Sex, drugs and roller skates
Located in what had been a gigantic bowling alley at the dirty intersection of Santa Monica and La Cienega boulevards, the ice rink cost around $ 1 million in 1979 to build and decorate, money provided by Mr. Ross’s two business partners ( one of them, Denny Cordell, was the English record producer who started Shelter Records augmented with a last minute infusion of Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown. The ice rink was unlike anything else in town, its interiors being a continuous mural created by John Kosh, a graphic designer who throughout his career would design over 1,000 album covers, though none is more emblematic than a first effort: “Abbey Road” by The Beatles. “
“I wanted the place to have an old Hollywood feel,” Kosh said by phone from Los Angeles. “It was a magical cave with skaters spinning all over the place and crashing into each other. The floor of the rink was cast in dark blue polyurethane to give the impression that the skaters were touching the surface of a lagoon. I said, ‘Let’s go crazy and fly Carmen Mirandas bananas all over the ceiling.’ “
For the opening night, Mr. Ross imported 24 members of the Empire Roller Disco skate house team, a group whose movements on the floor were considered unmatched. They were resplendent in gold lamé, high-waisted stretchy pants, turbans and beaded braids and cornrows, Ms Ross said.
It was wonderful, amazing, unbeatable, Mr Ross recalled pointing out to a friend, who replied that it would only be downhill from there.
“What was that about Flipper?” “
And that would, although for 36 months – roughly the same lifespan as another memorable club, Studio 54 – Flipper’s has been indelibly etched in the consciousness of regulars, entertained by a succession of surprises like a skater dressed in nothing but her stockings and quads, a Prince concert that featured the performer squirming on a purple bed in a thong or the regular Go-Go’s concerts, who performed on a stage in the middle of the ice rink.
“It was a great, great place,” said Nile Rodgers, the Grammy-winning musician and co-founder of Chic, by phone from London. Whenever he found himself in Los Angeles to perform or produce music for other artists, his nightly club tours invariably started at Flippers, where he often arrived on his own eight wheels.