Van Halen Played La Cañada and Montrose –
The Montrose Theater Show
Over the last few of weeks, I have detailed some local history involving one of the great rock bands, Van Halen. I interviewed former La Cañada resident Dan Sullivan who, in 1975-76 promoted some local concerts for Van Halen, just before they became famous. Dan had success with a couple of La Cañada shows but a Glendale show was canceled by complications in the contract with Glendale. Van Halen took Dan to small claims court for the $500 it was owed. Dan offered a show at the tiny Montrose Theater as a makeup show.
In 1976, the little Montrose Theater on Honolulu Avenue was being overshadowed by larger modern theaters. The theater had been built in the early ’20s with a small stage for vaudeville acts. It apparently had been experimenting with showing art films, surf films and, according to local legend, hosting rock concerts besides the normal run of popular movies.
The poster Dan put together for the show said: “Dan Sullivan & Negron Associates present Van Halen in concert, with special guest August. Montrose Theater, 2226 Honolulu Avenue, Montrose. Sunday March 7. Box office opens at 8, concert at 8:30. All tickets $3.00.” Tickets were sold at Rare Records in Glendale, Calliope Records in La Cañada and Campus Outlet in Pasadena.
There seems to be some controversy about whether or not the concert actually happened. Some sources say it was canceled. It was almost 50 years ago, and Dan doesn’t remember it very well. At my prompting, he checked in with his girlfriend of that time and she said she remembers it well and even has photos of it. So really, who knows?
One of my readers who’s sure it happened is Brian Floyd. He wrote:
“I was at that concert! Van Halen didn’t have any original songs yet. I remember they opened with ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ by Rainbow. They were very entertaining.
“I think they did ‘You Really Got Me,’ which ended up being one of their hits, and a bunch of rock covers that I don’t remember. Eddie had some of his outboard gear in an old bomb or missile casing that was hollowed out and sat on the side of the stage. Roth had some kind of whistle thing that was in his mouth or something. He used it to get those high squeals that he was so known for. I think he later perfected it. They were very glam and colorful and everyone was knocked out by Eddie’s playing.
“I saw them at Lanterman Auditorium where they opened for Tales. Tales were all friends of mine. Next thing I knew, Van Halen was playing the Starwood.”
The band did one more show locally at Glendale College, which a long-haired young man (me), witnessed. (Still got the long hair, but not the youth.)
Van Halen is gone now, an aging rock legend. But what lives on is that Dan apparently still owes them $500. Dan said:
“I was in London and their first world tour was in ’77. I see they’re playing the Rainbow Theater so I go to the back stage door. They take me up, and Dave and Eddie are standing there, ‘Where’s our 500 bucks?’ It was an ongoing joke. I’d see Dave in a strip club in Hollywood 25 years later: ‘Where’s my 500 bucks?’ This was a running joke. Whenever we ran into each other, in London, in LA, in nightclubs, Dave would come up and in his raspy voice, ‘Dan, you son of a b***h. Where’s my 500 bucks?’ I have a note he left on my door in Eagle Rock; I have this handwritten note. It says, ‘Dan, call me. Where’s my 500 bucks?’ with his phone number. It just keeps going on. If I saw him tomorrow, it’d be the same.”
Great stories from a great time in rock music; lots of great memories. Thanks, Dan Sullivan, for adding more local stories to the mix.
The biggest thing I learned from writing this series on Van Halen? It seems everyone has a Van Halen story.