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No Burlesque at the Nickel Diner

Back in February, Los Angeles Magazine had a nice story by Lesley Bargar Suter about "Best Retro Diners" that mentioned the Nickel Diner at 524 S. Main as being in a building that was a former burlesque theatre.

The 500 block of S. Main was one of the busiest blocks in downtown Los Angeles, at least as far as the number of theatres were concerned. I looked at my Main Street Theatres list and counted 8. And, of course, 524 S. Main wasn't on the list.

I sent in a letter noting that there were only two theatres on the east side of the street (the Galway at 514 and the Burbank at 548) -- and the Nickel wasn't at one of those locations. Well, I missed one.

Observant theatre historian/Orpheum manager Ed Kelsey advised the magazine that there was also the Sherman at 518 S. Main. Another data point was on the Cinema Treasures page for the Galway where intrepid archivist Ken McIntyre had come across a newspaper story announcing the opening of the Sherman (named for the General) in 1915.

So I headed to the microfilm and did some unspooling. It turns out the Sherman probably didn't last long as I could only find listings in the 1916 and 1918 city directories. And based on a few other clues, it looks like the Sherman wasn't at the location of the later Galway.

The photo here is NOT the Sherman. It's a Google Maps view of a 1924 building currently on the site. If you're interested, head to an interactive view for a Main St. stroll. The east side of the 500 block of Main St. is one of the few block faces on the street with a full block of vintage buildings intact.

Of course, the search for data on the Sherman resulted in a several day long binge on the microfilm machines. So there's now also a listing on the Main Street page for the Spidora Theatre (how's that for a name?) at 224 E. 5th St. It turns out that 5th St. east of Main was an active little theatre district for a few years.

Also I added lots of dates and data points for other theatres to the Theatres Street by Street Directory. Nothing important. But did you know we had a theatre called the Community in 1918 on Ivar Ave. in Hollywood?

How about the Windsor Theatre at 221 S. Western Ave.? That makes 19 now on the list along Western Ave.

And did you know that in 1922 the Rivoli at 4521 S. Western Ave. was called the Western Avenue Wonder Theatre? I wish I could have gone to a show at that one!

So back to the topic: where was the burlesque on the east side of the 500 block of Main? The Burbank Theatre is the main answer. Also note that the Galway in the 50s was running "Girlesque" but it was all on the screen -- no stage show. And on the other side of the street up 2 blocks was the Follies Theatre, formerly the Belasco. What a street!

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