Sep 22, 2015

April 14-16, 1967: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles


As the shaggy-haired boy in a checkered mod suit and his equally hirsute miniskirted companion approached the entrance to the Ambassador last weekend, you could almost imagine the doorman saying, "Excuse me, I think you're in the wrong place." But he didn't.
The couple continued into the hotel lobby, mixing with expensively attired guests from the Cocoanut Grove, strolled under the elegant chandeliers and turned in at the ornate doorway of the Embassy Room. There, amidst a swirl of colored spots, strobe-lights, far-out films and floor-shaking rock bands, 1,300 other teeny-hippies gyrated joyously in celebration of International Kaleidoscope's opening.
More than just a strippies' victory in social integration, the Kaleidoscope's presence in the Embassy Room foiled an injunction against the club's intended residence at 1228 Vine St. by the building owner, National General Corp. A subpoena served last Thursday, one day before the announced opening, prevented all persons from entering Los Angeles' second psychedelic ballroom.
By setting up psychedelia in the Ambassador, Kaleidoscope managers Skip Taylor, John Hartmann, Gary Essert and Walter Williams were able to provide a sample of the latest in the art of the freak-out dancehall.
The Ambassador's new Banana Grove, as some dubbed the room, featured the electronic vibrations of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Canned Heat Blues Band. All three rock groups were happily received.
Particularly effective was Airplane leader Marty Balin's version of "This Is My Life," which seemed to voice a popular existential stance in the audience. Pigpen, of the Grateful Dead, who looks like Jerry Colonna in drag, was a vocal success with his modern interpretation of screamin' blues.
Inventive use of the baroque Embassy Room's crystal lighting fixtures and mirrored walls was made by lighting director Bill Kerby. In back of the bandstand, a series of multi-color pattern backgrounds flashed in and out of focus while the silhouette of a girl dancing was superimposed over the projection.
On the sides of the room, film clips of love-ins, psychedelic body paintings, Gov. Reagan's speeches, bananas and sundry other materials were bounced off mirrors and mixed in bizarre juxtaposition with pattern slides. Phosphorescent and stroboscopic lights played over the bobbing heads on the dance floor.
Representatives of the Ambassador claimed to be satisfied with the behavior of the clientele. Kaleidoscope owners are considering continued use of the Embassy Room as a "total environment" until the use of the Vine St. location is resolved.

(by Digby Diehl, from the Los Angeles Times, 18 April 1967)

Thanks to


  1. Deadlists says: "The Dead were supposed to play with Jefferson Airplane and Canned Heat on April 14-16 at The Kaleidoscope on Vine Street. Those shows did not take place, but were moved to the Embassy Ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel."

    The reviewer doesn't say what day he went, just that it was on the weekend. Supposedly the Dead played there on Monday the 17th as well - I am not sure if that was an added show, a Deadbase error, or a makeup for a possibly cancelled Friday the 14th show while the Kaleidoscope looked for a new location.

    The reviewer is most struck by the light show, and the contrast between the "teeny-hippies" and the elegant hotel environment. By the "strippies' victory in social integration," he's referring to the hippies of Sunset Strip. (The Sunset Strip "riots" between police & young clubgoers in November '66 were a major event at the time, inspiring songs, films, and news stories galore - possibly the closing of Kaleidoscope's intended Vine St. address was another repressive step by frightened authorities.)

    He doesn't say much of the bands - Marty Balin sang 'And I Like It,' Pigpen sang "screamin' blues," and they were "happily received." Pigpen "looks like Jerry Colonna in drag!" (All the bands must have looked pretty weird to this probably much older reporter.)

    The Kaleidoscope didn't stay at the hotel - the following weekend it moved to Ciro's for shows by the Doors. You can follow the club's later history here:

  2. I have a show on the 17th as well, not sure how I arrived at it.

    1. It was a Deadbase entry - Deadbase had April 14-16 at the Kaleidoscope (with the Airplane), and Monday April 17 at the Banana Grove in the Ambassador Hotel.

      But Deadbase's info was incomplete - Kaleidoscope's Vine St. location was closed, so the weekend shows were relocated at the hotel.
      Where the April 17 date comes from is unknown. Was a Monday show added? Was it a Deadbase error? Corry speculates it was a Dead record release party; but for now I'll just say there's no evidence for any Dead show on that date, until more info turns up.

  3. A little more background on Kaleidoscope's troubles, from the April 15, 1967 Los Angeles Times:

    The Kaleidoscope, a new pop music club, was prevented from opening as scheduled Friday night by a temporary restraining order issued at the request of National General Corp...which owns the property at 1228 Vine St... The Superior Court order was sought because the tenants, Van Praag Productions, Inc., sublet the property in violation of their lease.
    The order, issued Thursday, prevents the owners of the nightclub from entering the property, remodelling it, allowing music, dancing, or theatrical productions, or permitting noisy or boisterous behavior on the premises.
    John Hartmann, one of the owners of International Kaleidoscope, said his company already had spent more than $75,000 remodelling the stage, installing a sound and light system and promoting the opening.
    Additionally, he said, they had scheduled acts costing them $6,500 for the weekend debut of the club. Booked were Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Canned Heat Band."

    On April 21, there was a notice that "Kaleidoscope will move: International transferring operations to Ciro's for the next three weekends... The fate of Ciro's, which had been featuring jazz and pop music acts, is uncertain."

    And a year later, on March 18, 1968, the Times reported:
    "In April of last year, the principals of an outfit called Kaleidoscope tried to mount a concert in a club on Vine St. A misunderstanding with the owner of the building forced them to move, and for a couple of weeks they migrated through such varied locations as the Cocoanut Grove and Ciro's, then retreated when the problems became overwhelming. Now they have set up shop in what was once the Moulin Rouge (more lately the Hullabaloo). John Hartmann, Skip Taylor, and Gary Essert, the principals, have cleaned and redecorated the building for what they call 'total environment' entertainment, including an excellent sound system and a large-scale light show. They will open this weekend, nearly one year after their first try, with the Jefferson Airplane, the Buffalo Springfield, and Canned Heat, an impressive bill which is nearly identical to their first line-up... The Airplane plan to record three songs during their appearance there for an album scheduled for April 15 release."

    A July 22, 1968 piece in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat stated, "One of the popular spots down there is the Kaleidoscope, located - believe it or not - directly across the street from Lawrence Welk's polka palace. (When the two audiences mingle in the parking lots, it must be a gas.) The Kaleidoscope features films and upcoming groups on weekday nights, major groups on weekends. It has a light show that runs almost 360 degrees..."
    They managed to stay open through August '68 -- more details in the Rock Prosopography post.