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Mario Maglieri, Sunset Strip Impresario of Whisky a Go Go and Rainbow Bar Fame, Dies at 93

The Los Angeles music community is mourning the death of Rainbow Bar and Grill owner Mario Maglieri, who died May 4 at 93 years old. The Sunset Strip nightlife impresario also co-founded the Whisky a Go Go, which changed its marquee on Thursday night to a tribute: “Rest in Peace Mario Maglieri King of the Sunset Strip 1924 – 2017.”

Maglieri opened the Rainbow in 1972 after purchasing the famed Villa Nova (a favorite date spot of Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio) with Elmer Valentine and Lou Adler.  The name was an homage to Judy Garland, whose husband was a partner at Villa Nova.

Though Maglieri had long provided a haven for musicians, industry folk, tourists, and locals alike, particularly as manager of The Whisky, The Rainbow became something more special for Maglieri and his family, who now run the storied bar and grill. It was — and continues to be — a rock star haunt that goes beyond the stage: a debauched scenester hub at times, but mostly a warm and welcoming hangout where music lovers can grab a bite (pizza being the longtime specialty) before and after concerts, amid its dark ambiance and myriad of metal memorabilia. In the ’70s, regulars included David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, while the ’80s saw even more visibility in the music video age via bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Guns N’ Roses (who filmed scenes for their hit, “November Rain,” there). Members of Motorhead and Cypress Hill practically lived on the patio at Maglieri’s long-running landmark locale in the ’90s and 2000s.

Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx shared his thoughts about Maglieri’s passing with Variety, writing: “All the way back to the late ’70s, Mario would take time out to listen to my music and my dreams. He gave us a home to play out those dreams at the legendary Whisky a Go Go. Once, after Mötley Crüe sold out three nights at the Whisky, Mario said to me, ‘I think you got something here, kid.’ He gave so many of us dreamers a real shot. Plus, the clam chowder at the Rainbow kept us all from wasting away and sometimes he would feed us for free if we were really hard up.”

“He was a cigar-smoking Italian who ruled the Sunset Strip,” recalls long time booker and promoter (and former Rainbow DJ) Dayle Gloria. “If he liked you, man you knew it… The first time he let me eat in the kitchen, I felt like I had finally arrived!”

Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister may have been The Rainbow’s most famous regular in recent years (he died in December of 2015 and was immortalized in statue form on the back patio last year), but Maglieri was more than a familiar fixture — he was a familial figure, often welcoming guests in at the door alongside his son, even in his later years.

“He treated everyone with love and respect,” says local punk performer and promoter Tequila Mockingbird of Maglieri. “Lemmy told me when he moved to America he moved a few blocks away to be close to the Rainbow. It’s like our living room, and Mario was our father. He was to all of us. ”

The Rainbow announced the news of Maglieri’s death yesterday on its Facebook page with the following announcement:

“Dear Rainbow friends and family, it is with great sadness to announce the passing of our beloved Mario Maglieri. Owner and founder of the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Whisky a Go Go,” the bar posted on behalf of the Rainbow & Whisky Family. “He passed this morning while surrounded by loved ones.”

Rockers including members of The Doors, Slash, and Sebastian Bach also paid respects to Maglieri on Twitter and Facebook.

Maglieri is survived by his wife Scarlett, son Mikeal, and grandchildren Mikeal, Cheryl, and Gina. A private memorial is in the works for Sunday and a public tribute is planned at The Rainbow on May 28 at 1 p.m.

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