Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"American Hot Wax"

The Wiltern as the Brooklyn Paramount:

The Wilmount. Thanks to Matt Spero for his photo taken of the vertical on the Western Ave. side of the building half dressed for the filming of "American Hot Wax."  The filming was done in 1977, it was a Paramount release in 1978.

The film, directed by Floyd Mutrux and written by John Kaye, stars Tim McIntyre (as Alan Freed), Larraine Newman (as an aspiring songwriter) , Fran Drescher (as Freed's assistant) and Jay Leno (as Freed's chauffeur). It's the story of  DJ Alan Freed and, among other things, his big show at the Brooklyn Paramount. Musicians featured included Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. The Wiltern, the theatre used for the filming, is in Los Angeles at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Western Ave.

The Wiltern's marquee with part of the copy up for the filming. It's a photo from the photo gallery on, the "official website of the disc jockey who coined the phrase 'Rock 'n Roll.'"

A street level view with the theatre dressed for filming. It's a Matt Spero photo. 

A corner view. Photo: Matt Spero

A closer look at the Western Ave. side of the marquee. Photo: Matt Spero 

A marquee detail. Photo: Matt Spero

Added period signage. Photo: Matt Spero

More signage along the building's storefronts. Photo: Matt Spero

Another bit of period decor. Photo: Matt Spero

The boxoffice set up for "American Hot Wax."  Photo: Matt Spero 

A display case. Photo: Matt Spero

Another Wiltern display case. Photo: Matt Spero 

A look north across Wilshire Blvd. Photo: Matt Spero

Thanks for all the great photos, Matt!

Promotional materials:

A detail from a lobby card for "American Hot Wax." Thanks to Sean Ault for the find.

Here's the full card that Sean Ault found.

Another lobby card for the film from John Greco's site Twenty Four Frames. His 2010 post "Where Are They?" discusses the film as being one of the missing -- not appearing on DVD or revived in theatres.


A one-sheet poster for the film. It's from the John Greco Twenty Four Frames article.  You can also see one on the site

Shots from the film:

A screenshot from the Internet Movie Cars Database. They were more interested in the 1955 Ford Fairlane than in the theatre behind.

Getting ready for the concert about an hour into the film. Please excuse the quality. This and the 16 or so screenshots below were taken from a very gloomy low-res version of the film on YouTube. But it was still a treat to see it at all.

A closer look at the Wiltern entrance.

Rehearsing in one of the theatre's tiled restrooms.

A scene backstage with Freed (Tim McIntyre, in plaid jacket) trying to keep things under control. The dimmer board on the left (since removed) is a Major 5-scene pre-selective resistance board. 

The troops arriving -- some on horseback.

The feds seizing the boxoffice take. Freed was later indited for payola issues.

A backstage scene in the basement stage left dressing room area. On the right Fran Drescher and Jay Leno are in an embrace.

Another scene offstage right. Freed has just been informed that the Feds have seized the till and he won't be able to pay anybody. Chuck Berry is there to the left of Freed taking in the news. For connoisseurs of rigging, what we see on the wall is an Armstrong Power counterweight installation. Not many lines were installed. The Warner opened so late that they knew the stage wasn't going to get much use.

An officer telling Freed he expects chaos when the crowd hears that he can't pay his two headliners Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. A bit strange since earlier when the head Fed guy is surveying the crowd he comments that it could be an unruly night and they want to keep problems from erupting.

At this point it looks like Lewis is a no-show anyway. Berry, though, tells Freed "Rock and Roll has been good to me. I guess I'll just have to do this one for rock and roll."

A look into the house with Chuck Berry onstage.

Another view of Chuck Berry performing.

We get a shot of a car with a Louisiana license plate pulling up at the front of the theatre. Jerry Lee Lewis walks through the lobby to backstage. Here he's on after Chuck Berry as the crowd goes wild. The police have the house lights turned on and try to curtail dancing in the aisles. Lewis says he can't perform with the lights up. They go off again and he continues the show.

More police coming in to make trouble.

A boxoffice view near the end.

Freed and the crowd tumbling out into the south exit passageway house right. Behind we get a look into the inner lobby that runs across the back of the main floor.  Freed is indited for payola, taken off the air. He dies five years later, penniless, in Los Angeles.

A shot from the photo gallery on, the "official website of the disc jockey who coined the phrase 'Rock 'n Roll.'"

Another shot from

A look up the vertical on the Western Ave. side of the building from the Alan Freed website.

Some of the Wiltern exterior footage was reused in the 1987 Columbia film "La Bamba." See the post about "La Bamba" for three Wiltern shots from that film. They don't, however, use the Wiltern for their interiors -- they're in some smaller theatre.

For more about the theatre see the six Wiltern Theatre pages on the Los Angeles Theatres site for many photos. It closed in 1979, was scheduled for demolition, and brought back to life by developer Wayne Ratkovich and his partners. It's now a concert venue operated by Live Nation.

"American Hot Wax" is on YouTube:  version one -- the whole thing |  version two -- 7 segments |

On IMDB: "American Hot Wax"

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