Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Starwood
Home of Sex, Drugs, Rock n Roll

WEB jam marquee

The Starwood was located on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood, California. The photo above is familiar to many readers of Punk Turns 30 -- it was taken 30 years ago on April 14 in the parking lot of the Starwood. One of the most rollicking birthday parties I've ever had was the day and night that The Jam headlined the club.

tk at 21

That's me above - fairly naive, just entering my 20's, feeling, however that I knew it all - or at least plenty... sure, my friends and I had a lock on the local punk rock scene. We were the Lobotomy Fanzine crew, after all! There came a point when bands wanted to know us as much as we wanted to know them...

But what I didn't understand... not even when I read in the papers when the Starwood eventually closed in 1982... was the high level of real low-down-dirty sex and drugs and rock n roll that went on behind the scenes at this club.

plz and debbie backstage1

Pleasant, pictured above with Blondie's Debbie Harry, and I were among those people who always got backstage... who always were able to watch the show from the VIP balcony, seeing an unobstructed concert, when the people on the floor, though much closer to the action, had to endure all that came with being in a crushing crowd.

debbie starwood 3 small

Being able to watch from upstairs came in handy when the likes of Blondie played to an over-sold out crowd.

belinda in crowd

Not to mention, from upstairs, you could take surreptitious photos of your friends who were at the foot of the stage! Belinda Carlisle is watching The Dickies at the Starwood. At the time, she was dating Dickies drummer, Karlos Kaballero.

karlos and belinda at the masque

Of course, we did indeed spend most of our time on the floor, in front of the stage... we reveled in the sweat and the slam dancing and the close proximity to our favorite bands, like Mumps, pictured below.

xtian and lance 3

Yes, the security guards backstage, the guy who controlled access to the VIP balcony, and the people who worked the front door... they all knew us... and we were confident about our position in our little oyster... I just had no idea that our oyster was actually the deep blue sea, and we were merely minnows compared to the sharks that swam among us.

Last night, I stayed in and watched a DVD... it was the 2003 release, Wonderland, which I had never seen before. Wonderland is about the "Wonderland Murders." Wonderland is the name of a street in the Hollywood Hills, and in 1981, four of the five people who lived in a house at 8763 Wonderland Avenue were bludgeoned to death with steel pipes, allegedly at the behest of Eddie Nash, who among other things, owned the Starwood.

The story goes that Porn King John Holmes aka Johnny Wadd, a friend of Nash's, was complicit in a scheme by the Wonderland Gang (the four murdered at the Wonderland Ave. house)to steal drugs, guns and money from Nash. When Nash was tipped off that Holmes was involved, he roughed up the Porn King until he gave up the names of the thieves. To say that retribution ensued is putting it cavalierly.

The Starwood closed in 1982. There was a mysterious fire, and of course, there were Eddie Nash's legal issues in connection with the Wonderland Murders.

In one scene, the Wonderland Gang has a gun pointed to Eddie Nash's head. For a multimillionaire, he doesn't have much cash at home. For a drug dealer, he doesn't have much of a stash either. Eric Bogosian in a compelling performance as Eddie Nash yells out "They're at the Starwood!"

Twenty-seven years after the Wonderland Murders... only then did it dawn on me that all this... sex and drugs and rock n roll was happening all around me, my friends during our youthful indulgence: punk rock. The steamy underbelly of Los Angeles was always seething right beneath its leisure time activities. The whole time I attended shows at the Starwood, it never occurred to me that its owner might be a drug dealer, or that all manner of illegal things were going on behind the scenes.

For me, "behind the scenes" was limited to the free hospitality provided to the bands backstage - sodas, liquor and food. "Behind the scenes" provided a bit of privacy and a venue in which to have regular conversations and face time with your friends.

jam soundcheck 1
The Jam during their sound check at the Starwood

gilder debbie rodney WEB
Nick Gilder, Debbie Harry & Rodney Bingenheimer do the trade shot backstage at the Starwood

foxton arnoff colorized small
Bruce Foxton of the Jam on Santa Monica Blvd., outside the Starwood.
Photographers Judy Lesta and David Arnoff in the background.

8 comments:

russell stimson said...

I worked at the Starwood in 1978,79-80 I think... Things were a bit blurry (and numb). Great pics, would love to see more...

- Rusty

echoran said...

I also worked at the STARWOOD i booked all the acts between 1973-75 I opened the private club upstairs for VIPs I had a great time got very little sleep but i loved it all. Eddie Choran

Shiloh said...

WOOHOO! Oh,my darling Starwood! I was crazy in love with the 'Wood'.It really was the home of Sex,Drugs,and Rock n Roll. Lol! It was never a place for lightweights,thats for sure.
Anyone who thought all that stuff didnt go on there was highly naive.You knew the moment you drove or walked under that over marquis that this was OZ. A wonderful decadent OZ of Rock n Roll! I worked there on and off from 72 until it closed down in 82.sometimes I'd goto my parents and visit,or goto Europe for a visit with my grandmother for a few weeks and come back to work at the 'Wood'. Cleaning glasses and ashtrays at first,then on to cleaning up the tables on the main floors and up in the VIP club,the offices,etc,and working at the VIP entrance sometimes,and then my final and permanent job::The ever insane Coat Check.This was before the cage went up.Gary had that put in when people kept stealing coats from the other end of the counter.They could just reach across and grab stuff before I could get to them!The Starwood was my home,my heart and soul.I grew up there,being only 18 1/2 when I arrived at the club for the first time.I got in with an older friend.They didnt check IDs a lot there till much later on.I've never gotten over the loss of that place.The world lost a great nightclub,and personally,I dont care about Eddie Nash(whom frightened the hell out of me every time he shook my hand),or what he got up to in the 'underbelly' of his Nightclub.I just wish it hadnt ruined the Starwood's life.I'd never say anything to disrespect the memory of such an iconic place for thousands of people who feel it it's a part of their youth.

LucindaLewis said...

I worked at the Starwood with a fake ID. I was only 16 and the owner of the jewerly store The Late Late Show(Brian Lantin) pierced my second earring one night. Kenny St. John was the Bar Manager there then. I met Danny Bonaducci there and started dated for a short time, and many others.

I got the job when I went to the VIP lounge one night with the rock band KISS and Mick Campise

http://www.LucindaLewis.com

Dennis said...

My band "Billy Bright" played the Starwood on 12/14/1976. we opened for "The Motels" and I remember trading the bartender a 1/4 oz. of hash for a unlimited bar tab for the band that night. We were associated with Shelter Records at the time and for some season, Denny Cordell, who was normally a douchebag,was really nice to us that night. All in all, the Starwood was a unique venue for the time.

FirstClassBlonde said...

Ohhhhh....the memories....I worked at the Starwood from 1978 until 1981 when I finally turned 21 and didn't have to work at a bar/nightclub to drink...lol. I was a cocktail waitress and then the last 2 years only worked upstairs and took care of the "Top 100 Club" vip's. I also had an unlimited drinking tab at the upstairs bar for any of the struggling rock stars or anyone else I thought should be drinking for free on that particular evening. I unlike most of the people who worked there, actually went to Mr. Nash's house on occasion and honestly, you would never have known the other things he was involved in except for a few hints here and there. I think of the people and all of the wonderful music I experienced there...like my favorite bands like Smile, The Motels, X, The Rubber City Rebels, The Plimsouls, 20/20, Grace Slick, The Germs, The Blasters, Johnny Cougar (as he was called then) Fear (oh...where is my fav singer Lee Ving these days??). I served so many people back in the day...Angela Bowie (one of the most interesting)John Beluchi, Bette Midler, Alana Stewart (pregant at the time with Rod's child), Punky Meadows (my personal fav)ohhhhh so many. At the time there were 2 different David's booking the club...and we would all hit the Oddessy this late night gay club that was one of the only places we could go after we got off at 2am. There was a restaurant on Sunset called Roy's we would go to also very late. Everyone was telling me I was never going to leave the Starwood...that I was a brick in the wall there...and I was like...watch this...and I accepted a job with Capitol Records and was gone like 3 weeks later.

I will never forget the KLOS Monday night parties...Terry Starr (Edwin's brother)the DJ in the Disco portion of the club or Rodney Bingenheimer when he would be there on special Punk nights. Would love to find some of the people I worked with during that time...Just add AOL to my name here and you have me....i'd love to say hello. Thanks for the great pictures and the walk down memory lane...for the once upon a time hotspot at 8151 Santa Monica Blvd...on the corner of Crescent Heights where there was no age limit....(that is what the recording said...I heard it so many times...lol).

Thanks for the blog...

Neil Citrin said...

Probably my fave club of all time. In addition to many of the bands mentioned also saw The Quick and the Last, among others.

Pj Wayne said...

I remember going there after my regular job at the Safeway store on 3rd and Fairfax I went so much that they made me a part time bouncer made many friends there including Buddy Miles and Debbie Campbell ( Glens Daughter ) so quite often I would be upstairs and back stage those day were a blast. Reginald Saunders