Chapter 8 ~ Tempus Fugit

Radio City Today

By the late 1960′s, when the cultural revolution was changing the way we lived, the area known as radio city was slipping away. The pale green Streamline Moderne masterpiece that was NBC studios had been razed and replaced by and an uninspired box that was Great Western Savings. NBC Radio City at Sunset and Vine had lasted a mere quarter of a century.

Time passed and monuments to radio’s glory days began to disappear.  By the dawn of the 21st Century, Wallich’s Music City was torn down and replaced with a strip mall of undisguised ugliness.  CBS at Columbia Square was boarded up and shuttered to the public.  Earl Carroll’s gorgeous nightclub went through many changes over time. After Carroll died in an airplane crash in 1948, the nightclub was sold and turned into Frank Sennis’ Moulin Rouge, the new home to the television show, Queen for a Day in the early 1950′s.  Later, the building became the Aquarius Theatre, showcasing the 1960′s musical, Hair. In later incarnations, the building was transformed into Kaleidoscope and later Nickelodeon.

The neighborhood had changed dramatically.  The northwest corner of Sunset and Vine, after the death of the strip mall, became home to another ugly conglomeration of shops, restaurants and low income housing.  Border’s book store stands on the site of the old Wallich’s Music City. Tom Breneman’s restaurant, which later became ABC studios, was torn down and is now a Bed and Bath.

Across the street, the Brown Derby suffered a ravishing fire, was razed and became a parking lot. Today, the site hosts a  new hotel with a Trader Joe’s market on the corner at Selma Avenue.  Hatton’s restaurant changed hands, becoming the Vine Street Bar and Grill and later the Lucky Seven, and finally Daddy’s, before being torn down altogether.  The RCA building on Vine Street was razed years ago and the studios moved to a new building east of Wallich’s Music City on Sunset Boulevard.

The Tropics restaurant disappeared decades ago. Alexander’s Stationeers moved to Cahuenga and later closed. Sy Devore’s, a favorite haberdashery of Steve Allen and many other celebrities, quietly closed it’s doors and faded into Hollywood history.  The Radio Room, the Firefly, The Office, all bars that catered to radio personalities and audiences, are long gone.  The Spotlight, another bar just north of  Music City, moved to its current location on Cahuenga in 1963.

* * *

In August, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported:

“Microphones at the last radio station in Hollywood will go dead as announcers and newscasters complete their final on-air shift at the historic Columbia Square broadcast center.

“The relocation of Los Angeles’  first radio station, KNX-AM (1070), to new studios in Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile area will end an 85-year tradition of radio broadcasting in the place that bills itself as the world’s center of entertainment.

“Over the years, Hollywood has been home to 68 radio stations and nine television stations. In the last few years, five television stations have left.”

The facade of the venerable Palladium was restyled in the 1950′s and became home to the Lawrence Welk television show for years.  It was restored to it’s original look recently and now stands as one of  the last monuments to radio’s golden era. Today, it looks just as it did when Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra opened the theater dance hall on October 31, 1940.

Times change, and with time, institutions and landmarks are turned back to dust, to be remembered in old newspaper clippings, fading photographs and memories.

Tempus fugit.

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