1970s Music Tribute - A Place Called the Bla Bla Cafe

Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau | Source

A Place Called the Bla Bla Cafe by Sandy Ross

When the Bla Bla Cafe first opened, Twiggy was a fashion icon. Minimum wage was about a dollar and sixty five cents an hour, or about 65 dollars per week. Bobby and John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Marilyn was long dead. Haight-Ashbury hippies made the news. Viet Nam happened. Kent State war protests resulted in unarmed student deaths. During all of this and more, from 1971 through 1982, the Bla-Bla Cafe gave a spiritual and artistic home to anyone who wanted to be an artist, singer, songwriter, or comedian. Poets and jugglers were also welcomed. Anybody could go there and not be turned away for what they thought or the way they looked. It gave everybody a chance. The Cafe was not only well-loved by patrons and artists, it was also well-respected as a nightclub that had a major following.

More importantly, during the hard times and new freedoms met by many in the American 1970s, the Bla-Bla offered a homey camaraderie to performers that has lasted a lifetime. It was a refuge of some stability from 1971 through 1982, located on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, Los Angeles that provided a proving ground for new material and performers. Today there is a reunion website where the old regulars still check in. Among the hundreds of entertainers who worked at the Bla Bla are the following that you may recognize: Al Jarreau, Lisa Nemzo, Dave Matthews, Keith Green, William Katt, David Letterman, Roseanne Cash, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, The Motels, Huey Lewis and the News, The Police, Vicki Randle.

This book is an amazing entertainment Who's Who of many ell known artists from a variety of genres. The story of the cafe is told in thirds. Part One allows the author to tell her own story in relation to the club. In Part Two, she shares interviews with performers such as Al Jarreau and Lisa Nemzo. Finally, in Part Three, Sandy has drawn up tables of all the players, including a table describing regular patrons who supported the cafe and the artists, another for all the staff, and a third, much larger table containing all the hundreds of performers.

Old Program
Old Program

The Book and Other Memorabilia

David Letterman Appeared

David Letterman
David Letterman | Source

The Motels: Only the Lonely

Mona's

The site of the Bla Bla Cafe was formerly Mona's Purple Hag. Previous to that, it was called the Pourvu and both had attracted a wide range of varying patronage and entertainment. Mr. Sebastian Massa was the owner of Mona's Purple Hag and his cousin Albie Hora had worked there as a waiter. The cousins sold and then repurchased the club, creating the Bla Bla Cafe. Albie decreed the new name should be Bla Bla, because he had had a mystic dream one night in which his name Alb Alb had been shown to him spelled backwards as Bla Bla. The previous iterations of the cafe had drawn a very diverse crowd, which lent itself to the new club drawing the same and more. The Bla Bla Cafe was open after hours, welcoming and attracting all manner of characters, despite the prejudice of the 1970s in America. Gays, hippies, creative types, and the uncertain all came to the Bla Bla, where they were accepted and given room to breathe and time to acclimate to adulthood and what they wanted to do with their lives. Over the 11 years the Bla Bla welcomed these people, it provided a home and family to emerging and undiscovered talent, much of which is famous today.

As the club took root and grew, the operations staff and management personnel of the Bla Bla reached out to include Albie's cousins, Sebastian's brothers and sisters and a lot of others. The book's author herself, Sandy Ross, went from singer and songwriter to talent booking and entertainment coordinator at the Bla Bla for many years. She was one of the original performers in the earliset of the early days of the Bla Bla Cafe. Many of the stories she has either written or compiled in her book include interviews she has conducted with the very performers she booked or whose performances she attended herself.

This book is a unique chronicle to read and add to your watching of That Seventies Show on TV. The story and the history will give you some perspective, and also bring back the memories if you lived through that decade and survived. A Place Called the Bla Bla Cafe is a tribute to the spirit of destiny alive among the performing artists of the 1970s who found their way to a 1600 square-foot club in California, full of idealism and youth in a period of revolution and social change. It is a real collector's item for anyone interested in entertainment history and the American 1970s. You will enjoy the stories and the photos.

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Comments 12 comments

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Looks really good! Patty you keep telling about all these great reads and I won't have time to do anything else...

Thanks

regards Zsuzsy


Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 8 years ago

Very enjoyable, Patty!


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 8 years ago

Ahhhh, a lovely walk down memory lane!! Thank you so much Patty!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!


bihargyan profile image

bihargyan 8 years ago from India

Great you are an inspiration.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thank you all for your comments, Friends. It is a fascinating book and a quick read, because the pages turned quickly! I never knew about this place until I read the book. :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Sound like an interesting place. At my age, however, I think nightclubs should be replaced by late-afternoon clubs. The only places I know that have entertainment these days don't get under way until at least 10 p.m. (That's time to come home, not time to go out!)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

That's a good idea, William; a late-afternoon club could be fun sometimes. People could also go before they started work on a 3rd shift later in the evening.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

I still hear about Twiggy every once in a while. :)


joe Arsenault 7 years ago

I remember this place (both the old and new building). My brother Jack worked there for many years. I made a lot of friends and ate and drink maybe too much. Never heard of the book but plan to try to find it.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Hi joe - Thanks for the comment; your name sounds familiar - did you become famous there as well? I think the book is still in print and available from Amazon. It may be listed above. Thanks!


Jack arsenault 19 months ago

I was a partner at the Bla Bla Cafe with Albie and Eddie. Yes I am still very much alive. Love, Jack


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 19 months ago from North America Author

@Jack Arsenault - It is fantastically wonderful for you to visit here! The Bla Bla was Cafe certainly had a history of talents coming through, so thanks for the comment. What are you doing these days?

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