Monday, June 9, 2008

1980 Dec -Flippers

The GoGo's played Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace on Friday,  December 5, 1980
Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace was located at 8491 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.

 photo: Jenny Lens

Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace opened up in July 1979. 

In 1979-1981 - Flipper's was hard to miss. It was the flashy purple-blue building on the northeast corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica Blvds. 

 Same view today
2008 photo: tlc

The owner was Denny Cordell, Nicholas Cowan and Flipper (a mysterious Englishman named Flipper). The property was partly owned by Berry Gordy, Motown's head man. 

Denny Cordell was born in Buenos Aires but grew up in England. In the '60's he worked as a producer for Island Records.  (He produced the  Moody Blue's 1st album Magnificent Moodies)

Cordell went on to become president of Shelter Records. (Later he dabbled in racehorses). 

In the 1979 he turned his attention to opening a star-studded member's only nightspot that would combined the disco and roller skating fad. Cordell had previously visited a similar type club in New York City.

Flipper's was a posh and exclusive nightclub for skaters. It was also a private club. However, one didn't have to be rich and famous to join. Membership was limited to 1,000. A 5-man membership committee chose the members who paid $200 annually plus a $7 entrance fee. It was open 8pm  'til late.

The outside sign calls it a Roller Boogie Palace. Originally the club was a place for skating and talking. 

Flipper's - All lit up at night

Flipper's had a bar, restaurant and a custom skate shop. It was decorated to look like a plush exotic tropical fantasy paradise. 

It had mirrors, disco balls, mural and private booths. Rather than wood, the skating floor was made of polyurethane. 

Looking east from Santa Monica Boulevard toward San Vicente Blvds.

Now looking east toward the northeast corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega Blvds.
2008 photo: tlc

La Cienega Lanes - Bowling Alley
Before it became Flipper's, the site was a former bowling alley called La Cienega Lanes. 

LAPL Herald Examiner collection

It seemed like La Cienega Lanes stood northeast corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega Blvds. forever. Indeed, it was built in 1940 and stood here about 40 years. For years it was West Hollywood's beloved bowling alley. 

2008: tlc 

In 1946 La Cienega Lanes was purchased by Art Linkletter and associates. 

La Cienega Lanes survived until the late '70's. In the '70's, many of the old bowling alleys had gone out of business. Many were converted into dance clubs or roller rinks. 

1979 Roller Skating/ Disco Craze 

One of the biggest movies of the '70's was Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta. Released in 1978, this movie help create a disco craze across the country. 

Movie Poster

The amazing dance moves inspired many to dance to colored strobe lights in disco clubs. 
By the end of 1979 there were over 10,000 discos in the USA. 

It was only natural that disco music would filter into roller rinks and prompt a roller disco craze. Roller skaters were eager to perform disco dance moves on skates. Roller disco dancers  would dress in stretchy, brightly colored satin pants and enter competitions at roller rinks and in parks. 

By 1979 was the height of the huge roller skating- disco craze.

Rinks were no longer hangouts for street kids. Roller rinks became fashionable places with disco atmospheres. Rinks had flashing lights that are synchronized with the music. 

Actresses Bret Somers, left, and Lee Meriwether

 AP photo: 1979

The big change in skating had to do with the wheels. The new polyurethane wheel that revolutionized skateboarding made the transition to roller skates. The wheels cushion the bumps, creaks and vibrations.  

In Los Angeles, a popular place to skate was along the bike and pedestrian paths of Venice Beach. 

Roller skating at Venice Beach

LAPL digital archive, Louise Stern: 1988

There were estimated 50 roller rinks in the Los Angeles area. Popular rinks included: 
Bellflower Rollerena 9140 E. Alondra Blvd., Bellflower
Buena Park Rollertorium  7951 Commonweath Ave, Buena Park
Harbor Roller Rink 1726 Superior Ave., Costa Mesa
Skate-O-Rama Skating Center 12310 S. Woodruff Ave., Downey
Fountain Valley Skating Center 9105 Recreation Circle, Fountain Valley
Roller Village 464 W. Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton
Moonlight Rollerway 5110 San Fernando road, Glendale
Roller City 945 W. bonita Ave., Glendora
Laguna Hills Skate Palace 23251 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills
Roller Skatium 2517 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
Northridge Skateland 18140 Parthenia St., Northridge
T-Bird Rollerdrome 8252 W. Whittier Blvd., Pico Rivera
Pomona Skateland 3964 E. Mission Blvd., Pomona
Sherman Square Roller Rink 18430 Sherman Way, Reseda
Fiesta Roller Rink 136 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel
Skate Ranch 2526 N. Main St., Santa Ana
Shamrock Skate Arena 1851 Mullin Ave., Torrance
Carousel Roller Rink 1133 N. Azusa Canyon Road, West covina
Roller Skateen Center 300 Hampshire road, Westlake village
Whittier Skateland 12520 E. whittier blvd, Whittier
Skatopia 7100 Knott Ave., Buena Park
Marina Del Rey Skatepark 12980 Culver Blvd., Marina del Rey
The Big 'O' Skateboard Park 157 N. Wayfield St., City of Orange
The Endless Wave 1965 N. Oxnard Blvd., Oxnard
Scatercross 6734 Reseda Blvd., Reseda
The Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale is one of the oldest rinks in the country. It opened in 1956. It has maple floors. It's still there - though not sure how much roller skating goes on. 

In West Hollywood there was Flippers Roller Boogie Palace!

Disco Skating Movies
Several movies were made about the Disco Skating Craze including Roller Boogie, Xandu and Skatetown, USA. These movies glorified roller disco. 

Movie poster

Flipper's was now open to the public! 

In February of 1980 Flipper's went new wave and rock 'n' roll. It was open to the public and started to present live music with rock 'n' roll nights on Thursdays and new-wave nights of Tuesdays.

Summer 1980
In 1980 Flippers Roller Boogie Palace offered weekly roller skating instruction, yoga classes, skating competition and entertainment.  Wednesday night was ladies night - ladies were admitted free. Tuesday nights featured new wave, raggae and rock 'n' roll music. 

A kids summer fun vacation program included; special games, competition, prizes, celebrity visits on Saturdays; skating on the blue lagoon rink with jungle fantasy decor. Mon - Sat 10:30am - 6pm. Sunday 10;30 - 3:pm Weekdays; over 12 $3. Skate rentals and food available.

LAPL digital archives: 1980

1980 (sample of shows presented at Flipper's)
Leroy & the Lifter (house band)
Rockabilly Rollers
the Pencils, Kingbees
Little girls, Bugs Tomorrow
Gary Myrick
the Pop, the Limit
Bus Boys
Toni & the Movers
Billy and the Beaters
Ink Spots
Phil Seymour
Rubber City Rebels
Great Buildings
the Blasters
 Naughty Sweeties, Bullet Boys
 Billy Burnette, John Lawry Group
Jo Allen and the Shapes
Linda Rondstadt
Jimmy Rabbitt
No Sister
the Limit, Resistors
Berlin, Falcons, Soldier
the Limit, Adaptors
the Last, Wet Picnic
Candy Apple, the Johnnys
John Cougar
Flippers wass where Linda Rondstadt and Nicolette Larson and Chaka Khan roller skated to raise money for Gov. Jerry Brown's presidential campaign. 

Flippers hosted veil nights on Wednesday nights. It would book local pop rocks acts as well as more known acts. 
Dead Kenney's 
Black Flag
the Germs
Alley Cats
Patti Smith
The Ramones
Talkng Heads
Prince (age 21)

Nearby Flippers on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Holloway Motel was at 8465 Santa Monica Blvd.
International House of Pancakes at 6461 Santa Monica Blvd.
Barney's Beanery was at 8447 Santa Monica Blvd.
Starwood was at 8151 Santa Monica Blvd.

2008 photo: tlc

2008 photo: tlc

In 1983 the site became a Esprit De Corps. - a woman's apparel retail shop.

Today a CVS drug store occupies the site.



Mom of Three said...

Thanks for this labor of love! I LIVED at the Laguna Hills Skate Palace when I was a kid. I took lessons, competed, etc. It's a furniture store now.

Here's the rub, we're moving to Portland OR and there is an AMAZING skate rink there--Oaks Park--over 100 years old. This thing made me just gasp! Wood floors, huge and natural lighting. Check out the website.

Still, it wouldn't hurt this generation if they had more skating rinks around and fewer video games!

Peter (the other) said...

Thanks for this wonderful remembrance. I used to play guitar with Leroy & The Lifters, and have some wild memories of this rink.

Den S L.A. said...

I saw the GG's at Flipper's, Prince too, wearing only briefs and one of his housecoats.
I lived West Hollywood from '75 to '85 and saw the Go Go's whenever I wanted. Then in 1980 I happened to pass through London returning from Canne and there they were! Could not get to them to tell them I was one of their homeboys though.
Still have some of there 45's with the colored plastic- with jacket!
Always wanted to see if Jane wanted them. She was my favorite ever since the little pixie in the kilt walked to the edge of the Starwood stage and hocked a big 'ol lugie. It was gross, but I died laughing.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! I was a kid in the streets of Hollywood back then. I used to bowl at La Cienega Lanes. And when it turned in to Flippers I was in amazement, IN A GOOD WAY!!! :) I never was allowed into Flippers, but wanted to go in SO BADLY!!! And then one day it was gone... and so was I. Moved to the east coast. I wish I had gone to Flippers. It's like the dream of meeting an actor that has long since passed away. BUT I LOVE THIS POST!!!!! Thank you! :)


Leesa said...

THanks sooo much for this post and pics.. Donna Summer's passing just brought up soooo many memories of skating at Flippers when I was a kid.... We were ALWAYS at FLIPPERS!! My mom worked in the area.. just down the street, in fact!

Wonderful memories of ROLLER DISCO!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sk8fanatics for life! Og rollers still bouncin world on wheels, Cerritos Skate depot, skate express chino, Skateland Northridge.

Billy said...

I barmanaged Flippers from the day it opened in 1979 until '82. The staff was way cool and we had some serious fun times there the first couple of years. My fave buddies who worked there were the bartenders, rollerskating waitresses, and let's not forget bouncers Early Benjamin and Rodrigo Obregon, Good times and fond memories, especially throwing Black Flag offstage and hanging at Elton John's parties. PS Flipper was an asshole.

Anonymous said...

Just watched an old Charlie's Angels episode that was largely filmed at Flipper's. Too funny!

My little town, north of Los Angeles, had a roller rink...and, as a kid, it was so much fun. Good memories.


Wasnt Flippers owned by Sonny and Cher. I got to go when it was Esprit for my fashion merchandising class many years ago. What a beautiful building. So sad like another CVS was needed

Daniel D Walker said...

How fantastic...I was an extra in "Skatetown USA" and was hired as director of distribution for "Roller Roller Magazine" who was involved in your show at Flippers for the movies premier party there! I also lived about two blocks from the place!
I will never forget that played great music and I was hot-dogging it on the floor and almost ran over Cher's daughter Chasity as I rounded a corner on my skates...ah yes, the good times!!!! Daniel D Walker

Utellme said...

I went to Flippers once, probably in 1981. I don't remember enjoying it especially. There existed the de rigueur L.A. snobbishness. I had more fun at World on Wheels when it opened. Flippers felt exclusive.

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Sean Macaulay said...

My epic history of Flipper's is now out in June 2016 issue of British GQ. The complete history! Enjoy it here -

Anonymous said...

Flipper article links -