Remembering Pasadena’s Palace of Rock

May 27, 2010

The auditorium of Pasadena’s Raymond Theatre, January 11, 1990. Courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History (Star News Collection).

It was 1981, and the auditorium of Pasadena’s Raymond Theatre was packed to the gills with excited teenagers and twentysomethings. Onstage, Wendy O. Williams, lead singer of the punk band the Plasmatics, had just spray-painted the word “F**K” onto an orange Chevy Nova that had been brought onstage. The crowd was going wild, having witnessed her earlier demolition of a television set with a sledgehammer.

Unexpectedly, Williams disappeared for a moment, returning with a cluster of what appeared to be lit dynamite, which she lobbed into the passenger seat of the Nova. There was an anticipatory pause, and then the car’s hood exploded in a massive fireball, scattering shards of metal. Though the dynamite itself was a prop, the car had been rigged with real explosives, and the rush of air from the blast could be felt more than 100 feet from the stage. The stunt thrilled many a teenager and horrified many a Pasadena City Council member.

The Plasmatics and their outrageous shows remain notorious, but they were merely one of hundreds of bands and musicians — including Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Oingo Boingo, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Jackson Browne, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, R.E.M., Depeche Mode and Guns N’ Roses — that played the Raymond Theatre between 1980 and 1991, when it was known mostly as Perkins Palace.

For its relatively brief existence as a rock venue, Perkins Palace showcased new wave, punk, metal and even jazz musicians. British bands New Order, the Cure, and Adam and the Ants made their Southern California debuts at the theater, and during the 1980s, it was featured in films such as This Is Spinal Tap and The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, as well as numerous music videos (such as Whitney Houston’s hit from The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You”). On off nights, it was used by artists like Gladys Knight, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen for rehearsals before world tours. The venue even briefly had its own TV program, the Emmy-nominated Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonite, Live from Perkins Palace, which aired on NBC from 1982-4.

The theater’s brief rise and fall as a rock palace began in 1978, when brothers Marc and Jim Perkins purchased the property. Marc Perkins, a former investment counselor and owner of Perkins Restaurant (later the Parkway Grill), envisioned the building as a multiuse facility that could host concerts in its auditorium and banquets in its upstairs lobby. The venue, first known as Jensen’s Raymond Theatre, originally opened in 1921, serving for decades as a performance space for vaudeville troupes, jazz bands, opera productions, burlesque acts and plays of the era, like Peg o’ My Heart.

Jensen’s Raymond Theatre in 1922.

“Pasadena’s newest temple of the drama and the motion-picture art,” as the Los Angeles Times called it, underwent numerous changes of ownership over the years, becoming the Crown Theater in 1948 and switching primarily to films — even exhibiting adult films like Deep Throat in the mid-‘70s. By the time the Perkins brothers purchased it, it had seen some mileage, but its previous owner, Bruce Barkis, had renovated it and despite its age, it was in good condition. Theytook a gamble that Pasadena’s lack of a real rock venue had created a desire they could capitalize on.

Though Pasadena’s rock scene was never as big or as well-publicized as Hollywood’s, by the 1970s, a strong local music scene had sprung up, including Van Halen, whose first shows in the backyards of Pasadena mansions eventually led to gigs at Pasadena High School and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Other local bands like Smile, Stormer and A La Carte soon followed.

Pasadena did have a rock venue at one point, but its history had been brief. The Rose Palace, a large building on South Raymond Avenue built in 1964 for the construction of floats for the Rose Parade, had served from 1969 to 1970 as a concert hall, presenting a staggering roster of musicians, including the Who, the Byrds, Led Zeppelin, Joe Cocker, Cream, Deep Purple, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Grateful Dead, before complaints to Pasadena officials shut it down.

Old Town Pasadena in the 1970s.

Colorado Boulevard in the 1970s.

Farther up the street, the Raymond Theatre was in a neighborhood that was in many ways perfect for a rock venue. Old Town in the late 1970s was, as one anonymous poster on the L.A. Independent Media Center web site recalls, “a burnt-out bastion of dive bars, porno parlors and low-end department stores and thrift shops.” Simultaneously, however, there was a hip undercurrent. Eclectic merchants lined the side streets off Colorado, as did artists’ colonies and nooks and crannies like the Espresso Bar and the Loch Ness Monster Pub. This was the Old Town where artists inhabited places like the Hotel Carver and the Braley Building, the Old Town where, in 1978, the Doo Dah Parade was dreamed up by some intoxicated friends in a neighborhood bar.

“There’s always been this kind of free-spirit, cool bohemian energy downtown,” says Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez, former drummer for Oingo Boingo, who grew up nearby. “I remember riding my ten-speed bike up to the corner of Fair Oaks and Colorado and going to the head shop, looking at all the blacklight posters, you know, looking at all the hippies. It was just kind of a hometown crowd — and those are the kind of crowds that came to the shows at Perkins Palace.”

Into this milieu, “Pasadena’s Hot New Concert Hall,” as it was billed, opened in early 1980, and it would soon draw crowds not only from Old Town but from the entire San Gabriel Valley and Hollywood. Having made a hefty investment, the Perkins brothers hired a promotion agency to help stage shows by such established musicians as Smokey Robinson, Dave Mason and Leon Russell. The shows sold well, but recognition was still a challenge. Few people in Pasadena seemed to view the city as a viable rock hot spot. “For a long time we’d go into record stores in town,” Marc Perkins recalled in a later interview, “and they’d have concert ads from the paper pasted up on the bulletin board — except for the Perkins Palace ads. It was like they were saying, ‘Nothing ever happens in Pasadena!’”

But they soon recognized the potential in a different kind of music — the kind that was being played by a radio station half a mile away called KROQ. Located on the second floor of a drab two-story building at 117 S. Los Robles Avenue, KROQ was small but influential, having become known as one of the first stations in the U.S. to play bands like the Sex Pistols, the Runaways and the Ramones. Their DJs, like Rodney Binghenheimer and Jed the Fish, were eccentrics who always seemed to be one step ahead of the latest musical trend.

KROQ’s proximity to Perkins Palace made them a valuable partner. Photo by Barrett Stinson, Pasadena Star News (courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History).


By the fall of 1980, the Perkins brothers switched to a policy that emphasized new bands like Oingo Boingo, X, the Go-Go’s and Romeo Void, and they promoted the shows in cooperation with the station. This allowed them to lower ticket prices (which averaged about $6.50) and broaden their audience. They also hired a young law student named Mark Geragos to help with promotions. Geragos, who was then in his early twenties, would go on become a well-known attorney for such clients as Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson. He performed a variety of roles at the venue, including recording their outgoing phone message, which began, “Okay, you’ve connected with Perkins Palace in the beautiful city of Pasadena.”


KROQ proved a great asset to Perkins Palace in its first two years. The station advertised shows on the air, brought musicians in-studio, and hosted pancake breakfasts in its tiny back parking lot, where fans could meet the bands and get autographs. Soon, most flyers for Perkins Palace read, “KROQ 106.7 FM & Perkins, Perkins & Geragos Present.” With KROQ’s cooperation, Perkins Palace secured some of the hottest new bands of the day, giving Pasadena a sudden cachet in the L.A. music scene. Things did happen in Pasadena.

By early 1981, word about the venue spread, not just among concertgoers but between bands themselves, who were impressed with the hall. Adam and the Ants played Perkins Palace after hearing positive words about it from another band. Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn also became an early champion, praising its “imaginative booking policy” in a May 1981 piece titled “For Rock in Pasadena, It’s Perkins.” Marc Perkins claimed optimistically that same year, “We’ve begun to build an identity here.” Concert promoters Avalon Attractions began working with the theater, and other radio stations, like KLOS, began to sponsor shows — notably a November 1981 Pretenders show where Bruce Springsteen made an unannounced appearance.

The Pretenders and Bruce Springsteen at Perkins Palace. Fans camped overnight in Memorial Park to get tickets for the show.

In the early ‘80s, when KROQ was not busy playing odd novelty songs like “Johnny Are You Queer?” or local groups like Oingo Boingo, they were playing British bands. Its “top 106.7” song list from 1981 included songs by such bands as Spandau Ballet, Bow Wow Wow, Killing Joke, Billy Idol, Gang of Four, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, the English Beat and Rockpile. On its list of top songs from 1982, more half the bands were British.

In fact, the entire rock scene in the U.S. in the early ‘80s was experiencing what many likened to a “second British Invasion,” and with the help of KROQ, Perkins Palace got first dibs on many of these hot bands from across the pond. In addition to New Order and Adam and the Ants, 1981 saw performances from British musicians the Specials, Joe Jackson, the Stranglers, the Cure, Stiff Little Fingers, the English Beat and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

The bands could be both innovative, and as faddish as the myriad Beatles clones that sprang up in the wake of the first British Invasion of the 1960s. Times critic Richard Cromelin delighted in referring to slick pop bands like Haircut 100 (which played Perkins in 1982) as “faintly androgynous, hypersensitive young boys shrouded in fogs of vague, self-absorbed poetry.” More esoteric and downbeat acts from the U.K. brought puzzlement from concertgoers as well as critics. “Don’t be so serious!” an audience member reportedly yelled during the Cure’s July 1981 Perkins Palace show. Still, the overwhelming feeling among the young people who attended these shows was that this was something new and fresh.

Perkins Palace, 1981

The Perkins Palace marquee in June 1981.

One of the most exciting and highly anticipated bands, however, was American: the Plasmatics. Hailing from New York City’s punk scene, they had been touring the country during 1980-1 and had been the subject of much controversy, having been arrested twice on tour (once for indecency in Milwaukee and once for obscenity in Cleveland). KROQ had been playing their song “Sex Junkie” in heavy rotation, and the buzz surrounding them was enormous. Stephen Duncan, who graduated from Arcadia High School in 1982, remembers, “It was our chance to finally see this band that we were only hearing on KROQ, and it was wild — it was a big, new wave, punk rock, slash and bang slamdance, and we weren’t finding that anywhere else.”

When the three Plasmatics shows he’d booked sold out, Jim Perkins wanted to book a fourth. In what was probably a well-planned publicity stunt, lead singer Wendy O. Williams went on KROQ and announced that if Jim Perkins would let them blow up his white Lincoln Continental onstage, they would consent to a fourth show.

The infamous car stunt.

He agreed, and the fourth show sold out within an hour. KROQ also co-sponsored a contest where the winner got to have Williams come to his house and sledgehammer his television. Remarkably, the car-demolishing stunt did not seem to violate the fire or safety codes of the day, but it was certainly dangerous — besides scattered shrapnel, the blast created enough volume so engineers had to throw plywood over the speaker stacks to keep them from blowing up.

If 1981 saw a peak in new wave acts at Perkins Palace, the following years were more diverse. Metal was gaining popularity, and bands like Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot began to play the venue. A three-night stand by mod-revivalists the Jam in 1982 drew fans from as far away as San Diego. That year also marked the beginning of a series of broadcasts on NBC called Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonite, which featured acts like Phil Collins, Todd Rundgren, Quiet Riot, INXS and Sparks.

Gina Zamparelli, a young Pasadena concert producer, had been selling out concerts at Odd Fellows Hall, a 700-capacity venue on Los Robles Avenue, and the city wanted her to look for a larger space to keep crowds under control (the parking lot would often burst with another 500-plus concertgoers). She negotiated a deal with Marc Perkins to bring her shows to Perkins Palace, ushering in a new era of metal and rock, with bands from both Pasadena and Hollywood, including W.A.S.P., Ratt, Great White and Armored Saint. At this time, Avalon Attractions was ending its tenure with Perkins Palace, and Marc Perkins agreed to let Zamparelli take over management of the theater.

W.A.S.P. with special guest Nikki Sixx.

As metal was going strong, start-up punk rock promoters Goldenvoice struck a deal to bring more punk shows to Perkins Palace; but when shows by Black Flag, the Cramps and Specimen gained popularity, a rougher crowd began frequenting the venue, causing many to label it “Punker Palace.” Zamparelli took it upon herself to ensure the protection of the theater from disruptive concertgoers and routinely had to placate the police and fire departments, who were called by irate property owners in the neighborhood. “The punk years left a bad image of the theater and caused problems with the city,” Zamparelli later remembered. The Goldenvoice employees themselves could often be a handful. “When I wasn’t there, you never knew what they were doing,” she says. “They would play raquetball at night inside the theater!”

The Plasmatics were not the last band to attempt an outrageous stunt onstage. In 1984, German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, known for incorporating power tools into their live shows, proposed a unique exit strategy that tried Zamparelli’s patience. “I spent hours in the dressing room telling the band they would not jackhammer their way out of the theater,” she recalls. “They disagreed, so I brought on twenty more security guards… and lined the walls of the theater with men and had them escorted out after the show.”

A series of punk concerts in 1984 drew particular complaints from local property owners. Fights were rare, but crowds both in and outside the venue could be rowdy and would sometimes tear up seats, litter and get drunk. By the mid-’80s, plans were afoot to revitalize Old Town, and this kind of environment did not sit well with city officials.

The theater remained closed for three years after this 1984 show.

Due to this combination of factors, Marc Perkins closed Perkins Palace after a July 27, 1984 performance by English band the Cult, and he began to think of converting the building to different uses. During the next three years, the theater was dark, though it was used for music video shoots, the occasional public function and a the taping of a Showtime/KROQ special called Rock of the ‘80s in 1984.

Zamparelli, a longtime historic preservation advocate, convinced Perkins that there was still concert life in the building, if it could be cleaned up a little. He eventually consented, but not before securing assistance from Pacificoncerts, a large promotions agency, which spruced up the place. Perkins Palace reopened in July 1987, and for the next year presented concerts by bands like the Dickies, Lizzy Borden, Public Image Ltd., Poison, Warlock, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses. But the renaissance was short lived. In 1985, Perkins had sold a share of the property to developers Gene and Marilyn Buchanan, who believed the theater should be converted into offices. In 1988, concerts abruptly ceased, and Marc Perkins told Gina Zamparelli that this plan would be going forward. This initiated a long and bitter battle that would stretch for nearly twenty years.

Zamparelli immediately contacted Pasadena mayor Rick Cole and requested a feasibility study to see if the theater could be saved, which the City Council approved. While the study was taking place, however, Gary Folgner, a restaurateur, bought the building from the Buchanans in 1989. Optimistic about its continued use as a concert space, he spent $1 million renovating it and it reopened in November 1990 as the Raymond Theatre, with a performance by pop band Toto. Pasadena officials closed the venue a month later due to fire violations. Folgner spent more money correcting the problems, and the theater opened again in early 1991, but Folgner had made too risky an investment, and he was forced to give the theater back to the Buchanans later that year. As a farewell nod to its early new wave days, Devo was one of the final bands to play the venue, on March 23, 1991.

The theater in 1990. Photo by Megan M. Feeney. (Courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History – Star News Collection).

After Folgner left, the city lost faith in the effort to save the Raymond, and the project to convert the theater to offices moved forward. Zamparelli formed a nonprofit organization named Friends of the Raymond Theatre and for the next decade successfully fought several proposed conversion plans for the theater — including separate plans to turn it into a boutique hotel and a nightclub.

The preservation struggle took on a character of high drama. Musicians like Slash, David Lee Roth and members of Oingo Boingo showed up at hearings. Lizzy Borden, Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. and others released statements to the media, and hundreds of angry letters with headings like “Treasure trashed” and “Selling out history” poured in to the Pasadena Weekly and Star News. Zamparelli sued the city several times, and the Pasadena Weekly eventually published a story claiming that funds had changed hands between the Buchanans and certain City Council members. Despite these efforts, destruction of the theater went forward (some claimed without proper permits), and the interior was gutted and redeveloped into the Raymond Renaissance, a block of condominiums, offices and retail space that opened in 2009. While the Buchanans made a point of leaving the original “Jensen’s Raymond Theatre” façade and other minor features intact, the conversion was drastic enough that the building’s days as a concert venue were over forever.

For those of a certain generation who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, the Raymond’s days as Perkins Palace were an essential part of their teenage years, and to see the space desecrated saddened many. “It was just something of nostalgia a little closer to us in the San Gabriel Valley,” says Stephen Duncan. “If you look through the history of Hollywood and the San Gabriel Valley and a lot of the old things that were landmarks in their time — it’s surprising that anything remains. They’ll tear down something of such nostalgia and they’ll put a parking lot.”

The Raymond Renaissance in 2010.

Of the theater’s loss, Oingo Boingo’s Hernandez has harsher words to say: It’s really regrettable. It’s a loss not only to Pasadena, but reflective of a loss in the entire nation. If you go from town to town, you can see the corporatization of everything. America is driven by the almighty dollar, and not by the intelligence, the experience of life, and the understanding that it’s not all about commerce.”

Author’s note: Special thanks to Gina Zamparelli, Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez, Stephen Duncan, Jon Pool, and Michele Harwick for their recollections of Perkins Palace. Thanks also to the Pasadena Public Library and their Los Angeles Times archive, including Robert Hilburn’s profile of Perkins Palace, published May 26, 1981. Descriptions and stills of the Plasmatics shows were taken from Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics: The DVD – Ten Years of Revolutionary Rock and Roll.

See History Buff’s Flickr account for more pictures of Perkins Palace and a near-complete list of bands that played there.




48 Responses for “Remembering Pasadena’s Palace of Rock”

  1. Brigham Yen says:

    VERY interesting historical account! What a great read.

    Thank you for taking the time to research all that and posting.

  2. Kim says:

    Such great memories – and so sad that America has changed so much. I’ll never forget the Perkins parking lot jammed with Vespas and Mods in parkas lining up for the English Beat. And when Saxa hit the stage solo to start the show the palace just erupted. Good times right here in Pasadena.

  3. Nick says:

    Sadly, maybe now’s the time to get the jackhammer and complete the German job. Beautifully researched and written piece. Thanks.

  4. Thank you so much for this richly researched, beautifully written history. As Brigham said, what a great read.

  5. As the former concert promoter, manager and the person who led the 20-year battle to save Perkins Palace, I have spent most of my lifetime with Perkins Palace and always hoped someone would do the theater justice and write a piece on the concert years. Thank you Matt for a story well written. You’ve done an exemplary job. Perkins Palace may be gone, but thanks to interested writers like you and Hometown Pasadena, we can keep it’s legacy and great memories alive.

  6. Chad Alexander says:

    I only went to Perkins Palace twice once I moved to Pasadena in 1987 the date 08/13/88 Megadeth/Seduce just after Decline of Western Civilization Part II The Metal Years movie.
    I remember 2 things Megadeth were great it was the 1st time I saw them. Also some
    clown upstairs thought it would be funny to get the fire hose and spray the lower level.
    The only problem is the soundboard was there too. Well, it fried the boardand there was
    a delay in repairing it. Once it was fixed the Rage continued.

    The other time I was Warlock. Doro Pesch’s voice was great that night the band was on fire
    as well. The bad thing is I never knew about this venue till moving up from San Diego would
    have gone to more great shows.

  7. Tasha Howe says:

    Thanks for the great article! I was 12 when I saw Missing Persons at Perkins Palace. My first slam dancing event and I have so many other memories there. As a teenager, it seemed to be magical in there, with all the historic carvings and details mixed with raunchy rock n roll. I have written a memoir about my metal youth and an entire page is devoted to describing this place. When I was 14, I met my boyfriend of 3 years when he was on that stage and handed me a backstage pass as I admired him from the crowd. Before that, when I was 13, I went backstage to meet Motley Crue when Tommy Lee was a skinny little 19 year old and Vince let me drink a beer out of their trash can cooler. I saw Guns N Roses there for their last LA show in 1987 before they went big time, and that night on our drive home, my husband (then boyfriend) told me he loved me for the first time! The last time I saw Dave Pritchard alive was there. All of this is connected to Perkins Palace!

  8. It’s a pleasure to read an article where someone else has given this theatre justice. In my countless years spent writing to local Pasadena papers and developers to help save this landmark, it’s not often I had a chance to read something like this. Thank you. I just wish that local officials realised what they had in the Raymond before signing away it’s colourful past and potential future to developers. I spent a great deal of time re-building the “Friends of the Raymond Theatre” website from Australia, with the help of Gina Zamparelli. For someone to dedicate so much of their time (20 years +) and passion for this cause is a true testament of a persons will to fight for their beliefs. This project could have been so much more than just another office block and codo re-development. Sadly, we lose too many of these venues to the next big thing and a quick buck. Time is never and issue when you fight fire with passion.

  9. Thanks everyone for posting your memories, it still warms my heart today to know the great memories people hold for Perkins Palace.

    Arran Peagram, I want to publicly thank you. You were much more than the person who built the “Friends of the Raymond” Website. We were so lucky the battle to save Perkins Palace went way beyond Pasadena, or LA, it went global.

    You gave a voice all the way from Australia to this project. You were one of a small team of people on Raymond Theater committee who worked tirelessly to see the theater saved. You garnered the attention of the Pasadena media, who where shocked someone from Australia would give their all to help save a Pasadena landmark.

    I am also sorry the City of Pasadena had no vision, that one developer and his standing in the community overruled the saving of a historic landmark.

    Thank YOU Arran for all you did to help us save the theater.

  10. Mark Mac says:

    Great article! Thank you for remembering Perkins Palace. I’m so very sorry Gene & Marilyn Buchanan could not respect the important landmark theater they owned. They took away our history, our place for concerts, but not our memories.

  11. Colleen Dunn Bates says:

    My thanks, as the site’s editor, to Matt Hormann for such a terrific piece. It’s so wonderful to get all these comments and memories!

  12. A terrific article highlighting the rock years of this once-magnificent theater. What a heartbreak it was to watch as it was “demolished” by a callous negligence for Pasadena’s own historic preservation standards. It’s still one of the most shameful historic preservation losses in recent memory. I will never forget the way Gina Zamparelli’s led the troops in a bitter battle to save the Raymond. Heroic – and tragic. This article truly brings the flavor of this historic and timeless performance house to life. Unfortunately, it also serves to shine a glaring spotlight on all that was lost. (President, Theatre Historical Society of America)

  13. Eddie says:

    I remember seeing Disney’s Bambi when it was The Crown and spending most of my teens and early twenties there when it was Perkins Palace. Many a Friday and Saturday night were spent hanging out for lack of funds for a ticket or figuring a way to sneak in.:) I will never forget ‘downtown’ Pasadena. What happened? The thrift stores, Poo Bahs, Loch Ness, The Venus Theater, it was magic to a teenager. At least most of the buildings still exist. Too bad the soul didn’t. C’mon!! The Doo Dah in the middle of Summer? Yeesh!!!
    Thanks for the great article.

  14. Richard Becker says:

    A great overview of Perkins’ Palace/the Raymond Theatre — more, please!

  15. Scott says:

    fantastic article, and a real sense of what Pasadena used to be like (before I moved here from NYC).
    No wonder I love this city- it has soul, even if it’s a fight to keep it so.

  16. obie jessie says:

    I remember the venue very well as a matter of fact that was the place to play if you had a up and coming band it was the only real venue in dena it will be missed for years to come…

  17. Natalie says:

    Such an interesting article! I was around during those KROQ Rock of the 80’s years. Wish I had gone to some of these shows! Sad to see it now, as condos.

  18. What a great article! I’ve heard bits and pieces of the Raymond Theatre saga over the years, but never the whole story. So glad I read it!

  19. Jon Pool says:

    What great memories those were. It was my pleasure to contribute to this article.

    Thanks Matt!

  20. Bill says:

    In May of 1982 the Jam arrived for 3 days. It was electric. Vespas, Lambrettas and anoraks with the RAF roundel. The crowd was loud and the venue surreal. I loved every minute of it!

  21. David says:

    I was just driving up Los Robles with my wife and friends. I glanced and saw that old brick building and said, that’s where KROQ was back when I was a kid living in Alhambra. Believe it was like 1977/78 when two older guys from my block introduced me to Punk Rock (and other stuff) and took me to what I thought was the first KROQ Parking Lot Party. Think we were served a hotdog or too and got to tour KROQ office/broadcast studios. And now my own teenage boys listen to KROQ but yah, not the same music as back in the late 70’s. Thanks for the article. I know it’s more on the Raymond Theater but just wanted to share my KROQ memories. Anyone also remember Madame Wongs in Chinatown? There was also another punck rock venue across the street MWs in China Town back in the late 70’s.

  22. Johnny Tennison says:

    What a shame, the los of this great venue. I know Gina Zamparelli and her non-profit organization Friends of the Raymond Theatre (aka Perkins Palace) worked 20+ years to save the theatre. Her work was commended by the California Preservation Foundation, naming her and her efforts as the best in the State of California. I was impressed how hard this woman worked for the community. It was to bad the City Council and the developer ensured the theatre would not survive by their inside deals. I hope those who consider renting the horrific condo’s inside this once grand and proud theatre… every day they remember the 1,000’s of people who worked, gave money, and shed so many tears over the loss of this theatre. This was the worst crime against history in California and definately in Pasadena.. RIP Perkins Palace, you will never be forgotten!!

  23. Irie says:

    I was there when the plasmatics played and remember hearing the pre concert worries like riots breaking out during their concerts….. But nothing like that happened and we loved them ….awww memories

  24. This was a great article. I lived for two years in the mid-1980s across the street from Perkin’s Palace on the third floor of 56 E. Holly Street, another building owned by the Buchanans, which has an interesting history itself, reportedly having been Pasadena’s first mortuary. I was too broke to afford the concerts and it was during that period of mostly heavy metal bands that did not appeal to me at the time. I do remember one great concert though: Leon Russell. I opened my windows so I could hear the muffled sounds of the band through the walls of Perkin’s. Leon Russell released a great LP from the concert of which I have a copy. Never in the two years I lived across the street do I remember an unruly crowd from a concert or any kind of excessive noise or disruption. The concerts were all very well organized and orderly.
    I loved that apartment. It looked out over the tiny parking lot on the south side of Perkin’s Palace where I got to park my old Chevy van. I made a linoleum block print out the window of my studio that shows the old fire escape that used to be on the side of Perkin’s. My third floor entrance at the top of the stairs had a lovely glue-chipped glass window with gold leaf lettering from a previous tenant that announced “Designing Engineer.” It was backlit from an interior skylight. I moved in after a fire at the Hotel Carver had forced everyone to find living arrangements elsewhere. I kept my art studio at the Carver, and built a second studio and living space at 56 E. Holly. Cosmic forces had drawn me there as I had stayed in the building for a week in 1974, in the second floor studio of artist Al Payne, on my first visit to Pasadena. Artists Paul and Karen McCarthy also had a studio there with their two great kids Mara and Damon, and previously either Walter Gabrielson or Walter Cleveland (I forget now in my aging brain) was said to have had a studio in that building. The bathroom had a beautiful, big deep Victorian footed bath tub that I could relax in and listen to the sounds of the concert crowds and the faint, strained music of concerts at Perkins. I had direct access to the roof through a winding staircase and had a killer roof garden that looked right on to the south side of Perkin’s Palace to the north, a great view of City Hall to the East and Memorial Park and the Senior Center in-between. In those days, the Doo Dah Parade went up Holly Street and turned around our building onto Raymond. We had some great Doo Dah post-parties up there, as we were only half a block down the alley from the Loch Ness Monster Pub where the “public” Doo Dah post-party was held.
    The day after the last concert, I rescued from the dumpster behind Perkins Palace, a handful of color gels that had been used in the spotlights. I still have most of them and use them occasionally in video productions. A little tie to the past.
    I did get inside the theatre once, years later, to watch the taping of a television variety show directed by Laugh-In’s Dick Martin. And another vivid memory of that period occurred one night while I was hanging out at the Loch Ness. In walked singer David Lee Roth. He had just come from Perkin’s Palace which he had been renting as a rehearsal hall. He asked the bartender if he could use the stage. The bartender told him to go ahead, so we were treated to a half hour set of David Lee Roth’s latest material as he and his band did an impromptu audience test of the new songs.
    As a foreshadowing of what happened to the Raymond Theatre, after two years as a resident at 56 Holly, the Buchanans evicted me and the other upstairs tenants, in a move to remodel the building and increase their income with a better class of tenants. As far as I am concerned it was crime that the Raymond Theatre was gutted. Gina Zamparelli and the others who tried to stop “progress” are to be highly praised for their years of fighting the destruction. Pasadena has a long-recurring theme that the City allows developers to gut the interiors of historic buildings as long as they leave the exterior facades intact. Old Town thus becomes like a movie set, with nothing left of the past but the facades. They did it to the first public library, to the buildings at One Colorado, to the Hotel Carver, to the building that is now a parking lot entrance to Paseo Colorado, and on and on. Thank you for this article, which at least, helps preserve our memories of another historic Pasadena landmark now gone.

  25. I just wanted you all for your kind words and for sharing your great memories of Perkins Palace (Raymond Theatre). I appreciate all of you who felt as I do, that this incredible landmark shouldn’t have been lost. I put in 20-years of work to save into attempting to save it and left no stone unturned. This was not a preservation battle, but sadly a battle of money, power, greed and corruption at it’s best. I hope some day to write a book on the battle to save Perkins Palace as no historic landmark should face what Perkins Palace did. Thank you for the great story Hometown Pasadena, it was a pleasure working with you. I hope everyone will post on this site and the new Perkins Palace Facebook page and continue to share your memories. That’s one thing the Buchanan’s can’t take from us! Cheers!

  26. Dean Micheli says:

    Wonderful article. I saw some great shows there (Stranglers, Split Enz, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones to name a few). One small quibble about the article. “(snip) in 1978, the Doo Dah Parade was dreamed up by some intoxicated friends in a neighborhood bar”. Technically the Doo Dah Parade was dreamed up at the bar in 1977. It was first held on 1/1/78. Thanks for reminding people of what a great place the theater was.

  27. GREAT article. I saw the Cure there. Fantastic venue!!!!

  28. Denise Mobers says:

    Even though I lived in Orange County, we regularly made the trip up to Perkins. I remember it being one of the starting places for the whole ska punk scene..with bands like JFA, D.R.I. Wasted Youth and ill repute. That venue was a classic place that created a lot of memories for a lot of what are now. “old school/Old” punks. Shame that the destruction of the venue had ot happen. After I read this article, I took out my old ticket stubs and had a fun time remember those shows.

  29. Lee Z. says:

    I’d driven by the old KROQ building for a few years without knowing that this was where it all started. I was a bit too young (and a few dozen miles away) to attend the incredible concerts at Perkins Palace but I sure put in the time listening to my favorite radio station in those days. After reading this article I always feel a little melancholy now when I drive past the place.

    Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Depeche Mode’s first Southern California concert and it was here at Perkins Palace (the Roxy show in Los Angeles was a day later). I don’t think I even knew who Depeche Mode was in May of 1982. But my wife, a little older than me, was at the show. As a DM fan since around 1984/5 I’m envious.

    Thanks to all who kept the place alive for as long as you did. Great article, Matt. And thank you Gina for the time and hard work you’ve put in over the many, many years. I look forward to your book some day.

  30. L E Shannon says:

    I agree with all of the positive comments above, and I was praying the theater would remain intact.
    My own experience was attending a couple of films in the 70s (before “Deep Throat”) and I LOVED that house.

    But I have to wonder: why on earth were the Buchanans so hell-bent on destroying this theater?

    Because I have watched so many other buildings and spaces come and go in Pasadena since 1974. They could have had ANYWHERE else in town to “develop”. Better parking, too.

    So why this one? Why this one particular, great, HISTORIC theater?

    Oh, sure, they would say “business” — but I don’t think so. I don’t believe that one bit. I think it was personal. (What – were they turned down at an audition or something?)


    Bless you, Gina for fighting the good fight. You deserved to win.

  31. kr says:

    I too remember Perkins Palace from the early 1980’s, having seen The Plasmatics [blowing up the car was epic,the TV and the chainsaw deserve honorable mention], Siouxsie and the Banshees [the guitarist decided to knock some sense into a fan’s head with his guitar…nice], and New Order [a frustrating show, for the band and the fans, many sound issue].

  32. Teresa Metcalf Yzaguirre says:

    Wow! Great research… after gruduating from Pasadena high school, history became an era where the BabyBoomers dared to be different, wrote music that described our self-made philosophical views and our ideals of “how to make the world a better place,” Moreover, we fought for justice and what we believed in, using the Free Will God gave us by trying to change the Authoritarian society into looking at issues of concern in ways of shared governance and responsibility that makes us all accountable for social responsibility, changing our intellectual existence originating from or parents and grandparents began with such examples of asking our parents, after we did something wrong, to explain why, only to be told, “Because I said so.” This new generation of ideals began with the draft of Americans to fight a war that even today should have never involved the US…the Vietnam war.
    Thank you for delving into the history of a such a small part of Pasadena to some but such a large part of history for those of us who became such a large part of Pasadena’s Footprint. One thing that stands out about our generation is the courage to fight for what we believe in and the importance to show RESPECT for each other. I encourage anyone who has not spent a day at Pasadena’s Central Library to treat yourself to an experience of a life time. Pasadena’s history speaks through its walls and ambiance.

  33. […] glossed over when it comes to live music. Of course during the ’70s and ’80s there was Perkins Palace in Pasadena, where I saw a lot of punk and metal bands, and I actually caught the Promise Ring at […]

  34. Simon Chambers says:

    not even sure where to begin, this entire article and the treasured memories it brought back to be left me with a tear in my eye. Perkins Palace…and for a long time, The Ice House were frequent haunts for my metalhead friends and I. The atmosphere during any Perkins gig was incredible and equal to any venue I have been in. Getting up close to the stage and having our ears pummelled into submission was heaven on Earth!!! Those of us that grew up in the area, and indeed the era were immensely fortunate to experience such exiting times in Pasadena. I moved back to England in ’92, but my memories of Perkins will always be with me, and I am SO grateful for the many friends in my life from that time, in particular….and an absolute ROCK…is Gina Zamparelli, to whom we all owe so very much.

  35. Drew says:

    To whom it may concern,


    I was reading the article above about the Perkins Palace aka Raymond theatre
    and was wondering if there are any future plans to bring in a new generation
    of electronic artists to the city and put pasadena back on the map for revitalizing
    The community with innovation ,music and the arts.The Rock and punk years are the past
    But what about providing a new venue for future artists to shiowcase there modern
    Musical abilities? As a native of Pasadena and a graduate of the art center it would
    bring an interesting new wave of commerce and entrepreneurial spirit back to the crown

    Best Regards

  36. Bryan Bird says:

    Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Toy Dolls among many others that I witnessed at Perkins’ Palace. I grew up in the area in the 70’s and 80’s. Saturdays were often spent browsing the Salvation Army on Colorado Blvd. and chatting into the wee hours at the Espresso Bar (underage caffeine junkies). Sometimes I even took the RTD bus from Colorado Blvd. all the way to Hollywood to wander Melrose (2 hours one way). I love how punk band t-shirts from the 80’s have now become a fashion statement, e.g. Misfits, Bad Brains, etc. We did not even know we were living in a unique, historical moment of music and culture.

    One late night after a show at Perkins Palace – afraid to call home for a ride – my friend and I walked all the way back to La Canada around the Rose Bowl and on the horse trails!

    Fun times.

  37. Doug Strand says:

    Found the article by chance on Perkins palace and loved it. I was working for the Perkins bros when the plasmatics and the pretenders played those shows and remember them like it was yesterday. The car blowing up, Wendy O wearing electrical tape ( had to be there), mosh pit, Mohawk hair, chairs, all of it. Great memories of all the shows including the tubes, surf punks, the dickies, Adam and the ants, air supply, fire fall, the go go’s, George benson, Roberta flack and many more. My last show I saw before I moved to the Pac nw were the pretenders with an encore from Bruce Springsteen. What a final performance! Brings back memories I have not thought about for 30+ years.

  38. […] Perkin’s Palace, which used to showcase punk and metal bands in the ’70s and ’80s, has been turned into condos so good luck finding something to cool to do at night. Maybe an art or indie movie at the Laemmle? Sadly, you’ll probably have to take the 2 to visit Echo Park or 110 to Downtown to see any decent bands… […]

  39. David cz says:

    i was wondering, is it possible to get a DVD of INXS when they played at Perkins Palace in 1983, i think it was in March,………..

  40. B Bossard says:

    In high school,I did promotion for Perkins Palace, the Plasmatics show was one of the biggest shows I promoted. Used to hang out at KROQ on Los Robles after class. The comment from Gina Z about the neighbors complaining about the venue is total b.s. in the 1980’s there were no neighbors. PP was and is across the street from a park. Residents came much later in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Gina was part of the renaissance of Old Pasadena. (Barbara)

  41. Col Callan says:

    B Bossard didn’t read the article. The problems Gina Z had with “neighbors” was at Odd Fellows Hall, not Perkins Palace. And their certainly were neighbors in the area.

    Great article. Brought back memories in a rush.

  42. G$ says:

    I saw the Jam there in 1982, I’ll never forget the experience – driving forever from West L.A. I thought I’d never get there. The sound was unbelievable, the crowd rising for “A Town Called Malice.”
    It really saddened me to hear that I missed the Cult play there in 1984. I went back to the east coast in 1983. I wonder if the bastards destroyed Oki- dog too!
    I blame it all on the long hairs. SSR

  43. Chris says:

    I am trying to find the correct date for a show Motley Crue played here that was recorded for radio. They did 2 shows on that day and it was sometime between the release of Too Fast For Love and Shout At The Devil. There are at least 4 dates flying around online for the show and the most common is Nov 19th 1982, but I’ve been talking to someone who was there and says that date is definiely wrong. Anybody here saved their ticket stub or kept a journal of the concerts you saw?

    Any info would be highly appreciated.

  44. Delia says:

    Woah! I was at one of those Plasmatics shows at age 16. It was insane. The first show I saw There was Oingo Boingo when I was 15. It seemed like I knew half the audience because we weee all local kids from Pasadena or Altadena. Other shows I saw included Jim Carroll, X, The Cramps, Nick Cave, DEVO. I am forever grateful to the Perkins brothers, who were very nice guys, for bringing punk and just weird bands to Pasadena during my youth. KROQ was great! Also Poo Bas Record Store, and The Espresso Bar were great hang out places. I’ve traveled all over, but some of the most interesting people and culture I have known have sprung right out of my home town.

  45. Gregory T Brabander says:

    I went to the Einsturzende Neubauten show when the opened for Specimen. What I remember about that show was that Einsturzende Neubauten did use many truly industrial tools in their performance such as grinders which they used on huge metal beams that showered the crowd with sparks and those ground stomping machines used to pound dirt into the ground. But up on stage in an age right before subwoofers those things were just going WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!, it was incredible!
    But it was their finale that really stole the show. It must have been gasoline they used, but they poured it all over the front of the stage then lit it on fire. The flames were HUGE!!! And that place is one of those old theaters with big curtains draped right over the performers high above, but nonetheless the flames got reallll close to lighting them on fire. It was scary as F, but amazing too 🙂

  46. Sally Oneal says:

    Did u attend Westridge?



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