Cards for Pain originally posted 8/12/13/updated 9/4/13
Although its painful to say, it certainly was no surprise to see the wrecking ball parked in front of the long-dormant Tiffany Theater on the Sunset Strip. The entire block is being replaced with a series of glass hotels and high-priced residences with shops on the ground floor that no one will use since there's already a zillion malls all over town. Welcome to the “Sunset La Cienega Project,” renamed from the moldy “Millennium Project”...a plan locals have been trying to stop since Y2k.
In a way, the Tiffany, which was one of the pioneer destinations for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has already died a few deaths. First when the theater closed and refurbished to become a playhouse in 1983 and a second time when the entire block was converted to a single building by being paved over in stucco in 1997, adding some painfully dated decorative safety-red restraining bars. Not only was the vintage 1930's wooden facade (that had previously been seen on TV as the detective agency on 77 Sunset Strip) rendered unrecognizable, the classic restaurant next door that had been Dino's Lodge in an earlier lifetime was also buried beneath thick gobs of architectural putty. A third death came when the playhouse closed in 2004, never to reopen.
L.A. was a fantastic place to grow up, but to steal a line from an old song by Tonio K, she's become a "filthy concrete bitch without a soul." About month ago, the landmark Bullwinkle statue that stood in front of the old Jay Ward Studios was lifted away, as the building had been sold to a new owner who didn't "have the resources" to maintain the landmark that arrived amid much hooplah in 1961. It is now supposedly housed at Dreamworks studios, "awaiting repair," and is rumored to be returning to some other public location, which I will believe when I see. Unlike the statue (but like so many other forgotten relics) the Tiffany is now a pile of stucco rubble, along with my dreams of winning the lottery so I could buy and restore it to it's former glory (or at least something close.)
Truth is, what made the place special was neither the architecture nor the decor. For a portion of the hundreds, if not thousands who visited the theater on a regular basis, it was more than just a fun hang; it was a home away from home. Rocky Horror exploded at this place, but the pre-midnight schedule was bold and fun, with a healthy mixture of 3D movies, classic musicals and alternative programming. You were just as likely to see a Rock 'n' Roll movie as you were a gay-themed film, lavish musical or forgotten, vintage title.
I drove by before the final demolition to take what was my final look at a destination that helped shape my life. Each of us has special memories and feelings about our Rocky theater, and the Tiffany is no exception for countless Rocky Elders. Although it has been dormant for a decade, I'm sure I'm not the only one who regularly visited the vacant building just to see the landmark sign, which remained atop its Sunset Strip location for over 45 years. With nothing else left, I have never been more pleased that I thought to steal one of the crystals from the Tiffany's lobby chandelier 34 years ago. It's not only one of my favorite mementos, it became one of the last remnants of the theater once the wrecking crew swept away the rubble.
Mercifully, the marquee letters were saved from the boneyard. An 11th hour rescue was employed, and as a result, the mammoth neon and bright-lighted signage at the soon-to-be open Valley Relics Museum. I stood in stunned silence watching their removal, though was rewarded for my small participation in the somber event with a light bulb from the venerable "Y," to treasure forever. The building, along with the rest of the block, is now gone, making way for the 10-story glass condo complex soon to be clogging up what once was a Mecca of clubs, theaters and famous shops. Now, even their ghosts have been swept away. There goes the neighborhood.
Times change, progress cannot be stopped, but down inside I'm bleeding.