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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

This week, I was once again inspired by a story Steven Van Zandt relayed on his daily radio show on his Sirius channel.  The story is of Elmer Valentine, the founder of Go Go dancing and clubs. Here is his story.


Elmer Valentine(June 16, 1923-December 3, 2008) was co-founder of three famous nightclubs on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California: the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy Theatre and the Rainbow Bar & Grill.  Valentine was Elmer Alfred Valentino.  After serving as an Army Air Force mechanic stationed in England during World War II, he returned to Chicago and joined the Chicago police force. 

He moved to Los Angeles in 1960, where he became co-owner of P.J.’s, a successful West Hollywood restaurant night club.  He sold his interest in P.J.’s three years later and took a trip to Europe.  While in Paris, he visited a discotheque called Le Whisky a Go-Go that was packed nightly with crowds of young dancers.  Impressed by the club’s success, Valentine returned to Los Angeles and opened his own Whisky a Gog Go on January 15. 1964 with three partners: Phil Tanzini, Shelly Davis, and attorney Theodore Flier.  In 1965, he launched The Trip, with beginning house bands The Leaves and The Grass Roots.  It was a small rock club on the Sunset Strip.  In 1972, along with Lou Adler, Mario Maglieri and others, he started the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip.  A year later, Valentine, Adler and original partners David Geffen, Elliot Roberts and Peter Asher opened the Roxy Theatre with a three night appearance by Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers as its premiere act.

Lou Adler bought the Whisky in the late 1970’s.  Valentine sold his interest in the Whisky a Go Go in the 1990’s but retained an ownership in the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Roxy Theatre until his death.

The Whisky was one of the one of the most important rock clubs in Los Angeles in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  The club hosted acts such as The Byrds, The Doors, The Kinks, The Who and Buffalo Springfield, Oingo Boingo, The Go-Go’s, Tom Petty, The Ramones, New York Dolls and Blondie.  In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, The Whisky was known as a stepping stone for bands such as Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Ratt, and many other iconic bands.  Bot the Whisky a Go Go and The Roxy Theatre remain staples of the Sunset Boulevard club scene.  For more information on Whisky, go to 


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