Remembering The Factory and Studio One

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!

Photos from Save The Factory West Hollywood

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.

Photos by Tony Rizzo

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

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CAL
CAL
5 days ago

Great stories. In the 80s, Koontz Hardware was on the ground floor of The Factory (off La Peer) which would go on to become Fitness Factory until the building was demolished. Always loved the contrast of hardware store/gym by day and club at night: “mixed use” at its best

Your Republic Has Already Fallen
Your Republic Has Already Fallen
17 days ago

Far, far away, and seemingly lifetimes ago now. An earlier version of the world. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, everything falls, everything rusts. All things must pass (even as the future is already here, just happening in different places).

jim Herron
jim Herron
21 days ago

Super stories,Mr. Rizzo,
Studio One was THE place in WH mid-70s-80s,,,,used
to laugh like crazy when DISCO was declared “dead”
by the straight (jealous) media in ’80 (no one in the club got
the the word as the crowd transitioned dancing from Donna Summer on to Madonna !!
Thanks for the fun memories and your wonderful personal photos !
Bravo

Sigh Who's Sane?
Sigh Who's Sane?
22 days ago

The American producer and manager spelled his name Allan Carr (with an A not E)

Jim
23 days ago

Great story, Tony! I love reading articles about Hollywood “back in the day”. Cheers.

Donna P.
Donna P.
23 days ago

It’s amazing how much you remember… in great detail no less!
Very impressive all around…I love reading these stories!

SeeMe
SeeMe
24 days ago

Even the 90s were pretty awesome there, particularly Girl Bar (IF you could find a female to take you) and Club Cherry. The downside of progress (and technology/phones) is the loss of these truly wild, private playgrounds that allowed people to explore all sides of themselves without the threat of camera phones and social media. Glad I got to have that time.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
24 days ago

Great story, great memories! I always marveled at how that rickety building withstood that many people dancing on the second floor while music reverberated throughout the space and shook the walls.

CHRIS
CHRIS
24 days ago

THANK YOU, Tony Rizzo, for the WONDERFUL remembrance of a SPECIAL time in HISTORY! Those truly were the days, and there was not a person in Los Angeles who did not LOVE and FREQUENT that location, no matter the NAME! I, for one, enjoyed myself at all the locations and under every name in that BUILDING! I pray that Condos or Apartments, or Hotel DO NOT replace the GHOSTS who still live in that building! WEST HOLLYWOOD, are you listening?? Tony, your plethora of knowledge for that location, brought back so many wonderful memories, that I personally say: THANK YOU… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
24 days ago

I missed very few of the entertainers who appeared at the Back Lot, including my favorites Eartha Kitt, Morgana King & Bernadette Peters &, if anyone remembers, Jane Oliver, who was very popular at the time & sang “Some Enchanted Evening” like no one else ever. (You can still hear it – on Youtube). Also, a particularly memorable night, Geraldine Fitzgerald, who starred with Bette Davis in “Dark Victory” in 1939, appeared at the Back Lot, doing a one-woman show, singing & telling her life story, both here & in Ireland. Bette Davis held an “opening night” party for her… Read more »

Mike
Mike
25 days ago

Great story. The summer of 1978 was my first time at Studio One. Wall-to-wall cuties. Also, the music was awesome. At the Backlot I saw Charles Pierce, Wayland Flowers & Madame and Anita O’Day. Class acts IMO. Fond memories that I’ll always cherish.

diane lescota
diane lescota
25 days ago

What a great story. Tony wonderful job. You never disappoint

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