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Developer Buying Hollywood Palladium
The Hollywood venue is to be sold for an estimated $65 million, but a restoration may not be feasible.
By Roger Vincent, Times Staff Writer, June 30, 2006
The fast-moving makeover of the Hollywood district may soon include a new development on the site of the Hollywood Palladium, the famous concert hall that has hosted such top musical acts as Glenn Miller and the Grateful Dead.
Whether the building itself can survive the transition is unclear.
Combined Properties Inc. is buying the 66-year-old Sunset Boulevard venue with the intention of developing its large parking lot — possibly with residences, stores and a hotel, said Marianne Lowenthal, executive vice president of the Beverly Hills firm.
She declined to say how much the company is paying for the property, but local real estate observers value the deal at about $65 million.
The Palladium has been a shining piece of Hollywood history. It was built by former film producer Maurice M. Cohen on the site of the original Paramount Studio. His ambition was to create a music mecca where ordinary Angelenos could see top celebrities.
After opening night on Halloween 1940, The Times wrote: "The million-dollar ballroom-cafe, which can accommodate comfortably 7,500 persons, was literally packed to the rafters when band leader Tommy Dorsey blew the first blast from his trombone and his orchestra let loose with some jive and swing music."
Dorsey's singers included a skinny young man from New Jersey named Frank Sinatra.
Preservationists have been worried that Hollywood's real estate boom might lead to the razing of the Palladium to make way for shops, restaurants and condominiums, which are enjoying popularity among buyers attracted to the district's surging nightlife and urban vibe.
"We are going to try our hardest to save the Palladium and restore it," Lowenthal said.
Such a project, however, would be "very expensive," she acknowledged. "We are analyzing it right now and working to come up with plans everyone would be excited about."
Combined Properties has the Palladium in escrow and expects to take title by summer's end.
The company has specialized in building neighborhood shopping centers including Foothill Town Center in Foothill Ranch and is moving toward the type of mixed-use developments gaining popularity in urban areas. It has three such projects planned in West Hollywood.
If Combined Properties can keep the Palladium in place, it would have an easier time of getting a development surrounding it approved, said Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
"It's an important landmark and a lot of people would be very strongly opposed to losing it," he said. "In the interest of moving forward on a quick timetable, it would be a good idea" to save it.
Among those ready to fight for the Palladium is the Los Angeles Conservancy, Executive Director Linda Dishman said.
The building does not have official landmark status, she said, but it was designed by noted Los Angeles architect Gordon Kaufman, who also designed Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
"Hollywood is known internationally as an entertainment capital, so it is important to keep venues that continue to serve that use," Dishman said. "The Palladium still has a very active place in entertainment today."
The current owner, Palladium Investors Ltd., didn't respond to requests for comment, but President Alan Shuman acknowledged to the Los Angeles Business Journal last week that a sale was being discussed.
Development on the Palladium block on Sunset between Argyle Avenue and El Centro Avenue has been expected, said real estate broker Steven Tronson of Ramsey-Schilling Co., because the district around nearby Vine Street has seen a recent burst of activity. More than $1.2 billion in development including condos, stores, apartments and a hotel are planned or underway.
In 1942, management at the Palladium bragged that a million people a year were going there to dance and escape the pressures of World War II. Big bands led by Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Harry James and Stan Kenton performed there, and their shows were broadcast to millions of radio listeners nightly.
The venue retained its appeal for top acts through the years and was also the site of graduation parties for generations of high school seniors. In 1961, the Palladium became home to Lawrence Welk's television show and has been the site of many award events, including the Emmys and Grammys.
The current burst of real estate development is "probably the most exciting time for Hollywood since that era when the Palladium was so great," Gubler said. "It would be in everybody's interest to do a project that could clean up the building."
For over a half century, the Hollywood Palladium has offered world-class entertainment - from legends of the Big Band era, to the best in contemporary rock concerts. Since opening it's doors on October 29, 1940, the nightclub/ballroom has consistantly presented the highest caliber of music events possible, establishing itself as Hollywood's flagship for fun and excitement.
The Palladium began the vision of motion pictures producer/promoter Maurice M. Cohen – his personal dream to create the world’s largest dining and dancing palace. Opened as a ballroom in 1940, the 11,000 square foot oval dance floor was the place to be, When the Palladium had its gala premiere, the entertainment industry was in the midst of its heyday. Tommy Dorsey and his band, featuring soon-to-be-famous Frank Sinatra, opened to rave reviews. Over 6,500 people attended each show, filling the dance floor, dining area, and mezzanine.
In those days the Palladium was situated between the NBC and CBS radio studios and dominated the night scene which included such celebrity haunts as the Brown Derby, Earl Carroll’s and the Mocambo. Inside, familiar faces like Rita Hayworth, Tyrone Power, Lana Turner and Betty Grable mingled with non-celebrity clientele who enjoyed the ballroom’s entertainment and big band dancing at moderate prices.
As America entered World War II, the Palladium flourished and continued to provide top-flight bands. For 50 cents, GI’s spilling over from the nearby Hollywood Canteen could dance to live music by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Harry James and Stan Kenton, whose radio broadcast brought the excitement of the Palladium into millions of homes nightly. Even after the war, when big bands began to lose their popularity, the Palladium still drew in a record 6,750 eager dancers to the 1947 opening night performance of Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra – an event enthusiastically covered by Life Magazine.
The television came to the Palladium in the early fifties with a weekly one and one-half hour telecast over KNXT. In 1961, when two television producers became the new owners, they booked Lawrence Welk who drew an estimated 14,000 people for his first two nights. Over the next decade, the Hollywood Palladium became Welk’s “home” for his popular weekly television broadcast.
Currently owned and operated by Palladium Investment, Inc., with Steve Silberman as CEO and Alan Shuman as President, the 40,700 sq. foot facility boasts a 11,200 sq. foot, solid white ash dance floor; a 15,000 sq. foot acoustical plaster ceiling; computerized bar stations; and state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. The dining facilities can readily accommodate up to 2,500 guests in a banquet-style setting, with concert events drawing as many as 3,500 spectators.
The owners have pledged to retain the integrity and quality of performances at the Hollywood Palladium, as well as creating a safe and entertaining atmosphere for future patrons. In addition to the standard booking fare, the Hollywood Palladium will also regularly stage concerts with an international flavor and one-of-a-kind sporting events.
A lavish cultural monument, the Hollywood Palladium continues to carry the original owner’s dream by catering to a wider audience in elegance, style, and with a commitment to high-energy entertainment in a facility unlike any other in the world.
A part of a group of Streamline Moderne architectural wonders created for the entertainment industry, the Palladium played a major role in the importance of classic radio (since WWII) and television (since KNXT started landmark broadcasts there in the early 1950s), as well as being used as a movie location for The Blues Brothers and many other American classics, as well as for numerous Charities, Award shows and Special Events.
The Big Bands Every great band played the Palladium from World War II into the 1950s (Phil Harris, Tex Beneke, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, Harry James, Kay Kyser, Les Brown, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, etc.). The television came to the Palladium in the early fifties with a weekly one and one-half hour telecast over KNXT. In 1961, when two television producers became the new owners, they booked Lawrence Welk who drew an estimated 14,000 people for his first two nights. Over the next decade, the Hollywood Palladium became Welk’s “home” for his popular weekly television
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