Pop Culture

Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Rainbow Bar & Grill Retrospective

If only the building at 9015 Sunset Blvd on the Hollywood Strip could talk … oh, the stories it could tell. The Rainbow Bar & Grill, owned at that time by Elmer Valentine, Lou Adler, and Mario Maglieri,  opened in April 1972 with a party for Elton John. The location was the former Villa Nova Restaurant, owned by director Vincent Minnelli while he was married to Judy Garland.

After opening, the bar and grill very quickly became known as a hangout for celebrities, particularly rock stars. And where the famous musicians are, the groupies will surely follow. Among those who were regulars in the 70’s were Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz, Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Neil Diamond. Members of Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond were also spotted there on more than one occasion. In the mid and later 70s, Kim Fowley, renown record producer and manager of the Runaways, was a frequent fixture there.

The 80s brought a shift in music tastes, and hard rock, particularly heavy metal became the trend. Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Poison, W.A.S.P. and Motley Crue were frequently in residence. The venue was mentioned in songs, used in music videos, and featured in movies. The ‘Bow’ was one of the most well-known venues on the Strip. It simply was and is “the place to be.”

The 90s and 2000s brought even more rockers in, with Lemmy, founder and vocalist of Motorhead, typically found ensconced in his regular seat at the end of the bar playing video poker. Along with Lemmy, you could generally find members of other bands scattered throughout the restaurant and bar. It wasn’t unusual to see Gene Simmons (of KISS fame) surrounded by groupies, or Billy Idol just chilling and enjoying the scene. Anthony Kiedis (lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) was also there often, usually with his entourage and other members of RHCP.

If you wanted to see and be seen, the ‘Bow was the place to be. It’s close proximity to other iconic venues like the Roxy, the Whiskey and the Viper Room made it even more attractive to those who frequented the rock scene. You could stroll, or in some cases stumble, from one club to the other quite easily. And the food …. the food is truly fantastic. They boast a full menu, mostly Italian food. The pizza is one of the best in L.A. Good burgers too!

The ‘Bow also has an exclusive club called “Over the Rainbow” upstairs, which consists of a full bar, a dance floor, and a DJ booth. It’s actually more of an elite escape room when downstairs becomes overcrowded. Lenny Kravitz has been spotted there, as well as many, other celebrities. On any given night, you never know who might stroll through the doors. The patio at the ‘Bow is fun and packed during the spring and summer. I’ve spent many evenings there. Some I don’t remember very well LOL. Did I mention the bartenders make a mean drink? Very strong! On second thought, perhaps it’s better if the walls can’t talk there.

Sadly, the ‘Bow lost its longtime owner and semi-nightly fixture there – Mario Maglieri in May 2017 at the age of 93. The Rainbow Bar and Grill announced the news on its Facebook page; “Dear Rainbow friends and family, it is with great sadness to announce the passing of our beloved Mario Maglieri, owner and founder of the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Whisky a Go Go,” the bar posted and signed it from The Rainbow & Whisky Family. “He passed this morning while surrounded by loved ones.” Slash eulogized him very simply with “He kept rock and roll alive in Hollywood. We will never forget you.” And anyone who met him would agree. He was larger than life. Such a great presence who is so greatly missed. And truly a great venue on the Strip. Long live the ‘Bow.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]