The Other Madame Wong’s * Santa Monica
For anyone familiar with clubs in Santa Monica you might remember two or three of Madame Wong’s unusual features. One it was ridiculously close to the 405 freeway. Two it was located on a major street with traffic (Wilshire Blvd to be exact). Three for some reason it looked like a Ski Lodge or Chalet in the middle of LA.
But the one thing that most people probably remember is that it helped launch the careers of bands like the Go Gos, The Blasters and dozens of early 80’s bands.
When I first walked in around 1983 most of those bands were long gone. I did see a few bands that I kind of remember. One had a guitar player that played a left handed guitar upside down and draped his guitar amp with a flag.
I also saw the Red Devils play who were probably in the same graduating class as the Blasters and other rockabilly style bands.
Finally Brian Wilson’s ex wife had an all girl band with three lead singers (the first and last time I ever saw them). Then again her daughters were all over MTV * VH1 less than 5 years later.
But what I most remember about Madame Wongs was playing there. Once to a full house of friends (upstairs), once to what probably was almost an empty house upstairs, and a third time on their stage downstairs just as you walked in the door. Like the Comedy Store in LA, there was more than one room where you could see bands play.
What I mainly remember was NEVER meeting “Madame Wong” any of the times we played there. In fact everytime we played it felt like an episode from Peantuts. Someone would unenthusiastically run through the sound check and never appear again. All that was missing was the wah-wah sound affects meaning that no one was really paying attention to what you did or how you did it.
Somewhere I probably have a VHS video tape of playing there. In fact that makes me want to look for it right now.
After the 80’s, most clubs I went to were in sketchier areas of town where this at least seemed to be in a nice location. For some reason this club stood out more than others. I’m guessing we played there sometime between 1987 and 1989.
Thanks to Google I learned that the club closed in 1991. Because we missed most of the bands that went onto MTV glory, it’s the small things about Madame Wong’s that I remember the most.
More like a big house converted into a fun zone, it was a great place to visit but an even better place for young bands to perform.