Located at the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and El Centro Avenue, the Hollywood Palladium ballroom and restaurant opened on October 31, 1940.
The narrow parcel, bounded by Argyle Avenue, El Centro Avenue, Sunset Boulevard and Selma Avenue, had been the back lot for Famous Players-Lasky studios, whose films were released through the Paramount Pictures Corp. (Famous Players-Lasky also owned the parcel next door between Vine and Argyle where its main studio buildings and offices were located). In 1926 Paramount-Famous-Lasky moved to new quarters at 5451 Marathon St. Paramount still maintained a film storage building at the northwest corner of Selma and Argyle (1546 Argyle) but otherwise the Sunset property was more or less vacant.
In 1937 Paramount transferred the lot, except for the northwest corner at Selma and Argyle, to the Times-Mirror Company, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times.
In 1938, Times-Mirror built a parking lot on the parcel from 6201-6235 Sunset, which was probably a great little money-maker considering it was between the new CBS radio studio and NBC’s new home, with Earl Carroll’s dinner theater across the street, all of which opened that year. But the owners, including LA Times’ general manager and president Norman Chandler, had bigger ideas for the property.
The Times announced on May 12, 1940 that Southern California Enterprises, Inc. was planning a new ballroom/restaurant building on the site, to be designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, who two years earlier had designed the Earl Carroll Theater at 6230 Sunset. It would have dining for 600 persons, a dance floor for 3000, 3 cocktail lounges, a non-alcoholic beverage bar, the Emerald Room. In addition, there would be 15 retail shops and parking behind the building for 1000 cars (So, assume half the couples coming to dance were bringing their mother-in-law or dateless friend). The interior features would be ultra-modernistic in design under the direction of Frank Don Riha, most notably a “stardust” ceiling “encircled by approximately 1000 lineal feet of plastic fabrication.” Riha had also done the extensive neon work for Earl Carroll’s theater two years earlier.
The ground-breaking, which included the usual laundry-list of celebrity guests, took place June 10, 1940 and the Palladium was ready for its grand opening on Halloween night, 1940. The opening act was the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.
Tommy Dorsey, with his vocalists Connie Haines, Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, was in Hollywood broadcasting his new amateur songwriting contest radio show, Fame and Fortune, which had debuted on NBC October 17. He was also filming Las Vegas Nights at Paramount. After the opening night, he continued to perform several nights a week at the Palladium through December 11. The broadcasts could be heard locally over KFI or KECA.
Listen to Tommy Dorsey’s broadcast from the Hollywood Palladium, November 26, 1940:
In March 1961, bandleader Lawrence Welk announced that he would move his “Champagne Music Makers” from the Aragon Ballroom on Lick Pier in Ocean Park (the band’s home for the past 10 years) to the Hollywood Palladium for a “lifetime” engagement on Friday and Saturday nights, 52 weeks a years.
In anticipation, the Palladium underwent a $400,000 remodeling, inside and out, by architects from Heath and Co.
Welk began his new Palladium run on July 21, 1961. A giant cutout of Welk loomed over Sunset Boulevard. A bubble machine pumped bubbles out over boulevard traffic. His Saturday night show aired nationally on ABC (KABC-TV Channel 7) live from the Palladium (though the opening night show on July 22 was recorded in advance). Welk’s Friday and Saturday night performances could also be heard over radio station KFI.
ABC cancelled Welk in 1971. The Hollywood Palladium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.