Arts & Culture

The Roxy: A Legacy of Music and Nightlife


The Roxy continues to be one of the performance hotspots on the Sunset Strip. From up-and-coming bands and artists to true rock and roll legends, on most nights of the week you will find something interesting and intimate cooking at the Roxy. Once you’re inside, you will no doubt feel the magical history of the place. If only those walls could talk…

Before the Roxy

The Roxy wasn’t always the Roxy. In the 1960s it was called Largo, and featured exotic burlesque revues. In fact, you may remember Largo from the film The Graduate, as it’s where Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin, came to watch strippers as part of his meandering night through the city. On top of Largo back then was a topless club called the Phone Booth. But the building had a life even before entertaining rock stars and featuring topless women. Decades before Largo, this exact same structure was the Westside market; simply a neighborhood grocery store.

The Roxy is born

Elmer Valentine and Mario Maglieri, who later brought in partner and manager Lou Adler, in a building previously occupied by a strip club owned by Jerry Lewis, founded the Roxy in 1973. (Adler brought the stage play Rocky Horror Show to the United States, and it opened its first American run at The Roxy Theatre in 1974, and it was made into the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show the next year.) Almost immediately, the Roxy became one of the premier music clubs in the United States. It all kicked off with a series of shows by Neil Young with Nils Lofgren opening up. The first year alone featured headliners such as Cheech and Chong, Jerry Lewis, The Temptations and Frank Zappa.

Photo Courtesy of Vintage Los Angeles.

Not just music

The Roxy was not only a stage for musicians but for comedians and actors alike. During the first few years the opening acts mainly consisted of emerging comedians. These up-and-comers included David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Arsenio Hall. In 1981, The Roxy gave the floor to an unknown performance artist named Paul Reubens and his eccentric character Pee Wee Herman. Between the months of May and July, The Pee Wee Herman Show would run 3 nights in a row at a time. This later led to the success of the beloved television series, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

On the Rox

Simultaneously with the venue opening in 1973, the owners opened a Private Membership Only lounge above The Roxy called On The Rox (formerly the aforementioned Phone Booth club). This lounge was a personal hang out for the owners and their showbiz pals. As this exclusive club grew in popularity, it became one of the hottest hangouts for A-listers on the Sunset Strip. Proof of paid membership was displayed by a key. On The Rox has hosted a wide variety of debauchery in its history; it was a regular hangout for John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Alice Cooper and Keith Moon during Lennon’s “lost weekend” in 1975, and in the 1980s hosted parties arranged by “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss. Today it is still an exclusive hideaway.

The legacy of the Roxy

Since the beginning, there have been hundreds of memorable performances here by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Marley. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention recorded most of their celebrated Roxy and Elsewhere album during December 1973 at The Roxy.

Hundreds of famous and yet-to-be-famous acts such as Tori Amos, Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Al Stewart and David Bowie have played this highly prestigious venue. Thankfully, the Roxy remains open (and thriving) today.

The Roxy Theatre
Sunset Strip

The Roxy Theatre

9009 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310-278-9457

Chris Epting
About Chris Epting
Chris Epting is the author of 30 travel/history books, including James Dean Died Here (Santa Monica Press), Roadside Baseball (McGraw Hill), Hello It's Me, Dispatches From a Pop Culture Junkie (Santa Monica Press) and many others. He is also an award-winning travel writer and has contributed articles for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Westways and Travel + Lesiure magazine, among other publications. In addition, Chris is a veteran music journalist and recently co-wrote Def Leppard's Phil Collen's memoir, Adrenalized, and the John Oates Memoir Change of Seasons. Originally from New York, Chris now lives in Huntington Beach, California with his wife and their two children.

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