West Hollywood: Origin of the Go-Go Dancers
West Hollywood’s lively and progressive culture scene nurtured monumental changes in music and entertainment. It was also the invention site of a common fixture at dance clubs: the go-go dancer. Specifically, the infamous and still-running Whiskey a Go Go club
brought this form of amusement to the world.
Opened in 1964, this club played a significant role in the rock-n-roll scene of the era, shepherding the early careers of The Doors, Southern California, Led Zeppelin, and others. Needless to say, it quickly became a nightlife hotspot.
Elmer Valentine, one of the club’s founders, wanted female DJs to play music while bands were between sets so their patrons could continue dancing. Since the dance floor was too small for a DJ booth, Valentine constructed a glass platform elevated over the floor to house it. He then recruited one of the club’s cigarette girls and two other dancers to perform. Donning white boots and fringed dresses and dancing high above the crowd, the go-go dancer was born.
Pay to Play
Decades before the invention of Twitter, Instagram, and other social media self-promotion tools, the promoters of West Hollywood’s Gazzarri’s
accurately predicted that upcoming musical groups wouldn’t be able to rely on talent alone to thrive — their ability to hustle would determine their future.
Like many nearby rock clubs, Gazzarri was a launching pad for popular bands and helped make the area the most influential rock ‘n’ roll scene outside of London. Around this time, record companies spent less money on promotion than before and started sending talent scouts to these clubs instead.
Promoters quickly recognized that playing at the Gazzarri was a career-changing opportunity for aspiring bands, and they started to cash in. These entrepreneurs booked out nights at the club and sold 45-minute performance slots to bands for up to a thousand dollars. This new system put the onerous task of promotion on the musicians themselves.
Bands eager for success like Van Halen and Guns N’Roses not only paid to play but also used street-smart hustle skills like handing out flyers and advertising in local magazines to make the system work for them, paving the way for their future success.
But for every band like Guns N’Roses, there were hundreds of others (many equally as talented) that never mastered the art of self-promotion and were lost to obscurity. Such was the cut-throat world of rock 'n’ roll in West Hollywood during the 70s.
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