Venice Beach History: Lenny Brucemas


Black Pearl circa 1968 on the Cheetah Ballroom (previously the Venice Ballroom at Pacific Ocean Park) Pier in Venice Beach. The show, a celebration of Lenny Bruce’s birthday put on by The LA Free Press, was hosted by Murray Roman. It was estimated that 30 thousand people were on the beach that day.

As Black Pearl member Oak O’Connor remembers:

Black Pearl went to California and easily got some primo gigs. We earned a reputation as a wild live show. We played The Cheetah in Venice, The Whiskey in Hollywood, and The Shrine Auditorium. We opened for Ike and Tina Turner, Chicago, Big Brother, The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, The Mothers of Invention, Albert King, Muddy waters, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, etc, etc. We moved to San Francisco for a while and became the house band at the Avalon Ballroom for several months opening for Blue Cheer, John Mayall, Quicksilver, Steve Miller and anyone else that came through. That was a glorious time and the music was a blast.

We had custom made clothes from North Beach and Sunset Strip. We were dandy. We drew a good size crowd too.

Back down in Southern California we played an event called The Lenny Brucemas (remember Lenny Bruce?) on the beach in Venice using the old Cheetah Ballroom pier as a stage. This event was hosted by Murray Roman, a writer for The Smothers Brothers show. There was a line up of name acts. Twenty to thirty thousand people attended according to the LA Free Press. While Black Pearl was playing, a couple of groupies got on stage with B.B. and started to dance in an entangled kind conga line. When they tripped and fell in unison, down behind the railing, the entire crowd got to their feet to see what was going on. The Free Press the next day said “Black Pearl got the whole crowd to their feet with their rockin’ music”. Yeah it was rockin’ and the girls were rollin’. We signed with Atlantic Records the following week right after playing at the Anaheim Convention Center with Three Dog Night. Unsigned band playing at the ACC full house?