PANDORA'S BOX

I'm devoting an entire page to Pandora's Box due to the role the little club played in the evolution of the SUNSET STRIP. The irony of the establishment's name cannot be ignored.
It did indeed release a "world of trouble" for the long-famed LA entertainment hot spot.
As per the club itself, I only visited the place on one occasion,
and that was after
the "Riot" piqued my curiosity.
I had to see this place and get a view of 'what was going on' over on
the Sunset Strip.
  
I mean, if Rodney and Sonny & Cher were there....

 The legendary Sunset Strip Club, PANDORA'S BOX, will live on in music infamy as the location of the "Riot on the Sunset Strip", which resulted in the movie by the same name, and inspired Stephen Stills to write his radical youth anthem - "For What It's Worth".
 But the incident which took place the night of
Nov. 12, 1966, played a much bigger role,
signaling the forthcoming cultural revolution which would transpire along
the Sunset Strip and then throughout most of western society.


THE CLUB   THE SCENE    BACKGROUND    THE RIOT    AFTERMATH    THE MOVIE

PANDORA'S BOX - THE CLUB

Pandora's Box was a little 'coffee house' type club, situated smack dab in the middle of Sunset Blvd., built on a tiny 'traffic island' at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. & Laurel Canyon Blvd.
It is at this spot that, not only does Laurel Cyn. become Crescent Heights, it is where Hollywood's Sunset Blvd. officially becomes "The Sunset Strip".

'The Strip' is a less than two mile stretch through West Hollywood, lined with clubs, boutiques, restaurants, high rise offices, seedy tattoo parlors, and America's wasted youth.
And it was this teenage crowd that first embraced Pandora's, due to the lack of age restrictions for club admittance. In addition, Pandora's amiable staff welcomed the teens, offering them a homey atmosphere to congregate and socialize, free of the harassment which they usually received from the majority of the area's businesses.

The physical look of the structure which housed Pandora's, added to the club's informal ambiance. Unlike the large majority of clubs which are located within pre-existing box-like cement buildings, which a club would share with other business establishments, Pandora's Box sat totally by itself, located within the comfy confines of a single family, home-like structure.

To make sure not to be confused with a typical family home, the club owners painted the house a dark purple color, befitting a club/coffeehouse of Hollywood's wild psychedelic era. In contrast, the owners covered the cement traffic island with sod and then enclosed it all with a two foot high white picket fence {see above-right}, reminding the young patrons of a visit to grandmother's house.
Actually, the fence was added to help remind customers of the Boulevard traffic, and an attempt to prevent the milling crowds outside, from easily stepping into such traffic.


There were a growing number of clubs along the Sunset Strip that catered to the new music of the Sixties, as well as folk music, and the new "acid" rock, along with a few remaining coffeehouses.
Pandora's Box
was originally in the latter category, but expanded as they became more popular, securing a limited liquor license, and hiring better entertainment. The resultant attendance was packing the club, forcing the overflow crowd to mill about outside the club, squeezed into the tiny traffic island's available fenced areas.
It's impossible to ignore the irony of the club's name. In mythology, if one opens Pandora's Box, they release "the troubles upon the world". By choosing that unique name for their little club, the owners prophesied the social upheaval, and subsequent reaction, which resulted in 'The Riot'.

PANDORA'S BOX - THE "SCENE"

As the 'social scene' at the club grew in popularity, despite the initial absence of liquor sales, Pandora's began attracting more of the older, conventional, 'Sunset Club Crowd'

Among the 'Sunset Club Crowd' were many of Hollywood's 'young Turks', not unlike the Sunset Strip's 'old glory days'. Only this time, they were a more radical bunch, LA pop stars. Sonny & Cher (considered leftist hippies at the time), plus, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, & Jack Nicholson, a Hollywood trio who would later produce, direct & star in
"EASY RIDER"
, the landmark counterculture film which became a "touchstone for the generation".
The independent film explored the issues and tensions, and overall societal landscape, of the 1960's United States. Released in 1969, it presented a conclusive review of the rise and fall of the hippie movement, the drug use, & the decade's revolutionary communal lifestyle.
In a sense, the seeds for the famed film may have been planted that cold Los Angeles night in November, 1966, when a youthful altercation with the established community powers would cast an international spotlight on the cultural revolution sprouting among 1960's American youth.


One can't dismiss the fact that young females attract males of all ages, especially the growing numbers of teenaged runaways flocking to Hollywood's Sunset Strip.
These rebellious teens were rejecting the conservative social restrictions and rules of their parent's generation, in pursuit of sexual liberation, as well as, a new "Freedom" from other parentally accepted social moiré's. With the widespread popularity of television and mass media, teens everywhere envisioned the Sunset Strip as the ultimate locale in which to fulfill their aspirations.

         "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Parée?"

In addition, the pursuit of "Sex,Drugs,and Rock&Roll", was achievable everywhere along the Sunset Strip. Not only was there an exodus of youth from throughout the U.S. and beyond, the influx of youthful transients also included local teens. Just over the hill from Laurel Canyon was the San Fernando Valley, a vast suburban wasteland which had grown from rural ranches and expansive orange groves, to a burgeoning middle class community of millions, due to the influx of returning WWII veterans, in search of employment in the region's new aerospace and related industries. The same was true in most of the expanding suburban areas throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

Social upheaval was rampant and LA's growing counter-culture looked to Sunset for inspiration.

"Cruising Sunset" (both in cars, & on foot) had become a popular
form of entertainment among the youth of Los Angeles.
Not only was Sunset a Mecca for entertainment in all forms,
it was becoming the epicenter of the counter-cultural movement."

The local "Students for a Democratic Society" (SDS) had an anti-draft office on the Strip and
regularly talked to the 'street kids' (& anyone who would listen) about the War in Vietnam and methods to avoid the draft. Groups unable to afford an office would erect tents where members offered their organization's philosophies, sold their wares, or requested donations. Lewis Beach Marvin's MOONFIRE commune was one of the more memorable groups, often employing dramatic methods to convert passersby to their cause -"Love Animals, Don't Eat Them".
There were two leading alternative newspapers at the time - the "Fifth Estate" (from a radical coffeehouse/ hangout of the same name), and later, the "Los Angeles Free Press".
When an LA edition of San Francisco's "Oracle"  was established, most of the paper's  staff moved into The Log Cabin, sharing the rent along with Vito & Franzoni's commune.

There was a alternative community growing along Sunset and Pandora's Box became a hub for a number of these activities. As such, Pandora's, which prominently stood out due to it's unique location, became the epicenter of liberal thinking, as well as hundreds of rebellious teens.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is the author's humble opinion that this radical socio-political climate, and the accompanying conservative fears, played as large a role in the "Riot" as the economic concerns of local business, which were primarily responsible for the ugly scene which erupted in the center of Sunset Blvd.

PANDORA'S BOX - THE BACKGROUND

A social background examination of the period, especially in West Hollywood, is first necessary to help understand the reasons for "The Riot on Sunset Strip".
More importantly, one must review the underlying social & financial issues which were festering throughout the Hollywood community, preceding the outrageous scene that culminated on that dark night in front of "Pandora's Box", the little "Island Bound"  nightclub, at the foot of Laurel Canyon, on the Sunset Strip.

After War II, the Sunset Strip became a renowned 'playground' for Hollywood celebrities and other wealthy businessmen from around the world. It was actually, the 'Las Vegas' of that era.
         However, as the 50s came to a close, many of the Strip's elite hangouts did as well.

Allegedly, many of the Sunset Strip clubs and hotels were controlled by LA mobsters
(Mickey Cohen, Bugsy Segal, etc.), in fact, the Las Vegas Strip was patterned
after Sunset's glitzy Hollywood clubs and nightspots -  Ciro's, the Mocambo,
the Trocadero, & the Largo Burlesque Club -(
a few of the more popular).

When Warner Bros. launched the hit TV series
 "77 Sunset Strip" in 1958, the Strip became a staple in every American home.
At the same time, the show was garnering recognition for the Sunset Strip as
"Happening"
  throughout the entire world.
The award winning series aired until 1964,
reminding American youth that -
"The Sunset Strip was where it's at".

Though the TV series continued to be popular,
 the Sunset Strip, itself, did not.
In the words of folksinger, Bob Dylan:
"The times, they are a changin' ",
and the 'hipster cool' of the 50's had become passé.

The TV series prominently featured "DINO'S", Dean Martin's actual posh Sunset Strip restaurant,& upscale 'waterin' hole'. But, by then, even Dino himself had forsaken the Strip to join his brother 'Rat Pack' cohorts in Southern Nevada, appearing on the upscale, glamorous, new "Las Vegas Strip" (named after Sunset).
The Sunset Strip had fallen out of favor with Hollywood's elite; its future looked dim.

By early 1964, it looked like the last of 'the good old days' on the Sunset Strip had ended, according to Los Angeles Times columnist, Paul Coates. In his popular entertainment column, Coates recalled how, in earlier years, he could remember: Humphrey Bogart, and many other glamorous movie stars, living it up in the posh surroundings of places like Ciro's.
 "When Bogart would bring his chauffeur into Ciro's with him and take his usual corner booth, that meant he was planning to do some "serious" drinking".
Coates reminisced that in the old days, he had seen performers like Joe E. Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Pearl Bailey, and Sammy Davis Jr. on the stage at Ciro's.
In 1964, all he found was:
  "a gaunt little lass doing a frantic Watusi or whatever it is they're doing currently." 

The Strip's final death knoll sounded when the acclaimed Times columnist lamented,
 "It used to be a glittering boulevard in the silly old days,
Now it is just a rather seamy street."

As far as a lot of people were concerned, it just kept getting worse in the next few years.

Bruno Petroletti, one of the owners of "LaRue", an elegant, and formerly successful,
Strip restaurant, commented, "It's not a pleasant thing to see them walking around," .

Many of the old supper clubs and restaurants suffered serious losses because their regular customers refused to even be on the same street as the new "freaks" and other Strip regulars.
The mere sight of these degenerates was more than the old regulars could stand.

Rock 'n' Roll changed things, most folks agree. Instead of the old movie stars and gangsters, the Strip was now covered with rebellious teenage runaways. Local residents and business owners ignored the actual causes of the Strip's decline, and instead placed the blame squarely on the growing number of youthful insurgents.

PANDORA'S BOX - THE RIOT

Local big businesses lobbied the LA Sheriff's Department to rid their streets of the hundreds of shaggy runaway kids, who, though always peaceful, were an eyesore, and a detriment to the success of their respective business establishments. In addition, the local political powers wanted to break-up the growing alternative community which was festering like a cancer throughout their wealthy neighborhoods. "Neighborhood Pressure" (rival drinking establishments) demanded an end to the potentially dangerous crowds along the Strip, centering their attention on the overcrowded little club situated in the middle of the street, at the start of 'The Sunset Strip'.

It all began when LA County officials imposed additional curfew & anti-loitering laws, and demanded the LA County Sheriff's Department start enforcing the new & existing regulations. Responding to the demands, police began cracking down on the invading teenagers, often arresting them by the truckload for curfew violations, However, the young violators just kept returning, instilled with an attitude, citing 'Police Harassment'. As tensions increased on both sides, the additional enforcement disturbances further angered the residents & neighbors who demanded more stringent measures. Over-zealous police tactics resulted in increased youthful opposition,

The Sheriffs' harassment of the kids resulted in teen marches up and down Sunset to protest the harassment and abusive police tactics. Sheriffs then attacked these marches in earnest, young girls getting hit in the back of the head with billy clubs and young men with long hair were slammed to the pavement by their hair. This general disrespect and abuse of youths by the police resulted in an organized peaceful protest (against the shackling of 14 & 15 yr olds, and the arbitrary arrests of innocent youths), being scheduled for Nov.12,1966, to be held at Pandora's Box.

Police were prepared for the 100s of teenaged protesters who attended, marching and carrying signs reading: "BAN THE BILLY CLUB" and "WE'RE YOUR CHILDREN, DON'T DESTROY US"

The police (many in riot gear) responded to the demonstration with their previous militant tactics, and the 'peaceful demonstration' instantly escalated into "The Riot on Sunset Strip", as enraged protesters began throwing rocks and similar objects at the police. while others chased all the passengers off one bus and tried to set fire to another. Police would estimate the crowd to be "over a thousand", when reporting to the media. The altercations and the majority of the outrageous scenes were reported nation-wide, attracting media attention from well beyond.
Though none of the protesters were killed, the brutality of the police against the unruly teenage protesters signaled a pattern of opposition to what would become the future counter-cultural
"Hippie Revolution".

PANDORA'S BOX - THE AFTERMATH

"Sun Has Set On The Sunset Strip"

- The Los Angeles Times - headline the next day
incorrectly forecasting the results from the quelled teenaged insurrection

There were demands in the City Council for an investigation into the "Major Uncontrolled Rebellion" and a tough stand from County Supervisor Ernest E. Debs, who represented the area.
"Whatever it takes is going to be done," said Debs. "We're going to be tough. We're not going to surrender that area or any other area to beatniks or wild-eyed kids."

If they couldn't keep them off the Strip, they could at least stop them from dancing. That was the strategy worked out by Debs and Sheriff Peter Pitchess, who had vowed that his department wasn't going to be "reduced to a baby-sitting organization."

Appeals were made to the County Public Welfare Commission to take away the dance permits of the Strip's most popular rock clubs, including
 the Whisky A Go Go & Gazzari's.
However, even in the reactionary climate of the times, that appeal was rejected.
Actually, the worst repercussion of "the Riot" was the cancellation of the popular, but newly radical, Pop Duo, Sonny & Cher (who had defended the teens in interviews), from participating in
 Pasadena's Annual Rose Parade  "OUCH!"

Over time, the struggling little club surrendered to public opposition and, in less than a year's time, was demolished on Aug.3rd, 1967. Gone is the funky little symbol of 60's rebellion.
Today, at the spot where Pandora's Box once stood on Sunset Blvd, there is an access lane providing entry into a strip mall which contains a few of the myriad businesses and franchised eateries lining the former infamous intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights.

Lt. James Cook, operations supervisor for the West Hollywood station of the Sheriff's Department, still marvels at the job of road expansion -
 "They bulldozed that sucker and paved it over,"  he recalls.

"It is a sorry ending for the boulevard that once was Hollywood's most dazzling area" 
a news editorial declared. "The boulevard may never regain its past glory."

               RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP - THE MOVIE

"RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP" was a low-budget ($250.000) exploitation movie, directed by Arthur Dreifuss, and released by
 American International Pictures in March, 1967.
It might seem cruel to brand this 'teen classic' an exploitation film, however, it was written, cast, filmed, and released, within 4 months after the actual Nov.12, 1966 Pandora's Box (Sunset Strip) Riot.
Perhaps another clue to the 'exploitation' tag is the film's tagline 
Meet the Hippies...the Teenyboppers with their too-tight Capri's...
and the Pot-Partygoers - out for a new thrill...a new kick!
See for yourself their Mod, mad world...
without law or license, morals or manners, God or goal!

The most shocking film of our generation!


The movie starred Aldo Ray, Mimsy Farmer, Michael Evans, and Tim Rooney.

Veteran film & TV actor, Aldo Ray, stars as LA Police Lieutenant Walt Lorimer, father of teenage daughter, Andy, played by Mimsy Farmer. After appearing on TV as a child actress, the 20 yr. old peroxide-blonde, Mimsy Farmer, returned to films, graduating into roles of biker chicks, druggies and other 'bad girl' types throughout the 60s. She relocated to Germany to film more of the same, before heading to Italy in 1970, marrying Italian screenwriter/director, Vincenzo Cerami, Her successful international acting career continued with more violent action and gruesome horror films as her recognized standard.

"Riot's"  script was, no doubt, in the works prior to the incident at Pandora's Box,
with the film's producers incorporating the "RIOT" into the script for sensationalism.
 The film's basic storyline is not unlike other 'Father-Teenaged Daughter' dramas of the era. 
The following plot summary is from IMBD.   

"Restless kids want to hang out in Hollywood clubs, smoke a little pot and do a little underage drinking. The local businessmen want to crush them, but the LAPD sergeant in charge wants to help them out, extend the curfew a bit and work with them. The kids break their side of the bargain and have a party at a mansion they have broken into, and a girl (conveniently the chief's estranged daughter) is given acid and taken advantage of by five different guys. When the chief roughs up some of the rapists there is reaction on the street. Despite his earlier reaction, the sergeant goes on the street to make sure that rioting kids are treated with kid gloves. His daughter agrees to reunite with him based on his integrity in handling the riot."

* AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have never seen the film, but I am familiar with the movie's soundtrack. "Riot" featured musical appearances by The Standells and The Chocolate Watchband.  The film (but not the soundtrack) also included, The Enemies (featuring future Three Dog Night singer Cory Wells) and The Longhairs. Recording engineer, Ritchie Podolor (Steppenwolf,3 Dog Night), did the sessions with Music Producers, Mike Curb & Ed Cobb. Cobb,a former member of the Four Preps, had picked up long-time LA top 40 band, The Standells, to produce & manage, and had previously persuaded them to record his song,"Dirty Water", the huge 1967 hit which became their signature song. Too bad they refused to record the next one offered by the producer/songwriter, the Soft Cell mega-hit - "Tainted Love". 
Cobb had just signed a new Northern California group,
The Chocolate Watchband, who were prominently featured in the film - on the Pandora's Box stage.
Their music scenes are best remembered for them desperately attempting to lip-sync with their newly "psychedelisized" music tracks. Standells' singer, Sal Valentino, paired with the band's bassist, John Fleck (former member of LOVE -he penned favorite-"Can't Explain), to craft the film's spacey title track. topping off the "
Riot" soundtrack.
The LP included selections by other groups; most noteworthy,
The Mugwumps (featuring future 'Mama' Cass Elliot).
* NOTE #2:  Curiosity eventually forced me to make the drive to Pandora's Box sometime in 1967, after reading about the "Riot on Sunset Strip".
  I found Pandora's Box to be quite lame, reminding me of the San Fernando Valley's Teen Center.