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THE CHEETAH

Photo: THE CHEETAH (Part 2 of 2)
It was open 7 nights a week (with also a special Sunday matinee performance at 2:30pm), with bands most nights, but there were not regular posters, so publicity for Cheetah shows is hard to come by. The Cheetah was already a feted New York discotheque (pre-famed Jimi Hendrix played there, for example), whose owners Olivier Coquelin and Pierre Groleau opened this West Coast version just a year after the New York one (there was also a Cheetah in Chicago, in the Aragon Ballroom, but there’s no connection with the others two). Adjacent to the club was a fashion boutique selling its own collection of Cheetah clothes. 
Despite its role as a sister version of the New York establishment, the California club quickly recognized an opportunity to run a booking policy in line with what was happening up north in San Francisco - a ballroom with a colorful light show that serves local talent. The timing was perfect now that many of the clubs on Sunset Strip were closing down. However, the Cheetah was also closed down just one year later, in July 1968 (supposedly the last shows there were on July 26-28 by Ten Years After and Jose Feliciano). 
There are not further references to it until 1969 when an 8/3/69 LA Times article mentions the “defunct Cheetah Club”. At that point the city was discussing ways to demolish the entire pier and all the buildings on it. A fire took care of that for them. I'm not sure what was in the building after 1968 - it was probably empty - but it burned up along with Lick Pier in a May 1970 fire while thousands watched. It was one of the last nails in the coffin for this area which had been an amusement park since the 1920s.

Located at the Pacific Ocean Park Amusement Pier in Venice, the Cheetah, at 1 Navy Street, Santa Monica (actually just over the line in Venice), a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California, was yet another dance club in a line of dance clubs in this building that had been operating on Lick Pier since the 1920s. When Lick Pier opened, it was 800’ x 225’ and had the ballroom plus several amusement rides. The future home of the Cheetah was built in 1922 as the Bon Ton Ballroom, and the interior of the 22,000 sq. ft. red-roofed ballroom was decorated in a modified Louis XV motif.

Carlyle Stevenson and his orchestra entertained nightly, and all day on weekends. By 1936, it was known as the Lick Pier Ballroom and, in 1942, it became the Aragon Ballroom. By the 1950s, people seemed to be more interested in TV than in an old-fashioned amusement park (thus beginning a long slow decline…). At some point in 1951, one of the orchestras to play there attracted only eight couples. The doors were about to shut but the manager decided to hire Lawrence Welk and his orchestra, who had entertained dancers there in 1946. That turned out to be a huge success and Welk's performances were weekly broadcast over local TV (later to be picked up nationally by ABC). Welk left the Aragon in 1961 for ABC studios at the Hollywood Palladium. The ballroom remained the Aragon until February 1967 when it was remodeled and renamed the Cheetah. The new venue officialy reopened on Tuesday, March 21, 1967.

It was open 7 nights a week (with also a special Sunday matinee performance at 2:30pm), with bands most nights, but there were not regular posters, so publicity for Cheetah shows is hard to come by. The Cheetah was already a feted New York discotheque (pre-famed Jimi Hendrix played there, for example), whose owners Olivier Coquelin and Pierre Groleau opened this West Coast version just a year after the New York one (there was also a Cheetah in Chicago, in the Aragon Ballroom, but there’s no connection with the others two). Adjacent to the club was a fashion boutique selling its own collection of Cheetah clothes.

Despite its role as a sister version of the New York establishment, the California club quickly recognized an opportunity to run a booking policy in line with what was happening up north in San Francisco - a ballroom with a colorful light show that serves local talent. The timing was perfect now that many of the clubs on Sunset Strip were closing down. However, the Cheetah was also closed down just one year later, in July 1968 (supposedly the last shows there were on July 26-28 by Ten Years After and Jose Feliciano).

There are not further references to it until 1969 when an 8/3/69 LA Times article mentions the “defunct Cheetah Club”. At that point the city was discussing ways to demolish the entire pier and all the buildings on it. A fire took care of that for them. I'm not sure what was in the building after 1968 - it was probably empty - but it burned up along with Lick Pier in a May 1970 fire while thousands watched. It was one of the last nails in the coffin for this area which had been an amusement park since the 1920’s.

Contributors: Bruno Ceriotti, Corry Arnold, Christopher Hjort, and IM (yes, that's his name....this guy posts under the alias of "IM", really).