5600 Sunset: Fanchon & Marco Studios / 2nd Hollywood Rollerbowl / Stardust Ballroom

The parcel that includes 5600 Sunset Boulevard is located between Wilton Place and St. Andrews Place.

In 1925, a 1-story brick automobile showroom and garage was built at the southwest corner of St. Andrews Place (addressed vatiously as 5600-5606 and 5600-5620 depending on the number of interior partitions). It’s function remained automobile-related through early 1931.

In January 1931 that Fanchon and Marco applied to the city for a permit to turn the auto showroom building into a rehersal studio. Their long-term lease of the building (referred to at that time as the William D. Fyers Building) was made public in February 1931. Once opened, the new space would replace their existing locations at 643 S. Olive Street and 1584 W. Washington.

2/21/1931. LA Evening Express.

Fanchon and Marco were Los Angeles-born siblings Fanchon “Fanny” Wolff Simon and Marco “Mike” Wolf, producers of elaborate theatrical stage shows featuring dancers and other performers. 

On June 29, 1931, they held a lavish party to dedicate the new facility, with Governor Jim Rolph attending, autographed oranges, and the famed F&M Sunkist Beauties dance troupe.

6/25/1931. LA Evening Express.

Ad requruiting Fanchon & Marco dancers at the 5600 Sunset Blvd. studio. 2/23/1932. Pasadena Post.

 

On May 28, 1933 the pair announced that they were now enrolling students for their new school of the dance (later school of the theater) located at 5600 Sunset.

5/28/1933. LAT.

5/28/1933. LAT.

5/29/1933. LAT.

By January 1936 Fanchon & Marco School of the Dance was advertising 3 locations: 5600 Sunset Blvd., 8569 Broadway and 26 E. Colorado St., Pasadena. LAT.

In September 1936, the duo announced that it was combining the Ethel Meglin Studios and the Fanchon School of the Theater at 5600 Sunset Blvd.

9/26/1936

The pair had officially contracted with Ethel Meglin, who taught children dancers, aka Meglin’s Kiddies, in July 1930, authorizing her to teach the Fanchon and Marco system. This would allow FM to concentrate more fully on its theatrical, stage, film and radio enterprises.

Meglin had operated her studios at various locations, most recently at 2203 Venice Boulevard and across the street at 5545 Sunset Boulevard. By 1938 5600 Sunset Boulevard was advertised at the Ethel Meglin Studio, offering the Fanchon and Marco system. Advertisments continued into March 1940, when the property was abruptly advertised for lease.

7/14/1930. LA Record.

5/28/1932

Ethel Meglin Studio “in association with Fanchon & Marco” advertisment from 1/29/1938 counts Shirley Temple, Jane WIthers, Judy Garland, June Lang, Virginia Grey, Maureen O’Conner, and Jackie Moran among its former pupils. Hollywood Citizen-News.

3/14/1940. LAT.

A fire in May 1940 damage 5600 Sunset, but it was repaired. By November 1940, the building was once again used briefly as an automobile showroom.

As Sunset Motors, November 1940.

In September 1947, the building once again taught performers- now for television- when it was leased by American Telecasting Corp, which had operated a radio school next door since 1942. The company operated it’s school here into 1953.

8/16/1947. Hollywood Citizen-News.

5600-5620 Sunset Boulevard was vacant when Sam Schaeffer, as Roller Bowl Amusement Co., acquired it in May 1955 for a reported $350,000. Schaffer planned to open a roller rink here, having previously managed the Hollywood Rollerbowl in the old Warner Brothers Studio at 5842 Sunset Boulevard, from 1950 to 1954. The Police Commission granted Schaeffer a license for the venture on June 1, 1955, but the action was vigorously contested by the Assistance League of California. The group operated boys and girls clubs right behind the building and were convinced the rink would prove to be a juvenile delinquent magnet.

7/12/1955 LAT.

When the issue went to court in July 1955, Schaeffer blurted that he’d paid $50,000 “under the table” to the Police Commission for the license, causing a flap and bringing up allegations of graft. Schaeffer said the remark was just a “slip of the tongue” and there had not, in fact, been any bribery involved. Three public hearings later, Schafter’s license was reinstated over the objection of the Assistance League, only to be pulled again in October 3 while the matter was appealed. It was finally resolved in Schaeffer’s favor and in June 1957, plans for the remodeling work necessary to convert 5600 Sunset into a roller rink were announced along with an anticipated opening date of August 1. Things took longer than expected, however. The rink did finally open by June 1958. Like its predecessor at 5842 Sunset, it was also called Hollywood Roller Bowl. 

The prime corner location was partitioned into a lobby for the rink, and about June 1959, converted into a separate space for rent, addressed as 5600. The Hollwood Roller Bowl was thereafter addressed as 5612.

6/24/1958. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Now addressed as 5600. 6/26/1959

 

In November 1961, Hollywood ballet instructor Kathryn Etienne moved into the corner space at 5600.

2/3/1962.

 

The second Hollywood Roller Bowl operated through November 1972.

Photo of 5600-5612 c. 1973.

 

In December 1975, vocalist Orrin Tucker converted the rink into a nightclub/dance hall, the Stardust Ballroom.

As Stardust Ballroom, 12/12/1975.

The space continued to operate as a ballroom/nightclub into 1995. In August 1995 5600-5612 was demolished and a Home Deptot retail store was built on the site, today occupying the entire parcel between Wilton Place and St. Andrews Place.

5852 Sunset: Warner Brothers Studio/ Roller Bowl/ Sunset Bowl

In February 1919, Niles. California-based F.S. Reed announced that his new company, the Bonnie-Reed Film Manufacturing Company, was relocating to Hollywood and was to begin construction at once on a $3 million studio on a parcel front Sunset Boulevard between Bronson Avenue and Wilton Place, in the Beesemyer Tract. Citizens living in the vicinity lobbied the Public Welfare Committee to protest the inclusion of the property in the “Motion Picture Zone.”

Drawing of the proposed Bonnie Reed studio, 2/29/1919. LAT

In November 1920, the LA Herald reported that Warner Brothers were planning a $25,000 studio. That same month, the company applied to the City for a permit to build a 140’x140′ building at 5842 Sunset. Construction of other buildings followed.

The New York-based brothers Warner- Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack had established a West Coast presence in Hollywood by 1917, producing films out of various rented space at other studios, such as the William Horsley film laboratories at 6050 Sunset Boulevard, the Gordon Street Studio at Sunset and Gordon, and in Culver City.

April 1923, Warners’ Sunset Studio oseted the WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Frollic.

In February 1925, Warners began construction on a new radio broadcasting studio for station KFWB at the Sunset plant. Groundbreaking for two 150-foot transmission towers was held February 11, 1925.

Warner Brothers’ Sunset Studio c. 1925 with its twin 150 ft. radio towers.

5842 Sunset in 1927. LAPL.

In August 1927, Warner Brothers acquired the Vitaphone sound film system and in November 1928, the LA Times reported that Warners was expanding its Sunset studio with soundstages and a central recording plant to cost an estimate $2 million dollars.

Soundstages under construction at Warners’ Sunset 11/18/1928. LAT.

In September 1928, Warner Brothers took control of First National Pictures, which had studios in Burbank. In January 1931, local papers reported that Warner Brothers-First National were completing the first phases of new construction and remodeling at the Burbank plant and were moving the executive offices and writing staff out of the Sunset studio out to Burbank. The original Sunset plant would still be used until 1937, when its remaining film operations were moved out.

Warners retained control of the enormous property, however, and in the fall of 1937 began converting it for use as a sports center. In his November 28 1937, Town Called Hollywood column, LA TImes film critic Philip K. Scheuer lamented that the famous Studio One, where many of the first talking pictures were made, now housed a badminton court.

The facility also included a roller skating rink, the Hollywood Roller Bowl (also spelled Rollerbowl), often addressed as 1452 North Bronson. It was managed by early Hollywood showman Sid Grauman, whose movie theaters like the Million Dollar in downtown Los Angeles and the Egyptian and Chinese theaters in Hollywood had been the scene of lavish premeires and live-on-stage film prologues. Grauman’s plan was to hold occasional live performances and ordinary patrons could perhaps “skate with the stars.” The Roller Bowl’s star-studded grand opening, held on April 6, 1938, featured Tyrone Power and Ann Shirley. Note that despite the word “bowl” in the name, this was only a skating rink; a bowling alley would come later (see below). Music, provided by two organs, could also be heard over KFWB. Grauman continued to manage the Hollywood Roller Bowl until his death on March 5, 1950. Sam Schaeffer, a transplanted Chicago rink operator, took over the lease in December 1950.

Grand opening of the Hollywood Roller Bowl 4/5/1938. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Hollywood Roller Bowl ad, 4/7/1938 LAT.

Roller Bowl event for British War Relief, 3/26/1941.

June 6, 1947 Sid Grauman unveiled a new plastic floor at the Hollywood Rollerbowl. Hollywood Citizen-News.

Warners continued to expand the recreational use of the property and in April 1939 announced the studio’s head art director, Bert Teitelbaum, was designing the world’s largest bowling alley in the block-long 325’x160′ main building. It would include 52 lanes, a cafe and cocktail lounge/bar. The grand opening of the Sunset Bowling Center on May 29, 1939 was likewise attended by celebs, most notably avid bowler Harold Lloyd.

Grand opening of Sunset Bowl at the old Warner Studio, 5842 Sunset Boulevard 5/29/1939.

The Sunset Bowling Center c. 1939

The 52-lane Sunset Bowl interior.

Sunset Bowling Center in the 1940s. LAPL.

The Hollywood Roller Bowl and the Sunset Bowling Center lasted until Spring 1954, when the buildings they were housed in were sold to Paramount’s television station, KTLA. In March 1955, Paramount began razing the older buildings on the back lot, including the famous Studio 1 that had housed the badminton courts and Hollywood Roller Bowl, to build KTLA’s new studio. The classical style building fronting Sunset was not demolished.

Auction for Sunset Bowling Center’s equipment 5/16/1954.

 

Demolishing the old Warners Hollywood studio, 3/20/1955. LAT.

***

Notes

In June 1955, Hollywood Roller Bowl manager Sam Schaeffer applied to the Police Commission for a permit from the Police Commission  to open a new Hollywood Roller Bowl at 5600-5620 Sunset Boulevard. Protests by the Assistance League, which operated boys & girls clubs in the vicinity, held up the process but the building did eventually open as the new Hollywood Roller Bowl and later became Stardust Ballroom. See post on 5600 Sunset.