This was our fourth time at the Palladium, having seen Bob Dylan there last month and the Decemberists during the summer. We attended a tattoo convention there a couple of years ago too, before it was renovated. Still, I knew very little about the place.
Then, last month, we found a bit of ephemera at a flea market that got me wondering. This item is a picture sleeve. Apparently the Palladium once employed professional photographers who would snap a picture of you and your sweetie dancing. Inside, there's room for the photo and for autographs. Just in case you ended up rubbing shoulders with movie stars, I guess!
Obviously, this place has quite a history! After a bit of snooping I found out that it opened in 1940, on the site of the original Paramount film lot. Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra played the first night. It was designed, in all its art deco splendor, by Gordon Kaufmann. He also designed the Greystone Mansion, Santa Anita Racetrack, and the Los Angeles Times building, so we can thank him for much of what I think of as "romantic L.A.".
Over the years it became a bit seedy. But along the way it saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Cure, Lawrence Welk, the MC5, Taj Mahal, and even President Kennedy grace its stage. A serious nadir came in the early 90's, when a brawl forced a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch performance to be canceled.
But now it's back! The renovation is subtle, but it has done wonders. The floor is still polished wood, preserving its dance hall roots. The concession stands still blend unobtrusively with the flow of the crowd, evoking a more genteel time. When gazing at one of the chandeliers you could almost believe it was 1940 again. That is, until you catch sight of someone taking a picture of that same chandelier... With their iPhone.