From The Earl Carroll Theater to Nickelodeon

by: Lizzy Buczak

The grandiose supper-theater offered “two famous orchestras, a CBS broadcast and a chance to dine on superb dishes created by world-renowned chefs,” according to an old advertisement.  All that for just $3.50. Talk about fine living! With more lives than a cat, the theater, located on Sunset Boulevard just east of Vine St. was entertainment heaven, with a sign that read, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.” This theater was the magnificent and glamorous Earl Carroll Theater, opened in 1938 by Earl Carroll.

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The club had the mostdistinctive façade, swings that came down from the ceilings, extravagant staircases, and of course the most beautiful girls in the world. The front wall of the theater displayed a portrait in neon of Beryl Wallace, an avid entertainer and Carroll’s companion. While the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre attracts tourists with handprints and autographs on the sidewalk, The Carroll Theater had a wall dedicated to celebrity signatures. The plaques were posted next to the entrance of the theater, aptly named, “The Wall of Fame.”

When Carroll did something, he did it big. He figured out that if you give off the impression that something’s worth it, it will be, despite the depression affecting the country. This theater was the definition of old school, Hollywood glamour; the kind you can only catch snippets of in books, movies and black and white pictures. Attracting the biggest names in town at the time, no nightclub or venue has been able to live up to the theaters extravagance and success. Unfortunately, in 1948 Carroll and Wallace died in a United Airlines crash above Pennsylvania. The theater struggled to stay afloat and was sold in 1953 to Las Vegas resident Frank Sennes.

Sennes had a vision to make this space, a taste of Vegas while preserving some essence from its predecessor. The Moulin Rouge became the largest theater and restaurant in the world, after Sennes remodeled the inside. Sadly, when the venue went head to head with competing venues in Vegas, Sennes found it hard to attract big names to the establishment, while paying them competitive prices and that was the end for The Moulin Rouge.

The theater than went onto become the home for many Rock n’ Roll fans, changing its name to The Hullaballoo Theater, which got its named from a popular TV show. The place where you used to see the most glamorous and prestigious names in Hollywood, you now saw the youngsters of Hollywood, lightly resembling the children of the hippie era. Many people weren’t pleased by the transformation even stating that in the dictionary hullaballoo meant a disturbance or uproar.

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In 1997, the building was acquired by the children’s cable station Nickelodeon. The theater was splashed with the colors orange and green to give it that Nick feeling, covering up quite a bit of its history. After seeing the building on our tour of Sunset Boulevard, I was pretty thrilled to see the studio that produced many of the shows that shaped me as a teen (All That, The Amanda Show, Drake and Josh, iCarly, Victorious.) After finding out all this history behind the building, I could not help but feel a little disappointed that the historical landmark (protected in 2007 by The City of Los Angeles Historic Preservation Board) is just Nickelodeon.  I’m pretty sure that if Carroll were alive he would agree with me that the space has the potential and magic within it to be something better. With such a grand location, across from The Hollywood Palladium, the theater could well in fact open up to be another Moulin Rouge. With the success of movies like “Burlesque” and “Chicago,” we know that people are still dying for a bit of that old fashioned Hollywood glamour. This becomes even truer after watching The Oscars and seeing that Broadway musicals are making a huge return.

Those times in “What Makes Sammy Run,” are gone and when I close my eyes I can envision Sammy going to this theater after a long day in the world of show biz with his cigar in one hand, a lady on his other arm and Al following in tow. Its unfortunate that while Hollywood has been expanding and becoming bigger than itself, it has lost a lot of its glamour and devilish innocence. The stars of Nickelodeon, although charming, are far from being the “most beautiful girls in the world.”

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