A Look Inside 1979 LA’s Most Exclusive Roller Disco

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Seditionaries — in Hollywood
Woman wearing Seditionaries shirt© Cisco Craig Dietz

Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, situated in the heart of Los Angeles, was once the exclusive, beating heart of the city’s social scene

Back in 1979, Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace stood on the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles. The building was painted purple and blue, and had just opened that year to take advantage of the new craze sweeping a nation donning tube tops, hot pants and high socks to bounce, skate, and rock‘n’roll in a disco wonderland.

Sensing a major scene in the making, Mr Flipper wanted to make a photo book to promote the venue. He contacted David Allen and Jules Bates at Artrouble, the LA art collective working with musicians and nightclubs in the punk underground. Allen introduced Mr Flipper to Cisco Craig Dietz, who was working as a staff photographer at Muscle magazine. The position afforded Dietz the ability to open his own photo studio on Western and Melrose and participate in the emerging art scene.

Dietz seamlessly blended the boundaries between commercial and fine art in his work, making him the perfect candidate to become Flipper’s house photographer. With a glass of Chartreuse in hand, Dietz made the rounds, capturing an exquisite moment in time. The book never happened, but the photos live on. Dietz takes us back to those heady nights under the disco ball.

On Los Angeles circa 1979...
“LA was a paradise for people from all over the world to come, explore, and create for a responsive audience. The vibe was ‘anything is possible’ if you are willing to push the boundaries. The air was ripe with exploration to find the next ‘it’. Music was exploding. The ‘new’ was what everyone wanted to hear. Clubs were filled with every type of music, all vibrant, and people wanted more. Small venues were the rage and off the beaten path was the leitmotif. And of course the divine LA climate allowed people to participate in so much, to find their place under the sun and moon.”

On Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace...
“Flipper’s was pure insanity. I could explore the hedonism of the Hollywood mix of wannabes and those who were the leaders of new ‘new’. It was pure unadulterated fun – legal and otherwise. Nights were filled with an energy that was non-existent in other clubs. So many people would show up that the doors were closed to all but a select few. Every star in Hollywood wanted that special table near where Flipper held court. One of the best aspects of Flipper’s was dancing and skating around the live band stage. Wild pile-ups on the skating rink were common, stars fell, stars helped, the wannabes were there in the middle claiming their moment in the limelight.”

On life as an insider...
“As the house photographer, I had amazing access to all the hidden truths and falsities, as well as the open lies. I was the man who could walk up and snap away. I was often invited to sit and schmooze with the haves and the have-nots. They wanted a photo – a star for a moment. It only lasted a few heartbeats, a year at best. The paparazzi waiting like sharks outside were envious of my access – but I did not sell my images to tabloids or outside press. I worked with David and Nan Miller, publicist for Flipper’s. The images I shot were firstly delivered to Nan then she would use them for the publicity of Flipper’s. I was living in the Hollywood Hills at the time and many a night I barely limped home after an easy night of photography and a very hard night of drinking.”

On the world of Artrouble...
“I was friends with Jules Bates and David Allen. Jules, an extraordinary photographer, was a person whom I admired and respected greatly and strived to equal. I would spend days shooting a pistol in Jules’ studio and having way too much fun. I became close with David during the Flipper’s period of nightly debauch.”

On the contact sheet as frame...
“These images have for me great relevance because they tell the side story: they share the grease pencil markings of myself, Nan, and David. They represent the current of a shared vision, a cinematic exploration of a time frame, a history of the moment when we all wanted to be on the edge. The cut-off view of the previous and next frame gives a slice, a preview of what was and what was about to be. My history of filmmaking and photography is blended into a single new image. It is sustained by the ability to connect using a digital camera to photograph the contact sheet. The work is a view of the past that is intimately connected to today.”