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Rock of Ages: The Sunset Strip

sunset-stripThe entire action of the musical “Rock of Ages” happens in a place called the Sunset Strip. The very name “Sunset Strip” sounds exciting, and romantic. Is this a real place, and if so, just where is the Sunset Strip?

There is a mile and half stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, California. It extends from West Hollywood’s eastern border with Hollywood at Harper Avenue, to its western border with Beverly Hills at Sierra Drive. Some say it is the most famous ten blocks in America.

The Strip is probably the best-known portion of Sunset Boulevard, embracing a premier collection of boutiques, restaurants, rock clubs, and nightclubs that are on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry.  The Strip is also known for its huge, colorful billboards and has developed into a popular location for rock stars, movie stars and entertainers to hang out. It seems every square inch of space is covered with colorful and provocative advertising.

A Brief History:

In the 1920s, a number of nightclubs and casinos moved in along the Strip, which attracted movie people in droves, especially since the movie studios were not far away. People in the movie still-new movie industry had looser ideas about enjoying themselves after a hard day of shooting a film, and they needed a more “fraternal” place to play and let loose. When Prohibition arrived after WWI, it was in many back rooms that people could be served alcohol.

By the 1930s and the 1940s, the Strip was known for its renowned restaurants and clubs and became a playground for the rich and famous. The fashions were high, and so were the customers, as liquor flowed while cutting edge bands played for people who arrived in limousines.

By the early 1960s, the Strip lost favor with the majority of movie people, especially as the studio system was changing. But the restaurants, bars and clubs continue to be popular with locals and tourists.  In the mid-1960s and the 1970s, it became a major gathering-place for the counterculture: hippies, punks, folk singers, go go’s. It was here that the scene of the Sunset Strip curfew riots occurred in the summer of 1966, involving police and crowds of hippies. Also at this time, Go-Go dancers performed at such spots as the famous Whisky A Go Go, wearing white calf high boots and doing the “Jerk” in cages suspended above the audience and other dancers.

Then, in the early 1970s The Strip became a popular hangout for glam rock musicians and groupies. The area continued to be associated with having a good time, and now alcohol being legal for decades, the clientele and performers were partaking of other forms of recreational substances as well.  The Strip became a major focus for punk rock and new wave during the late 1970s, and it became the center of the colorful glam metal scene throughout the 1980s (the time period of “Rock of Ages”).

Rents began to rise in the area during the 1980s, however, which coincided with the decline of the glam metal scene in the early 1990s, and the Sunset Strip was no longer a major area for up and coming musicians. With the adoption of “pay to play” tactics, in which bands were charged a fee to play at clubs like the Whisky and Roxy, made it no longer appealing for many rock bands to play there.

Currently bands or performers who want to make it big set their sights on playing “the circuit,” which is the Whisky, Roxy and the Troubadour. On any night, one can see music lovers line up to hear the good, the great and the not-so-great in a musical struggle to make it big in the area of Sunset between Doheny and La Ciegena.

The Strip also has L.A.’s chic celebrity haunts, places where gaining entrance requires at least an Academy Award nomination or a few magazine cover shots: the “A-list.”

The Whisky A Go-Go (The Whisky) is where you go for Rock ‘n’ Roll, punk and heavy metal. Groups that played there include: The Doors, Guns ‘N Roses, and Mötley Crüe. This was the place in America where the Go Go girl back in the ‘60s got her start when the club’s female DJ started dancing to the tunes she was spinning while suspended in a cage above the dance floor. By the 80s, it gave birth to heavy metal.

The Rainbow Bar & Grill (better known as the Rainbow Room, located next door to the Roxy) is a hard rocker hangout that does not feature live music at this time, and is essentially a restaurant. Those seeking good entertainment from the “scene” don’t even have to go inside, but can catch the vibe by standing outside and watching the action. People in the bands, as well as fans still like to hang out here after shows.

The Troubadour is the heavy metal place to go. It is located just off The Strip on Santa Monica in West Hollywood just east of Beverly Hills. In its early days, The Troubadour gave folk rockers, such as David Crosby a start at its Monday night “hootenanny.” Mondays are still the day to rock.

The House of Blues is home to many famous or name bands. Bands are either current popular groups or those who have history and a fan base. One could also find private functions, VIP parties, etc. If there are limos parked outside – you just might see someone famous. Another feature of the House of Blues is The Sunday Gospel brunch that is extremely popular in LA and in other franchise establishments.

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