AT WHISKY-A-GO-GO Athletic Mayhem in Motion

By John L. Scott, Times Staff Writer

So you like to dance, but you're not "in" these days unless you're "way out". The waltz, fox-trot or even the Twist? Squaresville? Now if you don't do the Watusi, the Frug (pronounced Froog), the Jerk or the Freddy, you're a wallflower for sure.

Athletically inclined people who cavort in these frenzied dances, which require little footwork but lots of arm, shoulder and hip action, are jamming places called discotheques (pronounced deeskoteks), where stereo sound systems blast out music with a pounding beat. A hundred couples can be accommodated on floor space big enough for a dozen traditional dancers.

The Sunset Strip Whisky-A-Go-Go, which pioneered the discotheque development in the United States after four partners watched it work in Paris, is literally a jumping club. On a recent rainy night customers milled around the entrance clamoring for entry.

Minors Denied

Those under 21 were turned away since this establishment depends upon its liquor sales for revenue, and there's no cover charge or minimum. For entertainment, in addition to what they call dancing these days, the Whisky-A-Go-Go supplies a combo---currently guitarist-singer J.J. Kale, a drummer and bass player --- and two lightly-clad, nimble feminine cuties dancing in a glassed-in enclosure high above the crowd. Patrons who refuse to risk life and limb on the floor can enjoy the fun vicariously by merely observing.

The Whisky-A-Go-Go, in operation here for the past 14 months, was started by four men---lawyer Theodore F. Flier, former press agent Shelly Davis, Elmer Valentine and Phil Tanzini. Flier acted as spokesman for his partners, who were in San Francisco opening a Whisky-A-Go-Go on Sacramento Street. "We started this place with $20,000 and since have poured in $150,000," Flier told me, as we cupped our ears to hear during the musical blast-off. "We now have a $5 million thing going," he added, "with a Whisky-A-Go-Go in Atlanta, one in San Francisco, two others coming up in New York (one at the World's Fair), and tentative plans for establishments in Denver, Detroit, Cleveland and other large cities."

This makes the Whisky-A-Go-Go second only to the Playboy Club as a chain night-spot operation. Flier shrugged when asked how long his clubs would last. "How can anyone foresee fads in dancing?" he counter-questioned. "Our operations are solid; we provide well-run, orderly places where people can express themselves on the dance floor; and we are very, very careful to keep out minors because liquor is available.

"We ask neither a cover charge or a minimum. So we sell drinks like any cafe or club. How many? Well, we estimate a $1 million gross in this club, this year."

Points With Pride

Flier stressed with pride the fact that his group pays highest wages. "We give our dancing cage girls $150 a week for about four hours work a night," he said. "And we train these girls --- we have about 12 right now --- here for similar work in our other clubs. All girls are recruited in Hollywood. Joanie Sannes is our choreographer." Flier said the Whisky-A-Go-Go operation is the first breakthrough in traditional nightclub business. "I was associated with a regular night spot near here for a while, and it proved an expensive venture. Entertainers' high fees and a lack of patronage, except on weekends, gave us fits."

"I don't dance the Frugg, the Jerk, or the Freddy, but I'm here nightly to watch the operation, and it's a pleasure to see people of all ages over 21 enjoying themselves at a reasonable price." The Whisky-A-Go-Go in Hollywood recently featured singer Johnny Rivers and his group, and helped put him in the "big time." Rivers received $1,250 a week in his last engagement here, and now goes on to San Francisco and New York commitments for $5,000 per. Everyone knows there's money in whisky; now there's loot in go-go, too.