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The Pool Hall/Bar from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” Video

Mar 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Michael Jackson Locations

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This past week, after I tracked down the (probable) “Beat It” diner, I asked fellow stalker Chas, from ItsFilmedThere, for his help in locating the pool hall and bar which also appeared in the iconic 1983 Michael Jackson music video.  Chas, who, unlike me, is not afraid of using the telephone ;) , immediately called up “Beat It” director Bob Giraldi’s production company in New York City to inquire about the location.  Amazingly enough, he got through to an EXTREMELY nice woman who said that she had never been asked that question before, which I find mind boggling! I mean, does no one besides us care about this stuff???  Anyway, the woman looked up the information on her computer and then confirmed with someone in the production office who had worked on the video before telling Chas that the pool hall scenes had been filmed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles.   When Chas told me the news I was elated that I finally had a definitive answer, but was thoroughly confused as the pool hall in the video did not look at all like any of the Hard Rock Cafes I had ever visited.  So, I, of course, got to cyberstalking and quickly discovered that back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there was, in fact, a dive bar located smack dab in the middle of Skid Row that bore the name “Hard Rock Cafe”.   The bar is, sadly, no longer in operation, but, as fate would have it, is quite well known in the music industry for reasons having nothing to do with Michael Jackson!  On a side note, after I started having doubts about the Monte Carlo Restaurant being the cafe featured in “Beat It”, I asked Chas to once again call up Bob Giraldi’s production company to see if someone could confirm whether or not I had tracked down the right place.  Unfortunately, though, a very rude woman answered the phone and told him she could not give out that information.  UGH!   

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According to what I was able to dig up online – and it’s quite a story – back in December of 1969, after The Doors photographer Henry Diltz took his now-famous photograph of the band standing inside of the Morrison Hotel, lead singer Jim Morrison announced that he wanted to grab a drink.  So, the group headed a few blocks north to nearby Skid Row, saw an establishment named the “Hard Rock Cafe”, which Diltz described as “a little wino bar on the corner”, and pulled over.  While the group sipped on beers, Diltz decided he liked the feel of the place and ended up taking a series of photographs of the band hanging out there.  Those shots ended up not only being featured on the back cover of the band’s Morrison Hotel album in 1970, but they even named the A-side of that album “Hard Rock Cafe” in honor of the establishment.  But the story doesn’t end there.  The following year, a restaurateur named Peter Morton decided to open up a dining establishment in London and because he was such a huge Doors fan, contacted Jim Morrison and asked if he could name his restaurant “Hard Rock Cafe” after their recent album.  Jim agreed and Morton’s restaurant quickly became a hit with Londoners.  Shortly thereafter, the “Hard Rock Cafe” became a wildly popular worldwide chain, not to mention a household name.  And to think the whole thing came about because Jim Morrison was thirsty!

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Fourteen years later, the Hard Rock Cafe again made music history when it appeared in several scenes in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video, the first of which being the scene where a group of gang members is shown leaving a bar to head to a fight.

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As you can see in the above photograph and screen capture, the front doors which appeared in the Doors photographs from 1969 are a perfect match to those which appeared fourteen years later in “Beat It”.

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Also a perfect match are the bar area . . .

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. . . and the wall fan seen in the upper right corner of the front of the Cafe.

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The Hard Rock Cafe’s pool hall area was also featured in several scenes in “Beat It”, the first of which being at the very beginning of the video when the gang members are shown heading off to a scuffle.

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Later on in the video, Michael is shown dancing in the very same spot.  Unfortunately, The Doors did not take any photographs in the pool hall area of the Hard Rock Cafe, so I can’t make any comparisons between how it looked in 1969 to how it appeared in 1983.

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Sadly, the original Hard Rock Cafe closed its doors about twenty or so years ago and a grocery store named Green Apple Market now stands in its place.   But even though the bar is long gone, I still had to run right out to stalk its former location!  :)   So, this past Friday, on the way home from taking my dad to a doctor appointment in Downtown Los Angeles, the two of us made a little stop in Skid Row at Green Apple Market.  Because the market is located in a pretty sketchy area, I was too scared to actually venture inside and instead sent my dad to snap photographs for me, while I waited behind in the car with my doors locked.  ;)    As you can see in the above photograph and screen capture, the exterior of the grocery store bears little resemblance to the exterior of the Hard Rock Cafe which once occupied the same space.  The location of the front doors and front windows are about the only two things that remain the same.

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The owner of the store confirmed for my dad that a pool hall and bar had once occupied the space about twenty years prior and that after it closed a salon had moved in.  That salon went out of business just recently at which point the Green Apple Market took over.  For whatever reason, though, the store is only using a portion of the premises, which, according to my dad measures a good 6000 – 7000 square feet.  And while the owner seemed to know quite a bit about the location’s history, she had no idea whatsoever that Michael Jackson had filmed “Beat It” on the premises some 27 years prior!  And, sadly, there are no remnants whatsoever of the former Hard Rock Cafe left on the property.  I was hoping for some small piece of the pool hall – i.e. the paint on the walls, the flooring, the shape of the ceiling, etc – to still be visible, but, alas, that was not to be.  The owner was apparently very nice, though, and told my dad to feel free to take as many pictures as he wanted.  YAY!  The above two pictures were taken from the back of the store looking forward towards the market’s left wall.  The front door is located just to the right and center of the main counter pictured above. 

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The above photograph shows the view from the back of the store looking forward towards the front doors.  The cashier counter is located to the left of this picture.

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The above pictured view was taken from the front of the store, looking towards the back.  Because the space is not very deep, my dad believes the back wall is actually a false wall that was added after the Hard Rock Cafe closed its doors.  

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My dad snapped the picture of this particular wall because I had told him that the “Beat It” pool hall was painted green, but alas it was not the same shade of green that colors the store now.  :(   The ice machine pictured above is located at the very back, right hand side of the store.

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The Hard Rock Cafe used to occupy three full storefronts and the entire bottom floor of the building where the Green Apple Market now stands.  Most of that space is currently empty now, though.  The vacant room pictured above, which is to the right of the store’s front doors, is where I believe the Hard Rock’s pool tables used to be located. 

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The empty deli case pictured above is located on the back side of that vacant room . . .

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. . . and pictured above is what is located just around the corner from the empty deli case in the rear area of the store.  I soooo regret not going inside the market with my dad and am seriously thinking of going back to re-stalk the place.   He did tell me something that gives me reservations about doing so, though.  Apparently while he was inside the store, a man came up to him and asked if he was the owner.  My dad said no, but pointed out the real owner to the man, who then took off running towards her screaming, “So, you’re the $%#@  &$@#! I talked to on the phone!”   See what I mean – it’s not in the greatest of areas.  :(   It’s hard to believe Michael Jackson once spent a few days there, especially considering the area was a lot rougher during the 80s, but I guess he wanted “Beat It” to be as authentic as possible, and you can’t get more authentic than actually filming on Skid Row.

On a side note – The photographs of The Doors which appear in this post do not belong to me, but remain the sole property of the band and photographer Henry Diltz.

Big THANK YOU to Chas, from ItsFilmedThere, for finding this location and to The Doors, without whom there would be no existing photographs of the place.

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  :)

Stalk It: The old Hard Rock Cafe site, aka the pool hall and bar from Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” music video, is located at 300 East 5th Street in Downtown Los Angeles, just two blocks east of the Monte Carlo Restaurant, aka the (probable) “Beat It” diner.  The old Hard Rock Cafe is currently a Green Apple Market grocery store and is unfortunately not located in the safest of areas, so, if you do choose to stalk it, please exercise caution.

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13 comments

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  1. Dave de Jong says:

    You are right, look at this making of Beat it clip at 06:45. The director says it.

  2. steve says:

    hey check your mail , ive mailed an old pic of the hardrock

  3. Davidete says:

    So cool!

    There’s no doubt that this is a sort of frustrating stalking, just because even thouhg THAT is the place, today there’s no clue about Beat It video, even about The Doors :p The story about Door’s album and the origin of SUCH a famous restaurant franchise is completely lovely, even romantic, absolutely nothing to do with the current business. I mean, it must be VERY exciting being in the very same place where Michael made history with one of his greatest short films, but at the same time it must be so frustrating seeing such a normality, no clue of Door’s or MJ’s times… so so sad. However, I’m with John, you must take a picture of yourself in the lamp, that’s the one and only evidence!

    THANK you once again for such an exciting adventure, and of course thank you to your dad for being so corageous :p

  4. Raul Moreno says:

    Back in 2002,I talked to Ray from The Doors for a nice long while at my then job at CBS.He told me the Hard Rock had closed in the late 80′s or early 90′s and at the time of our conversation, was still there but painted over and boareded up.He said the Morriso Hotel around the corner,was still there but remodelded and looked nothing like it did when they took the photos.In fact it was Ray who discovered the Morrison Hotel one weekend driving around with his wife.That’s why the album got the name…..Jim loved it!
    Great post.But anyone wanting to visit,don’t go alone.If anything,take the MTA and leave your car at home.Skid Row……not a fun place.

  5. LAVONNA says:

    Great Post! The history of this corner is unbelievable…I mean the Doors and MJ! Love the Doors..

  6. Erin says:

    Thanks for this post – Im a major Doors fan and love that set of photos. Good point John – I may have stalk that lamp post next time Im in LA.

  7. LuckaS says:

    It’s a pity that the original Hard Rock Cafe is no longer there. But I’m sure that even staying there and thinking “this is the place where MJ himself was dancing many years ago” feels great ;)
    By the way, you don’t have to “guess” that Michael wanted the video to be as authentic as possible, Lindsay. You “know” that he wanted it that way, don’t you? He wrote that in Moonwalk, he said that he even found a real gang (not just actors) to make it more realistic :)

  8. John says:

    Well… even though there is no evidence left of the Hard Rock Cafe Bar, at least the lamp post out front appears to be the same one that Doors guitarist, Robby Krieger, is leaning on in that album photo. If you go back, you should get a shot of yourself leaning on that lamp post with hands in pocket and looking down the street.


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