Mario Maglieri, the owner and co-founder of both the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Whisky a Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, died Thursday morning. He was 93.
A post on the Rainbow’s Facebook page on Thursday afternoon read, “Dear Rainbow friends and family, it is with great sadness [that we] announce the passing of our beloved Mario Maglieri. Owner and founder of The Rainbow Bar And Grill and The Whisky a Go Go. He passed this morning while surrounded by loved ones. We will announce services shortly. We ask that you please allow the family time to grieve. Thank you for your understanding. The Rainbow & Whisky Family.”
Maglieri, along with local businessmen Elmer Valentine and Lou Adler, purchased the Villa Nova restaurant in 1972, renaming it the Rainbow in tribute to Judy Garland, whose husband had co-owned the venue previously. Valentine already owned the Whisky, a venue that Maglieri had begun managing by 1966. Both are now owned and operated by Mario's son, Mikael Maglieri.
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s in particular, the Rainbow and the Whisky were synonymous with Sunset Strip excess and decadence. The Rainbow earned a reputation as the hangout of choice for both bands and musicians visiting from out of town (Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones), and the local hellraisers who needed a home base (Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Lemmy Kilmister).
With Maglieri as manager, the Whisky became a legendary venue, hosting such influential ’60s artists as The Doors, Frank Zappa and Janis Joplin. The late-’70s L.A. punk scene, which included the likes of The Germs, The Avengers and X, breathed new life into the place, as did the glam-metal scene of the next decade, with which both the Whisky and Rainbow are still closely associated.
Even during the 1990s and 2000s, right up until now, the Whisky has retained a vibe of Hollywood glamour that remains attractive to contemporary bands. The Rainbow, where the late Lemmy of Motörhead was so often a fixture playing his favorite video game at the bar, never lost its cool.
The marquee of the Whisky was updated this afternoon in tribute to Maglieri, as tributes from his venues' many famous patrons and performers flooded social media.