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Rock’n’roll kingmaker Vicky Hamilton names the LA venues that defined an era

Words by Vicky Hamilton

Vicky Hamilton is a living legend in music. The American booker and band manager played a key role in launching the careers of some of the biggest names in Rock and Roll, from Guns N' Roses to Mötley Crüe. When it comes to spotlighting the Top 5 venues critical in shaping the Hollywood Rock explosion of the 1980's, there is no one better equipped than Vicky Hamilton.

"Back in the 80’s when Bowie, Petty and Prince were still with us, Los Angeles was at the top of it’s glam rock game. Honestly, it very hard to only pick five so I will also give some honorable mentions."

Riki Rachtman’s Cathouse

Back in 1986, Riki (later Headbangers Ball host) and Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat got this club going. I managed Taime in Faster Pussycat at the time and was always inviting people to the club. It was every Tuesday night, and everyone who was a rocker was either inside or trying to get in. Guns N’ Roses called it home, and many a night I would find Slash passed out and drive him home. Motörhead, Alice Cooper, and many others rocked the place live and DJ Joseph Brooks kept the tunes flowing.

Doug Weston’s Troubadour
Michael Ochs. Getty Images.

This mostly wood nightclub was a staple on Santa Monica Blvd. When it first opened it was famous for breaking many singer-songwriters and folk singers…now known as the Laurel Canyon sound. The sound in the Troub is epic and The Monday night “Hoot Nights” gave birth to Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and The Eagles. Elton John debuted in America there. In the 80’s it was common to catch W.A.S.P., Guns N’ Roses, and Mötley Crüe. I also worked a deal with Eddie (the owner after Weston) to pay Poison’s rent and phone bill every month in return for them doing a show a month. One of my favorite nights there, was when I made a record with June Carter Cash she played the Troubadour…it was magic! I entertained Black Rebel Motorcycle Club backstage just when they were playing their first gigs. It was also where Janis Joplin partied the night before she was found dead in her hotel room.

The Whisky A Go-Go
George Rose, 1980. Getty Images.

This Sunset Strip hot spot has the best rock stage in town, high off the floor and a great view for the second floor. In the 60’s they had Go-Go girls in cages in fringe shorts. One of my first gigs in Hollywood was seeing Joan Jett there. I really felt like I was home, it was when my love affair with the Sunset Strip started. The Doors and Tom Petty called it home, I always put my bands in there…it’s just so rock n roll! In recent memory, Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks played Sax, then jumped up on the upstairs railing and went all the way around the room. My first Motley Crue gig was at the Whisky, that gig transformed my life forever.

The Starwood

Another Santa Monica Blvd rock club, also a double decker! This rock room had some great rock bands, but Van Halen called it home. It was also known for it’s outrageous punk rock shows; Black Flag, The Dickies, The Go-gos, Circle Jerks and X. It had this massive parking lot in front and a lot of the parties were there. I lived across the street from it when I first moved to Hollywood and I really knew I was not in Kansas (well Indiana) anymore. Oh yeah, like many of the clubs in Hollywood, it was owned by gangster Eddie Nash and one of my first cocktailing jobs in Hollywood.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill
Roxy, 1980. Getty Images.

Ok, not a real venue but it just doesn’t feel right to not include it in my top five clubs. Every
rocker in the 80’s had dinner there and probably found the guitar player for their new band in the parking lot after hours. If you went to a show at the Roxy (next door) or The Whisky (down the block) you had to go there before and after for a cocktail. Lemmy called it home, and every rocker I managed did too. Many had coyote ugly experiences after drinking there as the drinks are so strong. Mario Maglieri, my Godfather of the Sunset Strip always gave me chicken soap when I didn’t have money and pizzas on spec for Guns N Roses and took it out of their pay when they played the Whisky. They do have bands in the parking lot every year for their anniversary, so I guess it is a live venue too.

"Other clubs that deserve praise: The Scream downtown on Park Plaza, Raji’s, The Coconut Teaser, Glam Slam, Flippers, Zero Zero’s and Gazzarri’s."

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