Cameo Playhouse

Left: Ty Hardin in a publicity shot from the TV show, “Bronco”; right: Arline Judge in a Columbia Pictures publicity still
Left: Ty Hardin in a publicity shot from the TV show, “Bronco”; right: Arline Judge in a Columbia Pictures publicity still

8365 Santa Monica Blvd.
Established 1960

In 1960 a group of actors announced plans to open a theatre in a storefront one door west of the Players Ring. The actors renovated the building into the same theatre-in-the-round format as the Players Ring. The mission for their theatre – the Cameo – would be different, however.

“Some fellow actors and I got together and decided we’d start our own theater doing only wholesome, clean comedies we’ve all done in summer stock,” the Cameo’s Virginia Lewis told the Times. “That is the kind of play actors can have as much fun doing as the audience has watching. We want to make people laugh instead of cry. We want to keep the family together for entertainment, instead of seeing the kids go one way and the parents off to something for adults only.”

Judging by the response they received, the Cameo’s organizers were on to something. A review of their first production, “Sabrina Fair,” complained about the small space, but audiences didn’t seem to mind. The next shows, “Grand Prize“ in July and “Heaven Can Wait” in August, were hits. In November 1961 a musical written by Jesse Lasky Jr., the son of one of the founders of Paramount Studios, opened at the Cameo. Described as a robust serio-comic epic of the old Nevada mining and gambling town of Virginia City, “Ghost Town” played for more than two months.

One of the Cameo’s biggest hits was “The Man in the Dog Suit” (1962), which played for eight months. It starred former contract starlet at RKO and Columbia Pictures Arline Judge and Ty Hardin – born Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr., and rechristened Ty Hardin by Henry Willson, the agent who discovered Rock Hudson – who was starring at the time in the hit television series “Bronco.”

In October 1963 the Cameo hosted an arts seminar “for anyone interested in acting, directing, producing or writing for the stage.” Lecturers included Richard Boone, Richard Chamberlain, Raymond Massey, Jose Ferrer and Loretta Young.

“King of Hearts” opened on Christmas day 1963. The next show, “It’s Still an Act,” which opened in October 1964, four months after fire had destroyed the Players Ring next door, was the Cameo’s last. The building was soon razed as part of the shopping center development. Today Earthbar occupies the site where the Cameo once stood.

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