Commentary: Hollywood Gets a Favorite Jukebox Back


Here in Hollywood, it's not news when an aging star has a little work done. Or a lot. But this is different. Next month marks the comeback of a showbiz veteran whose career includes Emmys and Grammys and playing host to showbiz legends: the Hollywood Palladium.

The venerable Sunset Boulevard hall, a block east of Vine, is reopening after a major year-plus restoration. Concert biz headliner Live Nation inked a long-term lease in June 2007 to run the Palladium, and work began soon after.

The estimated $18 million renovation was done by Palladium owners Newport Capital Advisors and Live Nation. NCA financed the exterior work, with $2.5 million coming from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. LN handled the interior revamp, which included a new stage house, refurbishing of the original chandeliers, new ambient lighting in the original art deco style and upgraded amenities including new bars and restrooms.

"The Palladium will be a flagship for Live Nation in Los Angeles," Live Nation California president Rick Mueller says.

It's also part of Los Angeles' grand plan to reclaim some of Tinseltown's faded luster. The hall is in the heart of Hollywood -- pop "hollywood, ca" into Mapquest, and the red star just about lands on the Palladium marquee -- and its surrounding area is a major focus of the restoration, including work on the Pantages Theatre and the massive mixed-use Hollywood and Vine project.

"The Palladium is part of the renaissance under way in Hollywood," Los Angeles City Council president Eric Garcetti says. "We are working to bring new shops, restaurants, housing, entertainment and hotels to the neighborhood while preserving its rich history."

The venue's place in Hollywood lore is secure. It started out as a hugely popular dance spot and later became a TV studio and host of major awards shows.

But the 4,000-capacity Palladium has been best known for the past half-century or so as one of L.A.'s most enduring concert halls. Zeppelin, James Brown and The Clash played there. So have The Stones, The Who, The Police, U2 and Metallica.

No, it's never lacked for superstar bookings. The Palladium opened 68 years ago this week with a concert by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, which featured a rising young singer named Frank Sinatra. The band was flying high on the long-running No. 1 single "I'll Never Smile Again."

Click ahead seven decades, and one of this generation's most iconic stars will rechristen the hall Oct. 15. Jay-Z happens to be riding a chart-busting single of his own in "Swagga Like Us," from the upcoming disc "The Blueprint 3" -- and he'll be backed by a big 12-piece band.

Now, I've always enjoyed going to the Palladium. Starting with The Kinks in 1981, I've been there dozens of times as a fan or reviewer. I like the huge floor with access to the stage. I dig the old-time atmosphere, the neighborhood.

But there were two major flaws with the place: the rough sound and, in the past decade or so, the endless lines to get inside created by the oppressive door security.

Live Nation says that "sound experts are revamping the acoustic treatments on the inside of the venue."

OK, so what about the lines? Palladium security was the toughest around; I've had to plead with people to bring in a pen.

"The Palladium is under new management, and we will be operating a fan-friendly venue," Mueller says. "We will have proper staffing in place to get patrons into the venue quickly so they can enjoy the show."

That will be immediately tested when Jay-Z pulls into town.

But at least we'll have the old place back. For a while there, it appeared to have a date with the wrecking ball. Garcetti, whose district includes Hollywood, says that when he first was elected in 2001, the venue's then-owners approached him several times with proposals to redevelop the site.

"I always said that any project that would take down the Palladium was off the table as long as I was a City Council member," he says.

A Los Angeles native, Garcetti's motivation wasn't necessarily all professional. "I've been to many concerts at the Palladium over the years," he says, "but one of my favorites was seeing The Violent Femmes when I was in high school. In many ways, it was classic '80s. Of course, I didn't realize it then."

Memo to a certain beachside city: Now it's time to renovate the Santa Monica Civic.

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