When the mutants of 2051 A.D. find my broken remains beneath the ruins of the stone sun calendar at the Mayan, they’ll consider me quite the VIP, albeit a victim of unlucky deconstruction. This 1927 cinema, designed by the architectural firm Morgan, Walls and Clements, boasts a bas-relief façade with Mayan figures and filigree by Mexican artist (and 1920s Los Angeles transplant) Francisco Cornejo. Considering all the grace and majesty dripping from its pre-Columbian porticoes, it’s hard to believe that in the ’70s, when it was split into three screens, the Mayan was a porn palace, complete with bilingual anti-masturbation trailers. (It’s almost as difficult to believe that one could go to the Wiltern to watch theTexas Chain Saw Massacre premiere at about the same time.) Although its life as a movie theater ended in 1990, it’s still well loved. The gaudily colored eyes of the Aztec, Zapotec and Mayan gods now look down on the faithful who enter the temple in search of more modern deities found in clublife. Much as the chichi, froufrou, technopop Club 760 packs ’em in over on Broadway at the old Globe Theatre, the Mayan now hosts Club Mayan, a salsa dance club. It’s also used fairly regularly as a filming location and still partly fulfills its service to the vaudeville era as host to Lucha VaVoom and other live acts.
But it’s the private glories — hidden in the hundreds of seats and corners, operating much as the unheralded aspects of the original Mayan temples did — that give this place life. Conjuring up the ghosts of past audiences, one can feel the passionate energies of initial attraction, the children conceived through furtive love in the top row, and those waves of sound that reverberate into the walls, soaking them deeply and echoing every time one ventures into the vast temple and remembers precisely where one was within it during good and great times.
1038 S. Hill St., dwntwn., (213) 746-4674. ?www.clubmayan.com.