Tales of Rock – The Rainbow Bar & Grill

I’ve got some interesting tales coming up in this series that occur here at the Rainbow, so I thought I’d supply you all with some background.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill is a bar and restaurant on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CaliforniaUnited States, adjacent to the border of Beverly Hills, California. Its address is 9015 Sunset Boulevard.

The bottom level of the building is the restaurant, The Rainbow Bar and Grill. Upstairs is an exclusive club called “Over the Rainbow”, which consists of a full bar, a dance floor, and a DJ booth. The restaurant is next to The Roxy Theatre and The Key Club.

The restaurant was founded in early 1972 by Elmer ValentineLou AdlerMario Maglieri and others,[1][2] opening on April 16, 1972, with a party for Elton John.[3] At the time, the word “rainbow” signified peace and freedom. It quickly became known as a hangout for celebrities of all types.[4] John Belushi ate his last meal[5](lentil soup) at table No. 16[citation needed]. For many years, the owner was Mario Maglieri.[4]

Before becoming the Rainbow, the restaurant was the Villa Nova restaurant, which was originally owned by film director Vincente Minnelli, at the time married to Judy GarlandJoe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe met at the restaurant on a blind date in 1952.[6]

The Rainbow became known as a hangout for rock musicians and their groupies. Notable regulars at the Rainbow in this period include Keith MoonAlice CooperMicky DolenzHarry NilssonJohn LennonRingo Starr, and Neil Diamond.[5] Elvis Presley was known to have occasionally visited the Rainbow[citation needed]. The group of musicians calling themselves the Hollywood Vampires made the Rainbow their home away from home in the mid-1970s. In the last two decades of his life, Motörhead frontman Lemmy was a daily fixture at the Rainbow whenever the band was not on tour, and often played a video poker machine at the end of the bar table.[7]

Los Angeles songwriter Warren Zevon referenced the scene at the Rainbow in the last verse of his 1976 song “Poor Poor Pitiful Me“.

The musical group Rainbow was named after this club.[8]

The track “Rainbow Bar & Grill” from the Cheech & Chong album Let’s Make a New Dope Deal takes place in the bar and restaurant.

Producer Kim Fowley used to hang out at the Rainbow, especially in 1975, when he formed the all-girl group The Runaways. Actress and musician Cheryl Smithwas given her pseudonym Rainbeaux Smith early in her career as a result of her frequenting the Rainbow; she briefly replaced Sandy West as drummer of The Runaways at the end of that band’s existence.[citation needed]

As musical trends on the Strip changed towards heavy metal in the 1980s, the Rainbow followed suit. Members of Mötley Crüe,[9] Poison, and Guns N’ Roses frequented the bar.[10] It was mentioned in a number of songs, such as “Sunset and Babylon” by W.A.S.P., “Vampire” by L.A. Guns and “Peach Kelli Pop” by Redd Kross, and featured in the videos of “November Rain“, “Estranged” and “Don’t Cry” by Guns N’ Roses and also, although briefly, “Rock Out” by Motörhead.

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers noted in his book Scar Tissue that he often sat with his father, Blackie Dammett, at the club along with various members of bands such as Led Zeppelin. Often the waitresses and bartenders were groupies as well as those who frequented the establishment. In Pamela Des Barres‘ book Let’s Spend the Night Together, the author commented that as a barfly in the early 1980s she met a number of celebrities including Billy Idol.[11]

In June of 2016, the Rainbow started having live music every Wednesday night from 10pm until closing. Various musicians would host the live jam every week. Local acts, as well as different well known musicians would show up to perform random classic rock cover songs every week. During this time, there were many jam band gatherings being established on Sunset Boulevard around the area. Viper Roomand The Whisky a Go Go also joined the Rainbow by allowing musicians to host jams on various week nights as well.

On January 18, 2017 the Rainbow was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History (created by Pat Gesualdo and Joe Dell) for introducing the world to new Heavy Metal acts. [12]

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Frank – Lost Breakfast

Not me in this one but my roommate/band mate, Frank. He struck gold while suitably plastered up in West Hollywood.

He woke up the next day, in a strange apartment. Pleased with himself that he was not alone. Lying next to him was a beautiful babe from the night before. Frank, still suitably enamored, offered to cook her breakfast, tackling the short walk to the store for bacon and eggs by himself.

Alas, all was not well and after 2 hours of knocking on doors he realized he had totally forgotten where she lived.

He called me from a payphone on Sunset while he was walking to the store and told me that he couldn’t remember whether her name was either, ‘Emma’ or ‘Anna’. Then called me again in a panic some time later while looking for her house asking what two names he’d told me she might be called having forgotten both of those as well.

He returned home to me and our stinking apartment where he prepared breakfast for us both with a heavy heart and the bluest of balls.

It was delicious, but he never saw her again.

 

I love this story!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 15 – Madam Wong’s West – The Yamamato Sisters

“Frank, this is Jill and Vickie. They’re sisters. They’re going to hang with us.”

Frank and I decide to go check out Madam Wong’s West over on Wilshire Blvd. It’s a famous rock and roll place that originated in Chinatown, (See: Tales of Rock – Esther Wong) But the place we’re going is her other location in Santa Monica. It’s within walking distance from our shitty apartment. The goal is to check out the local rock scene and try to talk to some girls.

We are drinking 102 beer at the apartment getting our pre-game on. (it was called 102 because it took them 102 times to get it right. They didn’t, because it was $2.99 for a 6 pack of 16 oz beers!) We didn’t have a name for it back then we just drank before we went out so we wouldn’t spend so much money when we went out. All this accomplished was getting us thoroughly plowed before we walked out the door and then we would just drink more. So it’s a bad idea that we did over and over again. I’m sure we did it for years after that but, youth… live and learn.

I remember that night very clearly. I was drinking a beer in the shower while I was getting ready. I had my boom box on. We had a red light bulb in our bathroom and it was cool. I was listening to “I don’t need no doctor” by Humble Pie. It was amazing.

We get all dressed up and head out, buzzed and ready to see the night in L.A.

We get to Madam Wong’s and realize that although I’m legal to drink in New Jersey at age 18, the drinking age is 21 in California. So I’m fucked.

I get an underage stamp but Frank gets a 21 stamp. Well this sucks. Fucking state laws. I’m pissed but we’ll make it work. We’re a crafty lot.

We go in and head upstairs. It’s got bands downstairs and upstairs.  I love that it’s two floors of rock. We don’t have anything like this back in Jersey. It’s like a giant house of rock. I loved it instantly and wanted to play there.

We find a cool round booth upstairs and take a seat. Some band is playing onstage and they suck. On the table there is a card that says “Two Drink Minimum” and I tell Frank to drop out jackets and go get some beers and I secure that table.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to go downstairs and procure us a couple of women to join us at our table. So go get four beers. ”

“No fuckin’ way.”

“Way.”

“Okay. Well then have at it Chaz.”

Frank doesn’t know my mad game from picking up babes in Wildwood,NJ for years.

We’ve got our booth and Frank is getting our beers and I head downstairs to hunt. I have no idea what I’m doing and I have very little knowledge of women in L.A are like but at this point I’ve had a few beers and my courage is alive and well in me due to the alcohol.

I’m wandering downstairs and I come across a pair of pretty Asian girls. I’ve never met an Asian girl before. I literally walk up to them and ask them the following:

“My friend and I have a table upstairs. Would you like to join us?”

They say an immediate yes and I take the older girl’s hand and head upstairs. I lead them to the table and Frank’s eyes are like saucers. I can tell my comrade is pleased with my kill. He’s more than pleased. He’s amazed at my prowess.

I was really cute back then and I’ve always been charming.

“Frank, this is Jill and Vickie. They’re sisters. They’re going to hang with us.”

Frank is speechless. I see the joy in his eyes. He can’t believe I pulled this off. He has no idea that this is just the beginning of our California odyssey.

We enjoyed the night with these pretty sisters and got their numbers. We wanted to see them again and go on dates with them. That’s what people did back then. We went on dates with girls. Took them to the movies and record stores and lunch and dinner spots.

Frank and I had no money but if we had a couple of little girlfriends we were going to treat them right. It’s all we knew. I’m from Philly and everybody hates me and I have little history of dating. Frank was in the junior wing of the IRA in Belfast and also has little experience with girls. We just met a really cute pair of Asian sisters. They have our full attention!

We kissed them goodnight and even took some pictures.

We want to see these girls again!

… And we will.

Oh yes… We will.

 

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Tales of Rock – Esther Wong

Esther Wong (August 13, 1917 – August 14, 2005) was a Chinese-American restaurant owner and music promoter, called the “Godmother of Punk” in Los Angeles, California.

She was born in Shanghai, China, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1949.

After fierce initial resistance, she became a punk rock and new wave music promoter. She got started in the early 1970s as the owner of Madame Wong’s, a Los Angeles Chinatown restaurant with a floorshow—originally at 949 Sun Mun Way, located in the original 1938 Rice Bowl restaurant. Polynesian dance acts weren’t attracting customers, yet when Paul Greenstein, a Los Angeles “bum vivant,” first approached her husband George about booking bands, she declined. Greenstein’s persistence, and the fact that he had already given the nearby “Atomic Cafe” a new lease on life (cross-pollination between owners’ children worked the magic), caused her to agree to a trial run in Fall of 1978. Initially, under Greenstein, a showcase for unsigned, unbookable punk-bands, Madame Wong’s was one of few places such bands could perform. With the exit of Greenstein, Madame Wong’s morphed into a power-pop palace with bookings more influenced by a now-interested Wong. Notable bands that she showcased included a “who’s who” of rock music, including The Knack, The Police, The Motels, Fishbone, The Go-Go’s, X, The Alley Cats, The Bangs, Oingo Boingo, Naughty Sweeties, Los Illegals, Candy, Guns N’ Roses, Black Flag, No Mercy, Beowülf, Excel, Daniel Amos, Fear, Bad Actor, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Twisters, and The Ramones. Eventually this led to her nickname, the “Godmother of Punk.”

She closed the original “Madame Wong’s” after a fire in 1985[1] and “Madame Wong’s West”, 2900 Wilshire,[2] in Santa Monica, California in 1991.

The original “Madame Wong’s” unofficially reopened for a brief period in 2009/2010, when Ben Kramer, Stuart Friedel, and Rob Cudd, who were living in an apartment that now occupies the premises, hosted concerts in their living room, using the name Madame Wong’s in homage to the original venue. Acts that year included Devendra Banhart, Vampire Weekend’s secret 2009 Halloween show, The Answering Machine,[3] Wavves, Smith Westerns, Jounce, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, Backbiter, Salvador Santana, The Growlers, Harlem, and others.[4]

Esther Wong died from emphysema and lung cancer on August 14, 2005 in Los Angeles, and was survived by her second husband, Harry Wong, two children, Frank Wong and Melinda Braun, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.[5]

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 14 – Santa Monica, CA. – Kesslerville

We found a place in Santa Monica that was up at 23rd and Cloverfield.  There was a guy named Kessler that owned every house on this banged up old dead end street. All the houses were pretty run down so I guess you could call Kessler a Slum Lord.

Our rent back then was $40 a week. That’s cheap as hell even by 1982 prices for apartments.

It was perfect. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment on the second floor. (Over the garage) Kessler was a fat slob that had a shitty van with a dashboard clogged with trash and snakc wrappers.

His house was next door to us where he lived with his wife, and his hot blonde daughter who looked and dressed like Ellie May from the Beverly Hillbillies. (Yea…I wanted her)  He also had a son that seemed like a half-wit that lived in a trailer out back. If you looked out our bedroom window you could see the entrance and roof of the trailer. (Did this inbred have to live in the trailer o he wouldn’t diddle his sister?)

Across the hallway from us lived this old guy named Mike Lamia. He was in his forties and smoked tons of weed and delivered pizza’s for a living. He was divorced and had a couple of kids somewhere. We assumed they lived with their mom. He also said he owned a piece of land out in the desert. It sounded like he got ripped off or it didn’t exist because he said he could see his land, but couldn’t get to it. So it was either on the side of a cliff or all in his drug addled mind.

He would get high all day long and watch his little black and white TV and play the bongos. When he found out we were musicians he was always pitching us songs and we were like, yea that’s great but, fuck no.

The best thing we liked about Mike was he would always share his weed with us. The other thing we liked about Mike was the fact that he ALWAYS had pizza in his fridge. He never cared if we came into his house and grabbed some slices, heated them up and ate them. His door was always open and so was ours. It was kind of cool living next door to a burned out old hippie that had endless supplies of pizza and weed.

Frank and I both worked at restaurants so we always got fed there everyday and there was always pizza so we never went grocery shopping. It was a good setup for a couple of young musicians.

Our apartment was over a garage and Kessler let us jam down there as long as we didn’t play too loud or too late.  Liam and John would be joining us in a month and we’d have a whole band and hopefully start getting gigs. Sometimes Kessler’s daughter Patty and her friends would stop by and hang out when we were practicing. She seemed like the sweet normal one in the family. She wasn’t around much so I assumed she went to college somewhere.

The only drawback to the apartment was the roaches.

They weren’t rampant but they were small brown ones and were present. Frank and I slept in the same room on just box springs and mattresses. Frank’s bed was against the wall near the window that looked over the trailer, and mine was on the other wall by the window that was broken. There was a cardboard banner advertising a circus instead of a window pane. I didn’t give a shit because it was always warm in California.

I remember hanging some shirts up in the closet (no door) Frank and I shared. Written on the wall were the words: “Sadder… Budweiser.” I thought that was a clever statement about alcohol and regret, so I never forgot it.

There was this other couple that lived down the hall from us. They seemed nice and normal. Too normal for this neighborhood of misfits. But one night we were all partying and the doors were all open.  Frank and I are drinking these 16 oz beers called 102. Apparently it took 102 tries to get the formula for the beer right. I’m thinking, what a bunch of fuck ups theses brewers are. But… it was $3 for a six pack! We drank oceans of that shit on our limited budget.

The folks who seemed quiet and normal are fucked up out of their minds. They’re laughing and acting crazy. Even Mike thinks they’re gacked to the nines. I ask the dude what he took and he shows me a bag of mushrooms.

“Want some?”

“No thanks. We’re good.”

He points to a light switch on the wall that for some reason someone drew a turnip in marker around it. He goes: “What’s that?”

“It’s a light switch with a turnip drawn around it.”

“No it’s not! That’s my wife.”

“Your wife is right over there.”

(Points to the light switch) “Then it’s my wife’s vagina!”

“Okay….”

(Flicks the light switch to the ON position) “And now she’s turned on! Get it? HA HA HA HA!”

“Yea, dude. Whatever.”

For the first time in my life I realize that all drugs are different. You don’t just get high. Every drug makes you feel a different way and think a different way.

Mushrooms made my neighbor nuts. Weed makes Mike introspective. Booze just makes Frank and I arrogant, giggling idiots.

Mike cruises over and he is high as fuck. “Hey guys, what if the color blue isn’t the same to me as it is to you?”

Frank: (Drunk as usual) “Check the crayon box, asshole.” (Bursts out laughing)

I love him.

So we liked where we were crashing. We’d come home drunk. Get high and go to bed listening to Steve Miller’s, Abracadabra album on my boom box.

When you’re drunk and high you don’t care how many roaches are in the room in the dark.

I remember lying on that bed and thinking about my be d at home and how different my life was now.

I was happy to be away from the prison of Wildwood and my father’s idea of what our family’s life should be. Poverty was actually really nice to be with my best mate, Frank.

We’ll get there and have a great time doing it. This is only week two here in L.A.!

We need to earn some money and go out and check out the music scene in this town!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 13 – Los Angeles – Pacific Sands Motel

We get to L.A. and I’m starting to feel like this is how California should look like. All the tall skinny palm trees, beaches, surfers, and beautiful people.

We pull into the Pacific Sands Motel at 1515 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. We decide to rent a room for a week and look for jobs and an apartment. Because it was the off season, (March) the rental for the week was really cheap. But it felt like summer to us. Everyday in southern California it’s sunny and 70. That’s why the film industry originally came out here. The weather is consistently nice and that gives them more days to shoot.

So day one we head out to explore. I’m walking by the Santa Monica Bay Club and I see Lee Majors shooting a scene for his series The Fall Guy. I’m instantly blown away because I loved him in The Six Million Dollar Man back in the 70’s when I was a kid. I knew he and his lovely wife Farrah Fawcett had split up and I absolutely worshipped her since seeing her on Charlie’s Angels. Should I drive up to Bel Air and see if I can find her? (No you shouldn’t. That would be stalking!)

We stop in a few places and apply for jobs. Within two days, I got a job as a busboy in a restaurant called Café Casino and Frank got a job as a cashier in bar/restaurant called Merlin McFly’s. So we were set! We didn’t start our new jobs until next week so we started looking in the local newspaper for an apartment and also do a little exploring.

There was a place close by called, Tom’s Number 5. I’m assuming there were a few others  around town since they were numbered. Every time I ordered from that place they always ended up putting chili on whatever I ordered. I’m from a super White suburban neighborhood in Philly. I’ve never eaten chili and don’t know anyone who has. But the L.A. obvious has a huge Latino community so there’s Mexican food all over town. Anyway, I didn’t like exotic foods back then. I was used to a very bland diet. So chili was alien to me and would probably give me stomach disorders. So every time I ordered I’d say hold the chili. I’d get the food back to the house, and boom slathered in chili. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken all blasted with chili. Just culture shock for a Caucasian kid from the burbs.

The motel was right near the beach. It’s different than beaches on the east coast. East coast beaches are really flat and so is the land mass leading up to it. We had to walk out, and there is like a huge embankment covered in grass with a bunch of beautiful palm trees everywhere. You have to walk down these wooden steps to get down to the beach in Santa Monica.

Venice is more flat. That’s a fun area. All along the beach there are shops bars and stores. Kind of like the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ. There’s all kinds of street musicians and performers down there on any given day. It’s a cool hip place to hang out.

Now to find an apartment!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 12 – San Diego, Ca – The Zoo

The next morning we get up and head to the Zoo. It’s a beautiful day and perfect for what we’re about to do. Parts of San Diego really are beautiful.

The zoo is amazing. I’m from Philly where we have the oldest zoo in the country, but this place is expansive and gorgeous. They have a great collections of reptiles and primates and I’m loving that. They even have moving sidewalks! Whaat?? It’s 1982! Have we been transported to the future?

We even see Shari Lewis they’re performing with Lambchop! (Google her youngsters!)

The San Diego Zoo is a zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, housing over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies.[1] Its parent organization, San Diego Zoo Global, is one of the largest[better source needed] zoological membership associations in the world, with more than 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships, representing more than a half million people.[6] The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats.[7] It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda.[8] In 2013, the zoo added a new Koalafornia Adventure exhibit, providing an updated Australian animal experience. Another new exhibit, called Africa Rocks, opened in 2017.

It is privately moderated by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 100 acres (40 ha) of Balboa Park leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and a member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). San Diego Zoo Global also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

We’re walking around the zoo, and it’s the best zoo I’ve ever been to. A great time was being had by both of us but I think we’re already thinking the same thing.

“Frank, I gotta ask you something.:

“What’s up?”

“We’ve been here for a couple of days and this just doesn’t feel like the way I pictured it. It’s nice, and the zoo was fun, but I’m just not feeling it. I think I needed to land someplace mellow on the west coast just to feel it. I heard it was mellow and I was scared. I think we belong somewhere else out here. ”

“What do you want to do, mate?”

“Let’s get the fuck out of here tomorrow and go to L.A.”

“Alright then. Yea. This town seems kip.”

 

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