Thursday, June 25, 2015

Legendary Gay Club Studio One Facing Demolition

Wow. The West Hollywood building that housed Studio One -- the gay disco in which my friends and I spent our early 20s dancing the night away when not hanging out in the Backlot -- has been declared "endangered." I know it became AXIS after I moved east and is apparently still in business as its original name, The Factory. Would be a shame to see what was truly the closest thing the West Coast had to Studio 54 go.

LAist reports:
A building that once was home to a pioneering gay disco has been declared "endangered" in the hopes to save it from—yep—development in West Hollywood. The Factory, located at 652 North La Peer Drive, was designated one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Wednesday. The building was first built in 1929, and has been host to the changing history of Los Angeles through its life. At first it served as a factory for the Mitchell Camera Corporation, whose cameras have been recognized by the Academy for their contributions for the movie industry. The company moved out after the War and from 1967 to 1972 it was simply "The Factory," a popular nightclub for celebrities. It wasn't until Scott Forbes took over the space in 1974 that it became the disco Studio One, an epicenter for gay nightlife and activism. Studio One "offered no shortage of mirrored balls (seven to be exact), strobe lights, lasers, a gleaming red neon Pegasus and a fish tank in the men's room that spouted water for hand washing," WeHoville says in their history of the space. "Studio One was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people," Forbes told the L.A. Times. Patti LaBelle, Joan Rivers and Liza Minnelli all performed at the club, and in the early-80s it also hosted one of the first major fundraisers in response to the AIDS epidemic.

My WeHo doppelganger 

Have so many fond memories of Studio One, most notably going there every Saturday night with my roommates Paul Samson and Ken McDonald. (If you see this, Ken, please contact me!) "Groove Is in the Heart" (by Dee-Lite) and "Use It Up and Wear It Out" (a Pat and Mick cover of the old Odyssey classic produced by Stock-Aitken-Waterman) were the songs that made people go crazy on the dancefloor, and that's where I finally met my "Latin twin" named Christian Ornelas, a guy people were telling me about for years. It turned out to be true -- in certain light it was uncanny! -- but I found out as I researched this he passed away a couple years ago from complications of HIV/AIDS, which suddenly made this whole thing incredibly sad.

My other (albeit haziest) memory is the time I got so drunk I was sort of "resting" in a bathroom stall, and one of the big hunky bouncers came in and CARRIED me down to the front door. Once there, he could see I was in no condition to actually leave, so he propped me up in the seat where the guy checking IDs normally sat. (Maybe he was the doorman too.) Well, next thing I knew a line of gay guys came along and started pulling out their driver's licenses, so I just went along with it in my drunken stupor and started carding people. It was only when I asked the (distracted) bouncer for a flashlight that the jig was up!

  • Learn about the club's history HERE.
  • You can show your support by signing a petition to keep the building alive HERE.

  • Robert Bazan | 
    Studio One is now called The Factory..... a sad imitation of Studio One and only open for special parties... The Backlot is a small dance club, not nearly as busy as The Abbey, across the street or Mickey's & other WeHo clubs. Probe had a fire in the 1990s and is long gone...Sad Sad.


    SFRowGuy said...

    As you may or may not know, Steve Schulte (1st pic, right) was Nick Chase of Colt fame (solo only). I had (have) a big crush on him back then.

    Kenneth M. Walsh said...

    Oh, yeah!

    Tom said...

    It was immortalized in song... (around 2:45)