6215 Sunset: Hollywood Palladium

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.

Famous Players-Lasky c. 1919. LAPL

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.

 

10/31/1937 LAT.

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.

5/12/1940. LAT.

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.

Sketch of the new Hollywood Palladium. 5.12.1940. LAT.

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.

Opening night of the Hollywood Palladium with Tommy Dorsey, 10/31/40. LAPL

10/31/1940. LAT

The ultra-modernistic interior. LAPL.

The ceremonial ribbon-cutting was performed by Tommy Dorsey and Dorothy Lamour. LAPL.

Tommy Dorsey and Dorothy Lamour perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

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:

 

Gene Krupa made his Hollywood Palladium debut in September 1941.

 

Gene Krupa opens at the Palladium 9/12/1941. LAT.

 

Tommy Dorsey, the Palladium’s first act, made a return engagement in December 1941. The USA was now at war.

Woody Herman appeared at the Palladium in May-June 1943. The venue was authorized to sell War Bonds. 6/16/1943. LAT

 

Looking east on Sunset Boulevard during an engagement of Jimmy Dorsey- little brother of Tommy- who appeared at the Hollywood Palladium at least three times: October 1941, August 1943, and June 1944. LAPL.

 

View of the Palladium from El Centro Avenue showing the large corner storefront. In January 1941 it became a flight terminal for TWA, addressed as 6201 Sunset. Passengers from Hollywood or Beverly Hills could obtain tickets and weigh their baggage here, eliminating the need to check in at the airport. Limousine service was also provided. LAPL.

Freddy Martin c. 1950.

Freddy Martin’s Orchestra appeared in a televised Hollywood Palladium show on January 18, 1950, broadcast over KTTV Channel 11. LAT.

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.

3/11/1961. Long Beach Independent.

In anticipation, the Palladium underwent a $400,000 remodeling, inside and out, by architects from Heath and Co.

The remodeled facade, ready for Lawrence Welk, 1961.

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.

7/21/1961. The Valley Times.

ABC cancelled Welk in 1971. The Hollywood Palladium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

 

 

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