From the Independent (Long Beach, California), dated August 8, 1966:
Dance Landmark, Rendezvous, Gone
By Steve Stowe
Fire swept through the Rendezvous Ballroom, a romantic landmark and cradle of many famous dance bands, in Balboa early Sunday reducing the block-long brick structure to a charred shell.
The dance floor that for nearly 40 years was a place of dancing romance and charm was littered with twisted black roof beams after Newport Beach firemen controlled the blaze that broke out in a janitor’s closet about 4 a.m.
No one was injured in the fire, Bob Haas, assistant manager of the dance hall, estimated the value of the joyous landmark that had been destroyed at $450,000. Saturday night’s show, “The Cinder Men,” ended about midnight.
The Rendezvous, built in 1928 at a cost of $200,000, was razed by fire once before, in 1935.
For about the first 20 years of its existence, the ballroom was a rendezvous for big name dance bands and their followers, Stan Kenton, Phil Harris, Gil Evans, Jerry Gray and many others sent their gifted sounds of jazz throughout the rectangular ballroom and out onto the beach.
The destruction of the Rendezvous recalls more memories for Stan Kenton than for some of the other bandleaders because Kenton got his start there in 1941. Contacted in his home in Palos Verdes Estates Sunday night, Kenton said the beachfront would not be the same without the landmark. “The Rendezvous was good to me,” Kenton said. “We really had some great nights there in the ‘40s when seven or eight hundred dancers would show up.
Kenton said the ballroom was not plush, but it was always ‘in’ and popular when he and other jazz bands played there. “It wasn’t fancy but we had the names – big names – that the people were sure would give them a good evening.” The green, stucco building was built in a Spanish style with arched doorways and many windows. Kenton rose from an obscure pianist to the leader of his own 17-piece band in the Rendezvous.
For Kenton the memories also are tinged with bitterness. As the demand for big band music reduced in tempo, the Rendezvous fell into disrepair and disrepute. In 1956, when the ballroom was catering to the then infant rock ‘n’ roll craze, the Newport Beach City Council closed it down after police reported numerous complaints and arrests resulting from wild evenings there.
Newport revoked the ballroom’s license in February 1957 because the business “adversely affects the safety, welfare, morals and quiet of the city.”
Kenton, although not working at the Rendezvous, made a personal appeal to the council to reopen the ballroom and it was opened again in April 1957, under strict new rules of conduct.
That December Kenton announced that he was going to operate the dance hall himself as a jazz center that would be a stronghold against the rapid rise of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I wanted to preserve big band jazz, but the Rendezvous just didn’t get going,” Kenton said. “I can’t truthfully say I’m sorry to the see the ballroom go.” After the comeback of the Rendezvous failed, the dance hall was taken over completely by rock ‘n’ roll groups until its destruction.
Silence has covered the music from Kenton’s “Interlude” to the Del Tone’s “Wipeout.”