Sep 22, 2015

April 14-16, 1967: Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles


As the shaggy-haired boy in a checkered mod suit and his equally hirsute miniskirted companion approached the entrance to the Ambassador last weekend, you could almost imagine the doorman saying, "Excuse me, I think you're in the wrong place." But he didn't.
The couple continued into the hotel lobby, mixing with expensively attired guests from the Cocoanut Grove, strolled under the elegant chandeliers and turned in at the ornate doorway of the Embassy Room. There, amidst a swirl of colored spots, strobe-lights, far-out films and floor-shaking rock bands, 1,300 other teeny-hippies gyrated joyously in celebration of International Kaleidoscope's opening.
More than just a strippies' victory in social integration, the Kaleidoscope's presence in the Embassy Room foiled an injunction against the club's intended residence at 1228 Vine St. by the building owner, National General Corp. A subpoena served last Thursday, one day before the announced opening, prevented all persons from entering Los Angeles' second psychedelic ballroom.
By setting up psychedelia in the Ambassador, Kaleidoscope managers Skip Taylor, John Hartmann, Gary Essert and Walter Williams were able to provide a sample of the latest in the art of the freak-out dancehall.
The Ambassador's new Banana Grove, as some dubbed the room, featured the electronic vibrations of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Canned Heat Blues Band. All three rock groups were happily received.
Particularly effective was Airplane leader Marty Balin's version of "This Is My Life," which seemed to voice a popular existential stance in the audience. Pigpen, of the Grateful Dead, who looks like Jerry Colonna in drag, was a vocal success with his modern interpretation of screamin' blues.
Inventive use of the baroque Embassy Room's crystal lighting fixtures and mirrored walls was made by lighting director Bill Kerby. In back of the bandstand, a series of multi-color pattern backgrounds flashed in and out of focus while the silhouette of a girl dancing was superimposed over the projection.
On the sides of the room, film clips of love-ins, psychedelic body paintings, Gov. Reagan's speeches, bananas and sundry other materials were bounced off mirrors and mixed in bizarre juxtaposition with pattern slides. Phosphorescent and stroboscopic lights played over the bobbing heads on the dance floor.
Representatives of the Ambassador claimed to be satisfied with the behavior of the clientele. Kaleidoscope owners are considering continued use of the Embassy Room as a "total environment" until the use of the Vine St. location is resolved.

(by Digby Diehl, from the Los Angeles Times, 18 April 1967)

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