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Hollywood building that once housed lavish supper club wins landmark status

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It’s now the home of Nickelodeon on Sunset

Nickelodeon on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood
Jennifer | Flickr creative commons

One of Hollywood's most famous theaters—known over the years as the Earl Carroll Theatre, Club Hullabaloo, the Aquarius and, most recently, Nickelodeon on Sunset— has won landmark status as a Historic-Cultural Monument.

The theater on Sunset Boulevard at Argyle Avenue will be protected from demolition and restored under an agreement among owner Essex Property Trust, Hollywood Heritage and the Los Angeles Conservancy, according to Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who orchestrated the deal.

The theater's original neon sign may eventually return to its Sunset Boulevard facade, said John Girodo, Chair, Preservation Issues, Hollywood Heritage Inc., in a statement.

“This designation will help to ensure that another historic gem in Hollywood will be preserved and enhanced,” O’Farrell said in a statement. “This investment will continue to establish Hollywood as a world-class, transit-oriented community, while protecting and preserving our unique historical resources.” O'Farrell represents the 13th District, which includes Hollywood.

The venue was built in 1938 as the Earl Carroll Theatre, designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann (who also designed the Los Angeles Times building) as the West Coast counterpart of a theater in New York, which is now gone. Carroll was a legendary showman and entrepreneur.

The theater was a lavish supper club featuring dining, dancing and stage shows and once had the now un-PC legend above the door: "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world."

"The Earl Carroll Theatre's runaway success led to the development of other venues in the surrounding area, including Florentine Gardens (1938) and the Hollywood Palladium (1940), which [the] City Council also designated as an [Historic-Cultural Monument] last September," O'Farrell's announcement said.

Earl Carroll's 1939 postcard
Courtesy of Vintage Los Angeles
The Moulin Rouge in 1961
Courtesy of Vintage Los Angeles

Over the years, the theater morphed into different identities to keep pace with the times. Alison Martino at Vintage Los Angeles detailed them:

The nightclub later became (loosely in order) the Moulin Rouge. In 1966, Phil Spector filmed The Big TNT Show [there], when the IN crowd turned out to see the IN show. Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, The Byrds, Joan Baez and Ike and Tina Turner were among the acts, while Frank Zappa was spotted in the audience. The club changed owners again in 1966 and was renamed the The Hullabaloo Club [after the popular TV show]. In 1967, the classic building got a psychedelic paint job and became the Aquarius Theater, where The Doors once performed. Star Search also made its home here in the '80s. Nickelodeon signed a lease in 1997 and still remains.

The theater has also been the venue for several important theatrical productions in Hollywood, including the West Coast premiere of the Broadway stage production Hair in 1968 and the premiere of Zoot Suit in the 1970s.