Gazzarri's nightclub, 1986
|Address||9039 Sunset Boulevard|
|Location||West Hollywood, California 90069|
|Genre(s)||Rock and roll|
|Opened||February 21, 1967|
|Seating type||downstairs: Standing room only
upstairs: balcony seating
Gazzarri's was a nightclub on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, United States. It is most notable as the location where The Doors and Van Halen were featured house bands for long stretches before being discovered. It was also the LA club featured in Huey Lewis and the News MTV video for their hit "The Heart of Rock and Roll."
The club reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s, featuring Jim Morrison's young new group, along with other LA talent such as The Bobby Fuller Four, Buffalo Springfield, and The Walker Brothers. It then achieved major LA relevance again in the late 70's, featuring the David Lee Roth-led Van Halen nightly for months on end, and then into the 1980s as one of the top LA glam metal nightclubs. It was owned and operated by the "Godfather of Rock and Roll", Bill Gazzarri. Gazzarri himself was known for dressing up as a Chicago-style gangster and frequenting the club on performance nights. Located near the corner of Doheny and Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, and just several dozen yards from both the Rainbow Bar and Grill and The Roxy Theatre, Gazzarri's became famous as a launching pad for future rock and roll stars.
Along with The Roxy Theatre, The Whisky a Go Go, The Troubadour, The Starwood, and other nearby nightclubs, it was a staple of the Los Angeles music scene in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Some other bands that played at Gazzarri's either prior to or during their mainstream success include Johnny Rivers, The Go-Go's, Tina Turner, Southgang, Sonny and Cher, Ratt, Cinderella, Chicano rock band Renegade, punk band X, Victor Flamingo, Quiet Riot, Stryper, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Guns N' Roses, Warrant, Faster Pussycat, and Canadian rockers Hollywood Trash. Other notable local Los Angeles area bands to play there included Redd Kross, Brunette, Shark Island, Page 3, Taz, Tuff, Foxx, Storyteller, Reinkus Tide, D'Molls, Cold Shot, LEGACY,TRAMP and Pretty Boy Floyd, and bands that never made it like Odin, managed by Bill Gazzari himself, and featured in Decline of Western Civilization Part 2, bands such as Salute, Shocktop, and Broken Cherry. Many giant hand-painted pictures of these bands adorned the side of the club's outside wall for many years.
The 90 yard stretch of sidewalk on Sunset Boulevard that runs from the front steps of Gazzarri's (now The Key Club, 9039 West Sunset Blvd), to the parking lot between the Rainbow Bar and Grill (9015 West Sunset Blvd) and The Roxy Theatre (9009 West Sunset Blvd), was the national center of the 1980s glam metal movement that spawned dozens of MTV bands and radio hits. Aspiring bands and musicians from around the world, coming to Los Angeles to make it big, eventually found themselves on this small stretch of sidewalk passing out their flyers, watching the competition in the clubs, or enjoying the scene packed with thousands of other musicians, famous rock stars, porn stars, groupies, and Los Angeles teenagers.
The nightclub also "moonlighted" variously over the years a stage-dance venue, and Gazzarri's would often combine the strip-club-like dancing of attractive, young girls in between live band performances. The "Miss Gazzarri's Dancers" over the years included future Playboy Playmate and Hugh Hefner girlfriend Barbi Benton, and future television star Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach. The club became a favorite hangout for teen dancers who loved live music, which was not lost on the neighboring television studios. Gazzarri's was acknowledged by TV executives as the real-life inspiration for music-based TV shows such as Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, The Monkees, and The Partridge Family.
Pay to play
The club was part of the controversial Los Angeles "Pay-to-Play" concept in the 80's, along with the other major Hollywood nightclubs that showcased bands with original songs. The philosophy then among club owners was that, since many acts that played their clubs went onto fame and fortune, and the world's most powerful record companies were literally right across the street, the bands would be willing to pay money to the club just to play there.
For the most part, Pay-to-Play was a successful 80's ruse for the clubs, including Gazzarri's. Up to four bands per night would each "buy" 100-200 tickets from the club at $5 or so, handing over in advance hundreds of dollars to the owner for a *single 45 minute slot on the "famous stage". If the band was able to unload the tickets (at any price they could get from fans, girlfriends, parents, etc.) then that was their pay for the evening. However, if the band couldn't get 20 or 30 people to show up after such an investment, they quickly learned "Hollywood Rock and Roll 101" - that the music business was as much (or more) about drawing people and making money as it was about good music. Soon, many bands were spending as much time promoting, handing out flyers, advertising in local magazines, and building mailing lists as they were on songwriting, practicing, and actually gigging live. Young, hungry bands such as Poison, Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and Guns N' Roses became early masters of self-promotion as a result, developing street-smart business skills that would serve them even as world-renowned superstars. Axl Rose stated several times in interviews that the "L.A. scene was so competitive, if half the bands in the Top 40 right now had tried to get their big break in L.A. instead of somewhere else, they never would have made it."
- It might be noted that during the early stages of the "Pay to Play" time period (early to mid 80's), bands were playing three sets a night at Gazzarri's.
Bill Gazzarri died in 1991 and the club closed down in 1993. In 1994, the building suffered irreparable damage from the Northridge earthquake. It was torn down in 1995 and a new club called Billboard Live was built on the former Gazzarri's site. It opened in 1996. Billboard Live became The Key Club in 1998.
Live at the Key Club
- "Slash: It Seems Excessive...Doesn't Mean It Didn't Happen"; Slash with Anthony Bozza, 2008 Harper Entertainment Publishing
- "Crazy From The Heat"; David Lee Roth, copyright 1986 Hyperion Books, New York, New York
- The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years; film includes an interview with club owner Bill Gazzarri.
- Bill Gazzarri LA Times Obituary
- Van Halen 1974 Bootleg - Setlist at Gazzarri's
- LA Times Review of Doors Concert at Gazzarri's
- Press clip of Brunette Rocks at Gazzarri's