Ode to a Forgotten Venue

Posted on: 2007-01-14

This is my ode to a forgotten venue, the building of which appears to be relatively old, probably dating from the ’20’s or ’30’s, which was a vibrant nightclub and entertainment venue in Silver Lake from 1980 to early 1984. Prior to its club stint it had been a failing Chinese restaurant, ‘Oriental Nights.’ The club’s creator, British ex-pat Howard Paar approached the owner, Bob Selva, and convinced him to open a night club there; as Selva was unwilling to change the name on the business license, Paar abbreviated it to ‘O.N. Klub’ to avoid any resemblance to Madame Wong’s or a lack of originality.

Labeled as a ‘ska’ club, it soon became associated with a younger crowd who were a part of the embryonic Mod revival, but the club also hosted different alternative music acts on other nights. Many, many musical groups came and went; a few better-known local groups performed there, such as the Bangles and Los Lobos. Geno Washington and his Soul Revue once played there as well as the Neville Brothers. There was once an impromptu performance by members of popular international acts The Clash and the (English) Beat. Pronounced ‘on’ by regulars, the black-painted facade with the red doors was quite the hip little dive.

As friend recently wrote, ‘ Funny how even the innocuous little bldg can hold a celebrated, if brief, past. At times there was a line at this club’s door that stretched nearly to the liquor store down the corner. People from as far as SF and SD came here to drink and dance. At various times, members of the B-52s, UB40, Specials, Madness and other bands drank, sang, and danced there. Hard to believe, but the Los Angeles Times did a huge article on the club and its regulars that appeared on the front page of the what was then called the ‘Style’ [View]section of the paper…it was the little building that could.’ The club was also the subject of a KABC Television ‘Eye On L.A.’ segment about the local Mod scene.

Often overbooked, it had not gone unnoticed by the City and was eventually visited by the LAPD (complete with tear gas) in the summer of 1982 due to underage patrons, fire code problems and complaints from residents.

The ON Klub died with the early 80’s, frozen in time, and was padlocked many moons ago. Recently it was totally renovated and looks to be ready to reopen (2007) as retail space.

Not a few of us mentally memorialize the place and remember it as it was, with all the Vespas and Lambrettas parked along the front like shiny toys (we were kids, after all). There recently was an ON reunion proposed for there, although that too has dissolved, much like the two-stroke smoke of the scooters.