This just in! Justin, bka The Pulled Porker wins this weeks Mystery History with his guess of , “Bruce Springsteen with the ‘equally’ great Chrissie Hynde and another Pretender at Perkins Palace, 1981.” I will contact the Pulled Porker re his fabulous prize! Congrats to someone who happens to have an interest in local history!
Sorry for the delay on this posting. I’ve been outta the area. But this dog is now back in town, but I still think those cats are crazy! So watch out pussycats. Now lemme write this up quickly without further delay.
Perkins Palace for those unaware is today called (again) the Raymond Theatre. And it’s parking lot is the new Raymond Renaissance residential & retail development. Originally opened back in the early 1920’s by the Henry C. Jensen & Sons and aptly named Jensen’s Raymond Theatre. You notice how much building seem to occur in the 20’s around here after World War! ?
It’s relatively brief history as Perkins Palace was about a decade – really the 1980’s. This coincided with the rise in popularity of another Pasadena institution – new wave radio station KROQ 106.7 then located on South Los Robles Ave. KROQ was known then as “The Rock of the ‘80’s” Perkins & KROQ were natural music partners and regularly co-promoted events that drew fans and bands from outside of the city. Sometimes from outside the country!
The list of “big bands” which came to play Perkins Palace included REM, Oingo Boingo, the Ramones, Depeche Mode, Motley Crue, the Go-Go’s, the Cure, English Beat, Missing Persons, the Specials, Jackson Browne, the Pretender’s, etc. Oh, and Bruce Springsteen. 30 years ago in the fall of 1981. Plus lettuce not forget the film industry used it as a studio several times. In fact, until now I wasn’t aware Perkins had its own TV show: Rock N Roll Tonight – Live from Perkins Palace, on NBC!
But, I digest…Jensen sold the theatre in the late 1940’s and it became the Crown Theatre. The Perkins brothers acquired it in 1979 and became Perkins Palace. They may have acquired it from the father of David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame! I didn’t have time to confirm that. Perkins initially produced the shows along with a guy named Mark Garagos. Garagos later became much more successful and well-known as a defense attorney in Los Angeles. Soon after, Perkins hired a Gina Zamparelli to manage and then promote Perkins. Zamparelli later became a leader in the long struggle to “save” the theatre and provide it with a future.
Next to take the ownership reigns were the Buchanan’s: Gene & Marilyn. But soon they sold it to a restaurant man – Gary Folgner in 1989. After investing his dollars in the Raymond he soon found himself in financial difficulty and the theatre went back to the Buchanan’s in 1991. Gene Buchanan felt the best future for the Raymond rested in traditional uses – offices, retail, residential – and it’s best theatre days were in the past. About this time began a long, drawn out, battle (which would cover two centuries!) to preserve the building for its original theatrical use. Actual wars, such as WW’s 1 & 2, don’t even last that long. But that’s how relatively important this issue was in Cafe Pasadena’s Believe It of Not!
The major parties were the owner/developer Buchanan’s on one side, the preservationists led by Zamparelli and Pasadena Heritage on the other, and the city of Pasadena in the middle but not really pleasing the preservationists. The heated news, controversies, problems, and personalities surrounding the future of this historic property were regularly in our city news. In only recent years was the dispute resolved with the edge going to the owner/developers, imho.
I’m not really here to reinvent the wheel when it comes to telling the whole story of The Raymond. The stories have already been told wide and deep. I will however leave excellent source links to study this further: Friends of the Raymond Theatre, Raymond Renaissance, Hometown Pasadena, as well as researching the archives of the Pasadena Star News and Pasadena Weekly.
Suffice to say, in the end the tug of war among the parties could not prevent the Raymond Theatre interior from being gutted, or “transformed.” Nevertheless, the owners have done restorative work to the interior & exterior.
The Raymond is now a part of the newly completed Raymond Renaissance development at the corner of Raymond & Holly in Old Town Pasadena. In place of the parking lot is the new development. “Originally opened in 1921, the Raymond Theatre has undergone a restoration to its exterior. The interior has been transformed into mixed use residential, commercial and retail, pairing with a new building to the south. The two buildings combine to be the Raymond Renaissance.” A mixed use of retail on the ground floor with office/residential/lofts above.
The new retail includes Maude Woods a vintage/home furnishings store, and The Market on Holly a modern gourmet food market & cafe with a happy hour!. I’m acquainted with the owners (locals!) and workers of these new businesses, as well as the developer/owner of the Raymond complex, Gene Buchanan. They’ve been friendly & hospitable to me, made me feel welcome, treated me very well – good people. Perhaps the owners would say, “they paved over a parking lot to put up paradise.”
The fight for the future of the Raymond Theatre is now past. The seats are gone of course. (Probably sold to some other theater! Wonder where??) Sure it would have been the ideal to have keep it as a theatre, but “progress”, “evolution”, “change”, “indifference”, whatever, are very powerful forces which can’t always be kept away. The historic building is still there even if no longer in the condition for its original purpose. We’re going to have to call it a compromise, or just adaptive reuse, of a buildings original usage in this its latest incarnation. As the “Mayor” of Old Pasadena Jim Plotkin was quoted recently by Tony Nino (a past chairperson of the Old Pasadena Management District) on the relations between developers & preservationists: “We never fought each other. No matter how much we might have disagreed, we always fought on the same side for the same vision: a vital, restored, reinvigorated Old Pasadena.” Lettuce all remember that spirit. If you find yourself in Old Town, stop in and show your support for the Renaissance.
The Raymond wasn’t being used as a theatre the night Chrissie Hynde & her Pretender’s played. It was a concert hall. Nor was it known as The Raymond Theatre – it was Perkins Palace to the young fans of the 1980’s. Springsteen wasn’t on the bill that night. But it’s never been unusual for “The Boss” to join in with another band or for him to bring up another musician to play with his E-Street Band. And for those lucky fans and Pasadena it was a magical night when Springsteen decided to make an unannounced appearance. To play in the darkness on the edge of rundown Old Town on a fall night in 1981. Soon afterwards the light of the renaissance of rundown Old Town Pasadena had been switched on.
Gotta Turn On/Tune In My Brain! Stay Thirsty My Friends