April 14-15, 1967 The Kaleidoscope, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Canned Heat Blues Band
Diehl's review of Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Canned Heat at
the Embassy Ballroom in Los Angeles, on April 14, 1967 (full text in
Appendix 1 below)|
|The empty Embassy Ballroom, in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles|
There was a club called The Magic Mushroom out in Studio City, (formerly the Cinnamon Cinder) too small to make any money, and a place called The Blue Law in Torrance (which evolved into The Bank), which was backed by an enterprising dentist and never really viable. If there had been a downtown Los Angeles Fillmore, where bands could actually make a buck playing live, the locus of 60s music might have shifted south from SF to LA.
|The Kaleidoscope Theater at 6230 Sunset Boulevard, ca. 1968 (formerly the Earl Carroll Theater, then The Hullabaloo, and later The Aquarius)|
- Taylor and Hartmann continued to work on the Kaleidoscope concept, eventually taking over the Earl Carroll Theater at 6230 Sunset (I have written about that venue at length). The building has a remarkable history in its own right, like a metaphor for Hollywood, and of course Alison Martino and VintageLA have the complete breakdown.
- The Kaleidoscope, on Sunset, opened in Summer '68. It was inspired, but a year late. Canned Heat were influential, and sold a lot of records, but thanks to bad luck (and an unfortunate trip to Denver) never made the money they deserved. One of their road crew, Phil Hartmann—the younger brother of their manager--is now widely beloved for his entertainment career, and rightly so.
- The Ambassador Hotel, central to the Los Angeles entertainment ecology, is now recalled as the site of Bobby Kennedy's tragic assassination on June 5, 1968. The hotel was sold in 1971, and closed to guests for safety reasons in 1989. The site was demolished in 2004. So it goes.
Kaleidoscope Opens at Embassy Room by Digby Diehl (Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1967)
As the shaggy-haired boy in a checkered mod suit and his equally hirsute miniskirted companion approached the entrance to the Ambassador last weekend, you could almost imagine the doorman saying, 'Excuse me, I think you're in the wrong place." But he didn't.
The couple continued into the hotel lobby, mixing with the expensively attired guests from the the Cocoanut Grove, strolled under the elegant chandeliers and and turned in at the ornate doorway of the Embassy Room. There, amidst a whirl of colored spots, strobe light, far-out films and floor shaking rock bands, 1,300 other teeny-hippies gyrated joyously in the celebration of International Kaleidoscope's opening.
More than just a stipples victory in social integration, the Kaleidoscope's presence in the Embassy Room foiled an injunction against the club's intended residence at 1228 Vine St. by the building owner, National General Corp. A supoena served last Thursday before the announced opening, prevented all persons from entering Los Angeles' second psychedelic ballroom.
By setting up the psychedelia in the Ambassador, Kaleidoscope managers Skip Taylor, John Hartmann, Gary Essert and Walter Williams were able to provide a sample of the latest in the art of the freak-out dancehall.
The Ambassador's new Banana Grove, as some dubbed the room, featured the electronic vibrations of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and the Canned Heat Blues Band. All three rock groups were happily received.
Particularly effective was Airplane leader Marty Balin's version of "This Is My Life," which seemed to voice a popular existential stance in the audience. Pigpen, of the Grareful Dead, who looks like Jerry Colonna in drag, was a vocal success with his modern interpretation of screaming' blues.
In, Out of Focus
Inventive use of the baroque Embassy Room's crystal lighting fixtures and mirrored walls was made by lighting director Bill Kerby. In back of the bandstand, a series of multi-color pattern backgrounds flashed in and out of the focus while the silhouette of a girl dancing was superimposed over the projection.
On the sides of the room, film clips of the love-ins, psychedelic body paintings, Gov. Reagan's speeches and sundry other materials were bounced off mirrors, and mixed in bizarre juxtaposition with pattern slides. Phosphorescent and stroboscopic lights played over the bobbing heads on the dance floor.
Representatives of the Ambassador claimed to be satisfied with the behavior of the clientele. Kaleidoscope owners are considering continued use of the Embassy Room as a "total environment" until the use of the Vine St. location is resolved.
March 20, 1967 Fugazi Hall, San Francisco, CA: Warner Brothers Record Release Party for The Grateful Dead Debut Album
In Antonioni's Blow-Up there's a wonderful moment in a rock club scene when guitarist Jeff Beck first belts the amplifier and then wrecks his guitar at the frustration at the problems of electronics.
Monday night's part [sic] for the Grateful Dead was aborted when the power failed and the set was chopped short. So everything you see in the movies isn't fantasy.Whatever the cultural dynamics of the 1967 Grateful Dead playing in a tiny hall for a weird mixture of record company promotional staff and a few lucky hippies might have been, it seems to have been cut short.
Formerly located at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, between Catalina Street and Mariposa Avenue in present-day Koreatown, the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles was built as part of the Ambassador Hotels System. At the time the hotel opened in January 1921, the chain consisted of the Ambassador Los Angeles, the Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles, the Ambassador Santa Barbara, the Ambassador Atlantic City and the Ambassador New York. The Santa Barbara property burned down soon after on April 13, 1921, and the Alexandria left the chain in 1925, while the Ambassador Palm Beach joined in 1929. The Schine Family owned the Ambassador from its opening in 1921 until 1971; it was set back from Wilshire Boulevard on 24 acres, which included the main hotel, a garage and several detached bungalows.
The Ambassador Hotel was frequented by celebrities, some of whom, such as Pola Negri, resided there. From 1930 to 1943, six Academy Awards ceremonies were hosted at the hotel. Perhaps as many as seven U.S. presidents stayed at the Ambassador, from Hoover to Nixon, along with chiefs of state from around the world. For decades, the hotel's famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub hosted well-known entertainers, such as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Liza Minnelli, Martin and Lewis, The Supremes, Merv Griffin, Dorothy Dandridge, Vikki Carr, Evelyn Knight, Vivian Vance, Dick Haymes, Sergio Franchi, Perry Como, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sammy Davis Jr., Little Richard, Liberace, Natalie Cole, Richard Pryor and Shirley Bassey.