Gazzarri's nightclub, 1986
|Address||9039 Sunset Boulevard|
|Location||West Hollywood, California 90069|
|Genre(s)||Rock and roll|
|Seating type||downstairs: Standing room only
upstairs: balcony seating
|Opened||February 21, 1967|
Gazzarri's was a nightclub on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, United States. It is perhaps 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 L.A. club featured in Huey Lewis and the News' music video for their hit "The Heart of Rock and Roll."
Gazzarri's reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s, featuring Jim Morrison's young new group, along with other talent such as ? and the Mysterians, The Bobby Fuller Four, Buffalo Springfield and The Walker Brothers. It then achieved major L.A. relevance again in the late '70s, featuring the David Lee Roth-led Van Halen nightly for months on end, and then into the 1980s through the early '90s as one of the top L.A. glam metal nightclubs. It was owned and operated by Bill Gazzarri, who 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, Gazzarri's was a staple of the Los Angeles music scene from the 1960s into the early 1990s. Some other bands that played at Gazzarri's either prior to or during their mainstream success include Johnny Rivers, ? and the Mysterians, 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, Hurricane (band), Page 3, Taz, Tuff, Foxx, Storyteller, James Bond, Reinkus Tide, D'Molls, LIGHTS, Cold Shot, LEGACY, TRAMP and Pretty Boy Floyd. Some of the bands to play Gazzarri's were featured in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, 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 street 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 feature the strip-club style dancing of attractive, young girls between live band performances. The "Miss Gazzarri's Dancers" included future Playboy Playmate and Hugh Hefner girlfriend Barbi Benton as well as future television star Catherine 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.
Gazzarri's was also featured in the 1974 pilot of the "Rockford Files".
The club was part of the controversial "pay-to-play" concept in the 1980s, along with other major Hollywood nightclubs that showcased bands with original songs. As many as four bands per night would each buy 100 to 200 tickets from the club at around $5, handing over in advance hundreds of dollars to the owner for a 45-minute slot on the famous stage. 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."
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 opened at the former Gazzarri's site 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.
- Featured in Season 1, Episode 2 of The Rockford Files, "Backlash of the Hunter, Pt. 2" (1974)