Kooky Clown-Mouth Entrance Of Historic Gay Disco Saved From Demolition
New condos will be built at the site of a nightclub that some call a historic landmark in the gay history of Los Angeles, but a deal has been made to protect its history.On Friday it was announced that developer AvalonBay Communities had struck a deal with the preservation group Hollywood Heritage to save many of the features of the Circus Disco and incorporate them into the condo complex going up at the site. Founded in 1974 by Gene La Pietra and Ermilio Lemos on Santa Monica Boulevard near North Las Palmas Avenue, Circus Disco was opened because the Pietra and Lemos were tired of being turned away from the white, gay nightclubs. "In other discos you felt like you had to be a certain way. Act a certain way. Dress a certain way," former clubgoer Danny Muñoz told the L.A. Times. "Not at Circus Disco."
Under the new deal, AvalonBay would save the club's distinctive clown-head entrance, its dance floor, neon lights, and even one of its disco balls and incorporate them into the design of the new buildings. AvalonBay senior vice president Mark Janda called it "a creative solution—a solution that will tell the story of Circus Disco to future generations." The disco ball, for example, will hang in an elevator lobby. In exchange, Hollywood Heritage would pull back from their efforts to save the site, and will eventually have an exhibit at the site commemorating Circus Disco.
Going up at the site of the club will be a mixed-up development that has 695 residential units and 25,000 square feet of retail space. The surrounding neighborhood is generally industrial.
On their website, the Los Angeles Conservancy previously listed the fate of Circus Disco as "urgent," and writes:
Circus Disco played an important role in the Latina/o LGBTQ community and in its history of political organizing and coalition building. In 1983, civil rights and labor leader César Chávez addressed roughly one hundred members of the Project Just Business gay and lesbian coalition at the bar, where he offered strategies for organizing boycotts and coalition fundraising.
"Both [Circus Disco and Mid-City's Catch One Disco] were founded in response to the discrimination gay men of color experienced at predominately white venues in West Hollywood," said a report from the Department of City Planning Office that surveyed historic LGBTQ sites across the city. Catch One closed last year, but new owner Mitch Edelso (of Los Globos) plans on reopening it this year under a new name.Over in West Hollywood, the fight continues to preserve the home of the gay nightclub Studio One, which faces demolition.
Former owner Gene La Pietra isn't particularly sad to see his old nightclub go. He sold the property in July, and told L.A. Weekly, "Take the sign off and the lights off and you have a warehouse built in 1973."