It all began 86 years ago when The Mitchell Camera Corporation built their factory off Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer Street. They claimed their cameras lensed 85% of Hollywood films made at that time. Eventually they moved to Glendale and today are a part of Panavision.
The building housed many businesses until 1967 when a consortium of Hollywood’s upper level swells, headed by Paul Newman, Anthony Newley, Jerry Orbach, director Richard Donner and Peter Lawford, to name some, turned it into their own private playground and called it THE FACTORY!
Peter Lawford insisted it had to be a private club in order to attract his friends who happened to be Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack.
I called in every favor I was owed by any member of The Factory and got my name on the guest list as often as possible. I couldn’t bring a camera into the club but I could network and hobnob with the big name stars I only dreamed of knowing. You could put your name on a list and like a regular pool hall, get to play whoever won the game before you were called. Eventually, I was able to play pool with Paul Newman, Minnesota Fats himself, Jackie Gleason, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and once, even Frank Sinatra, to name a few. They loved playing opposite me because I was a rotten pool player and I made them look great.
When I couldn’t get into The Factory, I waited outside with my cameras to see if I could shoot some of the many stars who played there.
On August 8, 1969, I was talking to an actress and her best friend outside the club. I’d known her for a couple of years and when she was engaged to Phillipe Forquet, who starred with Sandra Dee and James Stewart in “Take Her, She’s Mine,” I visited them and she made dinner for us several times. We were laughing about old times, for about 15 minutes and then they went into the club. The next night she and her best friend were brutally murdered by The Manson Clan. Their names were Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring. Two days later, two FBI men showed up at my apartment and wanted to know what we’d talked about. How did they know who I was and where to find me? Duh, they were the FBI! Hollywood and it’s stars shut everything down. All the clubs, The Daisy, The Candy Store and The Factory were empty because celebrities were afraid to leave their homes and beefed up their home security. It was a scary time and the streets were deserted until we all learned about The Manson Family.
Five years later, bored with maintaining The Factory and looking for new avenues of fun, The Factory closed its doors.
For a while that site became The Paradise Ballroom, a Penny Arcade and even a shopping site with a dozen boutiques.
Then in 1974 Scott Forbes took over the space and converted it into an expansive dance club and called it Studio One. My best friend, John Winkler, was hired to put in a sound system, “Like never before anywhere” and the walls radiated with music from top to bottom. More than 1,000 people came every night. John Winkler became a major DJ and I sat in his booth and watched and listened many nights. Some of the most beautiful people I’d ever seen came through there and it was the first time I met that special group of ladies known as “fag hags.” Over time Studio one became the top gay dance club in WeHo.
But Scott Forbes kept saying it wasn’t enough. He had a vision to create a premiere nightclub. He converted the back end of the club into “The Backlot” with it’s own special entrance on Robertson Blvd. He booked great talent into that room such as, Madeline Kahn, Joan Rivers, Ike & Tina Turner, Wayland Flowers, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters and Jim Bailey (who set Weho ablaze by completely becoming Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and Barbra Streisand, to name only 3).
When I was managing “Days Of Our Lives” star Kaye Stevens who also starred in “The Interns,” “The New Interns,” and “Jaws 3-D,” she played 2 weeks at the backlot and was applauded by Elton John, Barry Manilow, producer Allen Carr and many other celebs.
In March of 1975, Studio One was the site of the party for the premiere of the film, “Tommy.” It was a mob scene to get in on La Peer and I waited on line with Peter Townsend of The Who to get in. By the time we went in, he and I were “old friends” and he ushered me into the VIP area where I mingled with Roger Daltrey, Tina Turner, Ann-Margret and Elton John, to name a few.
The staff of Studio One loved to party, as soon as 2 AM rolled around. I lived in a 3 story town house on Westknoll with John Winkler and another guy. One night I went to bed at 11 PM and was awakened at 2:30 by a loud party on our street. I went to the window to see where the party was only to learn it was happening under me. I dressed and went down the stairs to find more than fifty guys partying. There wasn’t any food or drink earlier but they toted all that from Studio One and the party was in full swing. The next morning there were beautiful bodies strewn all over the first floor as people were too drunk or high to go home yet. That’s the kind of party Studio One was.
Alas, Studio One closed its doors in 1988 and though many promoters tried to revive it and duplicate its success. In the 1990’s it was called The Rose Tattoo, then The Factory again and eventually, Metropolitan.
Today there is nothing but a big hole in the ground where great times were had and memories were born. It soon to become a 250 room hotel, but beware, some of the ghosts of The Factory and Studio One may still be there.
For more information, visit Save The Factory West Hollywood