50-year-old Roxy Theatre has thrived through cultural shifts

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The Roxy Theatre is known for hosting some of the biggest names in the music industry. Photo by Shutterstock.

The iconic Roxy Theatre, known for hosting some of the biggest names in the music industry, turned 50 years old this month. Neil Young kicked off the anniversary by playing some of the same songs he performed when the club first opened. It was just the start of concerts lined up to commemorate its history. 

Rickie Lee Jones is set to return to The Roxy’s stage next month. She first performed there in 1979. “I seemed to have unlimited energy in those days. I was just so excited and the audiences were very vocal,” recalls Jones, who later recorded an album there in the early 1980s. 

“It was alive, visceral. … My audience really interacted with me, and I needed that when I was a kid. I needed constant ‘we still love you like we did a minute ago,’” Rickie Lee Jones says of playing The Roxy early in her career. Photo by Vivian Wang.

Looking back, Jones says she knew could pack the venue with music fans, and heard rumors that movie stars spent time there, which added to the excitement. 

“When I met Robin [Williams], I can be quite shy, and I took up my hat, I was shuffling as I spoke, and he did the same thing back to me,” she recalls. “He was so brilliant and so humane in his humor, and we became friends.”

Rickie Lee Jones met and became friends with Robin Williams (center) backstage at The Roxy. In this photo, he was teasing her. Photo courtesy of Rickie Lee Jones.

But Robin Williams wouldn’t be the only celeb she crossed paths with, “My favorite memory was around 1990. I finished the show and I was walking up the stairs, and there's not supposed to be anybody there. And this guy appears at the top of the stairs and I'm about to go. ‘Hey, man. What are you doing?” she laughs. “He takes off his hat and takes off his glasses. And he says, ‘Rickie, it's Jack.’” Jack Nicholson — who was co-owner Lou Adler’s friend and courtside companion at Laker’s games — turned out to be a big fan. Jones does a devilish impression.

Jones says she will always have fond memories of The Roxy and its place in history: “What makes LA what it is are those clubs and those places that are part of our lives.”

As for Cisco Adler — the son of the aforementioned Lou — celeb sightings were just part of his unconventional childhood growing up at the club.

“Looking back now, I think it was that Showtime era of the Lakers and the music that was going on. … It was a swirl of crazy culture around there,” Adler explains. 

The strip is no longer what it was in Jones’ day, but Adler notes that’s just part of the scene. “It's gone through shifts in culture, it's gone through shifts in mainstream music over the years. And that always happens. Whatever is on the strip, and more specifically, whatever's at the Roxy is usually the pulse of what's breaking right now.”

Ricky Lee Jones will be performing at The Roxy on October 18.