Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Aquarius Theater

Photo courtesy of Richard Wojcik

Above is the "Aquarius Theater" in 1970. It was painted psychedelic for the opening of "Hair" in 1968. But before it was the Aquarius it was many different incarnations. Below was its first manifestation, The Earl Carroll Theater.

Earl Carroll's 1939 Postcard

The Moulin Rouge 1961


In 1938 the Earl Carroll Theatre supper club opened on the Sunset Strip. A wall of movie star signatures and a large neon likeness of entertainer Beryl Wallace faced Sunset Boulevard, in what was then a hopping part of nighttime Hollywood near the Palladium and the NBC radio studios. The nightclub later became (loosely in order) the Moulin Rouge. In 1966 ,  Phil Spector filmed, "The Big TNT Show", when the IN crowd turned out to see the IN show. " Ray Charles", "Bo Diddley", "The Byrds", "Joan Baez" and "Ike and Tina Turner" were among the acts, while "Frank Zappa" was spotted in the audience. The Club changed owners again in 1966 and was renamed the "The Hullabaloo Club".   In 1967 the classic building got a psychedelic paint job and became"Aquarius Theater," where The Doors once performed. "Star Search" also made its home here in the 80's. "Nickelodeon" signed a lease in 1997 and still remains.);


Dreams of Laurel Canyon

"The Turtles" in front of the Hullabaloo from the book, "Dreams of Laurel Canyon"

On a walk one day while researching the building, I actually discovered this old sign on the north side of the structure behind a few trees!! I'm astonished that it survived ALL these years!!!


  1. I remember when the Aquarius Theater got its psychedelic paint job for the LA run of "Hair," after having been home to the TV show "Queen For A Day." Somebody told me when I was a kid that the neon woman on the front of the building was the "queen" and all the little plaques with names on them were the winners of the show...which is, of course, completely wrong. Thanks for the link to the video about the curfew protests on the Sunset Strip. There's a passing glimpse in it of a restaurant called The Gaiety, which had a kind of New York theater motif with the masks of comedy and tragedy above the name. I never thought I'd see that again.

    I'm still hoping to stumble across a photo of a dive bar called The Bat Cave that was either on Sunset or Hollywood Blvd. near Western in the 60s. It had the Batman logo from the comic book painted above the door and the enticing word "TOPLESS!" underneath it. Unfortunately, it's not a famous landmark...except in my own mind.

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  2. Thanks Phil. I had no idea HAIR played at the Aquarius. That explains that crazy paint job in the photo above. Hope you find that photo of the Bat Cave. Sounds very cool!

  3. This is a fantastic blog. I love the amazing photos, and the histories of each building. Great work.

    One more detail to the story of 62030 Sunset: after The Hullabaloo, it became the Kaleidoscope. It was run by Canned Heat's booking agent and manager (John Hartmann and Skip Taylor), and Canned Heat was sort of the "house band." The first shows in the Kaleidoscope appear to have been March 22, 1968.

    All sorts of cool (and uncool) hippie bands played The Kaleidoscope throughout the Summer of 1968. There were also movie nights, and the great Don Ellis Orchestra (super hip 60s big band) on Wednesday nights.

    The venue was too small to make financial sense in the expanding rock market, however, and the Kaleidoscope didn't make it to Labor Day. The last show appears to have been August 30-31, 1968 (Staple Singers/Genesis--the LA Genesis, not the English group). Fito Parra (Canned Heat's drummer) has some interesting comments on the closure of the Kaleidoscope in his autobiography.

    The venue became the Aquarius soon after the Kaleidoscope. Hair played about six nights a week, but sometimes there would be a benefit concert or TV event on odd nights when there was no theater (Jethro Tull March 28-29, 1969, or The Doors July 21-22, 1969). I think the production of Tommy was a stage show, not The Who.

    I hope this ads a little bit of detail. Your photos and historical context are amazing. Keep up the great work.

    1. Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention also played at the Aquarius on March 31 1969 with Jethr Tull.

    2. I remember going to the Kaleidoscope was very psychedelic! Lots of people congregated around outside of the front lobby...I remember meeting and talking to Sal Mineo there,

    3. Anony
      I began working at the Kaleidoscope in January 1968. Removing trash and refuse left behind from the Hullablooy, a real pig stye. Dressing rooms upstairs and down piled
      with garbage. Mr. Valentine from the Whiskey, gave US the floor from a bowling alley
      it was laying on a hillside in Laurel Canyon, Marc Wanamaker and I with 5 of my friends
      Pete Cornberg and maybe Harry Ford went and picked it up in a "Wanamaker Rental Truck" and started building a dance floor, and taking stage drapes down. putting in sound and lighting. Myself and Pete Cornberg, Paul White came from Valley State College Theatre dept, a want ad for Stage people.

      I have one or more of every poster printed for the shows in 1968 and many passes, buttons and "somewhat hazy memories"
      Gary Essert, would give me VIP's to escort around the club and stay with them until
      Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Sal Mineo, were a few of the guests, but Musicians
      just showed up all the time, Rita and Hyland Wanamaker ran the front door and office.

      I have pictures of the LAST SHOW that did not take place in the dark,
      JANIS JOPLIN AND BIG BROTHER does anyone remember this ?

      The riot that night, due to the mafia from NYC who loaned money too
      John Hartmann Skip Taylor and Gary Essert
      came to take over the club, events brought out the police and a real mess on Sunset.

      My task was, with others, sabotage the Sound, Lights, the Bar, block the access's
      outside. Then I went to Old Toganga Canyon, to a home owned by Cliff Potts, actor
      and Valley State alumni, to take BOXES of round complementary Kaleidoscope tickets
      as I had done before, and distribute thousands @ the Whiskey (met Gail Zappa there)
      Pandora's box. Zeidler and Zeidler etc.

      This caused the evening riots, and the club closure, and police

      After we, he Employees had done our best, We went to the house rented by the Canned Heat (house band, on tour), above Sunset and cleaned out any drugs, and contraband I had to remove bags of Candy from Bob Hite's room, no drugs found./

      We then proceeded to invite many up the hill for an all nighter, party, with naked people everywhere and in the pool that had viewing ports in the ground.

      That was the end of one of the Best/Worst experiences of my life. Flunked out @Valley State, got drafted, disappeared, re-appeared after Draft Board bombing destroyed mine and 100's of other records.
      Opened 2 custom leather shops on Ventura blvd over the next 5 years serving musicians and film/TV and others.
      Then became a Travel Agent, Frank Zappa was one of my first great friends who toured with Charlemagne and David.

      When I hear about accounts or read them, (re: Fito) posts elsewhere, I wonder if
      they were there

    4. Hi David,
      Do you remember Fanny? I was the lead guitar player (sister Jean, bass) and I'm writing an autobiography - would love any "groovy" pics of those days, copies of pertinent memorabilia, etc. :)) I can be contacted at - good to see your account! June Millington

  4. Phil, I remember a "Cave" nudie-club on Hollywood Blvd, but it was closer to Vine St on the north side (I think it was also a X-rated book store).

  5. The cave that you are thinking of still exists. it's located at 6313 Hollywood Boulevard. originally this was the Rudolph Schindler designed sardi's restaurant. One of the finest examples of streamlined moderne design......sigh. it's now the the x rated establishment referred to above. i don't recall the bat club.......sorry

  6. You have really great blog, love all the pictures : )
    I also saw that you are a fan of Dean Martin ;)


  7. I started working at the Kaleidoscope the first day. Cleaning out the FILTH left from the "previous venue". Every dressing room was packed, backstage, below stage everywhere was filthy garbage. Then we built the house area
    with bowling alley lanes, I think we got the lanes from Valentine of the Whiskey. Mark Wanamaker rented the truck fro m Wanamker rentals around Barham and we slaved for days.
    I was part of a "crew" from now CSUN theatre dept who were begged to take the jobs of refurbishing the mess left.

    I hired 6 of my friends, some stayed weeks, months or just a few days. I ended getting fired once and missed two shows mid week ones, otherwise I saw/worked every show until the "close" and the riot july 14th with the Janis Joplin show when the "backers" came in to take over the venue from the "taylor/Hartman" control. Gary Essert(rip) was the other partner and the smartest one of the three (jmho).

    I have every poster and many handbills/buttons and stacks of FREE ticket that I would hand out at the Whiskey and all over the strip on slow nights.

    I will comment further in the future

    1. Just out of high school, my buddy & I hitched from Mich. to LA in June of 68. Arrived at our destination (Sunset) via local bus. The clash of cultures on the Strip was stunning to us small town hicks, motorcycle gangs, hot rods, and hippies. As we trucked along the sidewalk admiring the cruisers, about 50 Born Losers pulled out of a fast-food chicken joint, stopping all traffic on Sunset for a couple of minutes. Then we encountered a lot a people heading somewhere and inquired as to what was up. They were headed to the Kaleidoscope and told us to come-on. For $3 (I think) we saw 3 bands, Love, Rhinoceros, & Taj Mahal. Then, after the rock concert, at about 1 or 2 in the morning, they had a full length Vincent Price movie, the Raven. Needless to say, we enjoyed our first night in LA immensely.

      I wouldn't mind having a poster of that show if there's one floating around out there somewhere.

  8. The Sunset Strip is, technically several miles to the west of this building. John Hartmann is the brother of the late Phil Hartman.

  9. Really great blog, love all the pictures of the Aquarius Theater.

  10. I love the strip. I visit LA once or twice a year. Your posts are awesome. When I walk down Sunset I imagine what it used to be like from the 20’s thru the 60’s. Thank You so much.

  11. Replies
    1. Hi Bela,
      I'm writing an Encyclopedia Of Jerry Garcia Music Venues. I'm interested in possibly using your Hullabaloo photo. Please email me at

      Thank you
      Harry Angus

  12. I was one of the teeners who hung out at the Hullabaloo and heard some pretty awesome music. Buffalo Springfield, The Eastside Kids, The Mandala and Frank Zappa used to walk around with many beautiful young women on his arm. I was at Pandoras Box during the curfew protest while For What It's Worth played on until someone pulled the power. Pretty interesting time 65' thru 68'

    1. remember the Eastide Kids and The about the Yellow Payges? I lived at that club, the Sea Witch,Genisis the Trip and Pandora's and Bido Lido's.

  13. I've seen a bunch of pictures of the Earl Carroll Theatre. And I've driven past the Nickelodeon dozens of times. But, until today, I never realized they were the same place.

    Thank you for keeping "old" Hollywood alive!

  14. This site also concerns one of the great Hollywood mysteries: whatever happened to the celebrity autograph slabs that hung from the building's front wall? I've written a few entries on the subject at my classic Hollywood site, "Carole & Co.":

  15. Hey Phil (and Alison) - came across a great picture of the Bat Cave on Flickr!

  16. Would love to see the Aquarius Theater Video; it comes up as "private."
    Possible to view?

  17. The Aquarius Theater and Hair had a great run.
    Those were the days in L.A.

    George Vreeland Hill

    1. Hair starred Teddy Neeley who also played the Hullaballoo as the Teddy Neeley 5. He also starred in "Tommy" there.

  18. I attended a performance of 'Hair' at the Aquarius in 1969, I think it was. The whole experience was, hey man, far out! One of the truly great times I've ever had in a theater. A friend of mine and I had driven to LA from Tucson, Arizona, to see 'Hair' after a friend of ours had come back from L.A. and told us about it.

  19. Does anyone know what year there was a huge curfew bust at the Hullabaloo? There was an after hour show (I think it was the SEEDS performing)so the parking lot was packed with people when the police suddenly surrounded the place and started arresting kids underage.

    1. there were a couple and that one with the Seeds was interesting.. I ended up taking Sky Saxon home.. he had a swimming pool that was green with algae and had alligators in it!!! He died last year.

  20. In the mid-70s, they also used to tape live performances for inclusion in the late-night prgram, "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert." It was still the Aquarius then. What a find for a kid right off the boat from the East Coast to stumble on a venue with free concerts!

  21. Robert StapletonApril 3, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Was across from the Hollywood Palladium that hosted the "Teen-Age Fair" every Easter/spring break.

  22. I love the history you've found on the Earl Carroll Theater, Allison, and I've been working on a series of Nickelodeon shows that tape there since 2009. Whenever I get a few minutes I'm always poking around the old place, crawling through the basement where the motors and turntable mechanisms are which at one time rotated the stage overhead, and exploring the rafters and dressing rooms upstairs. This place is definitely steeped in history!