Tag Archives: Howard Hughes

The Mysterious Howard Hughes

One of the world’s wealthiest men, Howard Robard Hughes Jr. was a Hollywood filmmaker, record-setting aviator and business mogul who once owned a big chunk of Las Vegas and controlled a major U.S. airline (TWA), among other ventures. Later in life, however, he became an eccentric recluse who feared germs and shunned personal hygiene. What does this have to do with the Hollywood Pantages? The infamous Hughes owned, worked and even resided in the theatre.

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Howard Hughes sits at the cockpit of his TWA plane.

Most of what we know about his time as the owner of The Hollywood Pantages is rumor or speculation as he was known to be quite private or even recluse. What we do know is that Hughes purchased the theatre in 1949 and named it the RKO Pantages as part of his national chain of movie houses. He only retained the ‘Pantages’ name due to a contractual stipulation. Hughes had his office and own private screening room on the second floor of the Pantages building. This is still where our offices are located today and the screening room has been converted into our Group Sales office.

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Entrance to our Group Sales Office, formally the projection and screening room of Howard Hughes.

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Holes that were once for the projector have been patched and covered by Lion King artwork in our Group Sales office.

One of the amazing things about working in an 86 year old building is that there is no shortage of character. In many blueprints of the building sinks are pictured in nearly every office. Some of those plumbing hookups still exist to this day. I am writing this from what used to be a shower! During his time here, Hughes made sure that all of his employees had access to a sink so they could wash their hands multiple times a day. It was his belief that germs came from the outside world but not from him. It has been said that Hughes lacked in personal hygiene care because of this.

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Blue prints of the Hollywood Pantages offices during Hughes’ ownership. Sinks in every office

In addition to the many sinks, several showers are located in the basement storage areas of the theatre. There are stories about tunnels running under Hollywood Blvd between the theatre and the Broadway building where Hughes was rumored to have kept an apartment on the top floor.  Some suggest he would have his female visitors use the tunnels instead of the street and require them to shower before entering his private residence or offices to ensure they were germ free.

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Old shower located in the basement of the theatre currently being used for storage.

The tunnel, if ever there were one, no longer exists. No evidence of a tunnel was found when Hollywood Blvd. was opened up to create the Metro red line in the early 90’s. Pantages employees suggest that the supposed tunnel was destroyed when Hughes sold the theatre in the 1950’s after RKO suffered turmoil and decline during his control.

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The Broadway Building pictured on the right looking East down Hollywood Blvd. The Pantages Theatre is seen in the distance.

To this day we continue to find interesting things left behind by the Hughes era. He had a large impact on the theatre as well as the rest of Hollywood. In 2004 a movie named The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes was released about his life. Many scenes for the film were shot right here at the Hollywood Pantages.

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A scene from the 2004 film The Aviator. Pictured are Leonardo DiCaprio (Howard Hughes) and Kate Blanchett (Katharine Hepburn) in the Hollywood Pantages Theatre lobby.

 

The Montalbán

Hollywood is constantly changing as we mentioned in last weeks post about all of the construction happening in our neighborhood. However, there are still some good old classics in the area that really make Hollywood a special place. Located just around the corner from the Hollywood Pantages is The Montalbán Theatre.

Built in 1926, the theatre’s architect was Myron Hunt, whose work included the Rose Bowl, CalTech, the Ambassador Hotel, and many other Southern California landmarks. Named The Wilkes Brothers Vine Street Theatre in honor of its builders, it was the first legitimate Broadway-style theatre in Hollywood. Its inaugural presentation in 1927 was an acclaimed production of Theodore Dreiser’s “an American Tragedy.”

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The Mirror Theatre now known as The Montalbán Theatre in 1932

The Montalbán and The Hollywood Pantages have more in common than a zip code. In the early 1930’s Howard Hughes acquired the theatre to convert it into the first fully-automated cinema and renamed it the Mirror. The Hollywood Pantages too was owned by Hughes in the early 1950’s.

By 1935 Hughes was out of the movie business and sold the theatre to CBS Radio. Durring this time local station KNX hosted its now famous Lux Radio Theatre. For many years legendary producer/director Cecil B. DeMille was the producer and host.

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An early incarnation of the Montalbán Theatre as the CBS KNX Radio Playhouse

As the years went on the focus turned to television. CBS sold the theatre to Huntington Hartford, heir to the A&P grocery store fortune. He spent $750,000 to remodel and restore the theatre into a legitimate stage venue.

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The Huntington Hartford Theatre now known as the Montalbán in 1963

In 1964 James Doolittle, who at the time was running the Greek Theatre purchased the theatre. Over the next 20 years Doolittle added to the reputation of the theatre with his smart productions.

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Interiors of The Montalbán Theatre.

When the Doolittle era came to an end, UCLA took over, but, after several years, the theatre went dark until Ricardo Montalbán stepped in. He envisioned having a physical presence in Hollywood that would provide inspiration and training for emerging artists in the Hispanic community and thus enable them to mainstream into the performing arts and the broader entertainment industry. The theatre was a perfect home base for implementing that vision, and the Hispanic community, which respected his talent, success and his inclusive politics, mobilized to support the acquisition of the theatre. In 1999 a generous and anonymous donation enabled the Ricardo Montalbán Foundation to buy the building, and the Foundation reopened the theatre in May 2004 as The Montalbán.

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Ricardo Montalbán in The King and I.

Today the Montalbán Theatre is one of the few remaining mid-sized and fully-equipped proscenium theatres in Los Angeles and is known for its excellent sight lines and acoustics. The Theatre and the Foundation are partnered with community performing arts groups such as the Harmony Project, the Lula Washington Dance Company, the Tierra Blanca Arts Center and the UDLA. The Montalbán has also hosted a variety of professional productions including Selena, Culture Clash’s Zorro in Hell, The Who’s Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar (with the original cast), A Night Without Monty Python (with Eric Idle and other stars), a closed-circuit broadcast of the World Cup, an evening with comedian Billy Connolly, and most recently a two-week run of John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown.

For more information about The Montalbán theatre and their events  CLICK HERE.

 Blog Source: http://www.themontalban.com/history-of-our-theater/

The Eternal House Staff

The season of spooks and ghouls is upon us. It would be remiss of us if we didn’t take you into the dark side of the Hollywood Pantages. In our 85 years here in Hollywood we have picked up an interesting story or two. The best stories are about our guests that never truly leave the theatre.

The Sisters

Many theatre employees have said to have seen a pair of sisters sitting in the mezzanine. They always seem to be sitting in the same seats in the front row of the mezzanine. We don’t blame them for never giving up such good seats.

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The front row of the mezzanine where The Sisters have been spotted.

The Dog

For years theatre employees have reported hearing the barking of a dog coming from the basement. Occasionally the jingling of dog tags is also heard. No evidence of an animal trapped in the basement has ever been found…or stepped in.

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The Mirror Room

If you ever want to hear creepy stories about the theatre the best people to ask are our ushers. After every performance here at the theatre, the ushers check each restroom to make sure they are clear of patrons. One evening a female usher wandered down to the the ladies restroom on the left side of the lobby near the lower bar to check for remaining patrons. (For those of you who have been to the theatre this is the restroom with the mirrored powder room attached.)  When she got there she saw a woman standing near the last sink. She told her supervisor that there was one lady finishing up in the restroom. As the minutes went on and no one came out of the restroom the usher went back down to check on the woman. She was nowhere to be seen. No one had seen anyone exit the restroom. Others have reported seeing a woman’s face in a particular piece of mirrored glass within the mirror room.

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The ladies restroom just off of the mirrored powder room where an usher saw a woman at the last sink in the row.

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The mirrored powder room. Some have said to see the face of a woman in on of the pieces of mirrored glass.

Tunnel 4

Each night the ushers are assigned their positions. Many ushers dislike the position known as Tunnel 4. (also known as the mezzanine entrance on house left) When placed in this position the usher is responsible for directing patrons to their seats. After the show begins the usher in that position takes a seat at the end of the hall. Whenever a patron walks by the usher stands out of respect for the patron and to be ready to help if needed. Ushers have reported hearing footsteps coming down the hall which cues them to stand up only to find no one there.

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The entrance to Tunnel 4

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Tunnel 4

The Gentleman in the Bowler Hat

During our renovation in 2000 the entire theatre was filled to the ceiling with scaffolding. One of the workers was on the scaffolding in the back corner of the mezzanine when he turned around to see a man standing near the door wearing a hat. At first the worker didn’t think anything of it but when he turned back around to ask why he was there the man was gone. Shortly after that the entire work crew walked off the job. This particular spirit has been seen by many of the ushers after the show is over and everyone has left the building sitting in his seat in the mezzanine. Others that have reported seeing this man in the hat claim that he is the ghost of the late Howard Hughes who owned the Hollywood Pantages from 1949 – 1959. During that time period Hughes resided in an apartment above the theatre where our Marketing, Advertising and Group Sales offices are located today.

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Howard Hughes

The Singing Ghost

There is a lot of mystery surrounding this ghost. Some say she was an aspiring actress that committed suicide. Some say she died in the mezzanine during a show. (Although there are no reports of a death at the theatre) People have reported hearing a voice being picked up over the microphone system during shows. She apparently has a thing for Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber because her favorites to sing along to are The Phantom of The Opera and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.