove on Melrose (now the Improv) and the Unicorn between the Whisky and Sneaky Pete's; Jazz migrated to the Valley, but the Whisky was the centerpiece for west coast rock and led the charge away from Yesterwood burlesque clubs and hauty big band venues. Rock 'n' Roll had found a community. In 1967 the Sunset Strip club scene had burgeoned outward with no less than a baker's dozen rock clubs within a one mile radius: The Whiskey, Pandora's Box, The Sea Witch, The Galaxy, London Fog, It's Boss, Doug Weston's Troubadour, The Unicorn, The Experience, Gazzarri's, Cosmo Alley, Brave New World and The Trip; not to mention The Playboy Club (which hosted bands like Steppenwolf, the Grateful Dead and Deep Purple) or theatre venues like The Action! or Hullabaloo (formerly the Earl Carroll Theater and the Aquarius). No city in the world, not New York or London, could match the Strip scene.