Gallery Stage, Players Ring Gallery I

Left to right: Young Ted Knight, Werner Klemperer, Phyllis Coates.
Left to right: Young Ted Knight, Werner Klemperer, Phyllis Coates.
8111 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood Established 1952

The Veterans Club, a nightclub at the corner of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights boulevards, achieved nationwide notoriety in 1948 when party girl Vickie Evans was arrested there during a gambling raid. Her arrest was news because she’d made the front pages nationwide a month earlier when she was arrested for marijuana possession with rising star and Hollywood bad boy Robert Mitchum in a friend’s home in Laurel Canyon. It was the second raid on the club in under a week, and the owners soon shut it down.

In 1952 a group of actors acquired the building and converted it into an arena-seating venue they called the Gallery Stage. Among the shows they produced was the quirky-sounding “The Maid and the Martian” (1952), written by Joseph Barbera, who, with William Hanna, was an animation director for the Oscar-winning “Tom and Jerry” cartoon series at MGM. Later their company, Hanna-Barbera, would produce “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons” and other hit television cartoon series.

Paul Levitt and Ted Thorpe acquired the theatre in 1955 and renamed it the Players Ring Gallery. In December they reopened it the West Coast premiere of the Broadway hit “End as a Man.” That show launched a successful six-year run for the Levitt-Thorpe organization. But in early 1961, the county condemned the building for demolition for a street-widening project. Over the summer Levitt and Thorpe renovated the building at 8325 Santa Monica Blvd. – today’s Coast Playhouse – and reopened the Players Ring Gallery there in September 1961.

Noteworthy Productions:
  • Two by Tennessee Williams, “Summer and Smoke” (July 1956) and “Orpheus Descending” (November 1957).
  • “Inherit the Wind” (March 1958), with Ted Knight.
  • “The Ponder Heart” (November 1956), a Broadway hit based on the popular Eudora Welty novel.
  • “A Hatful of Rain” (September 1957), with future “Love Boat” captain Gavin MacLeod and Marlon Brando’s older sister, Jocelyn Brando.
  • ”Happy Time” (1958), directed by Werner Klemperer, later Col. Klink on “Hogan’s Heroes.”
  • ”Inherit the Wind” (1958), with Ted Knight.
  • “Diary of Anne Frank” (1958).
  • ”Look Back in Anger” (1959).
  • ”Sunrise at Campobello” (1960) written by Dore Schary, former MGM executive, and featuring Ted Knight.
  • ”Send Me No Flowers,” starring Phyllis Coates, the original Lois Lane in “The Adventures of Superman.”
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