Mikeal Maglieri

Staff at Whiskey a Go Go

Interview: Mikael Maglieri, Owner of the Rainbow Bar & Grill, on the Sunset Strip Music Festival and Why the Strip is Still The Hottest Place in Hollywood
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Turning onto the iconic Sunset Boulevard, it’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgic haze that draws rock stars, tourists and glorified buskers to this mile-and-a-half stretch sandwiched in below the star-packed Hollywood hills. Aside from the bright lights and eclectic collection of buildings, nostalgic ambiance stands heavy in the air. One can only imagine what giant eighties hair band did at the Whisky A Go-Go or how many altercations broke out between glitzy celebrities in the seventies at The Roxy. Cruising along, there it is: the Rainbow Bar & Grill. For over forty years, this establishment has noted themselves as a rock ‘n roll eatery that houses a plethora of secrets, stories and a vital relationship with the Sunset Strip.

Mikael Maglieri, son of original Rainbow owner Mario Maglieri, is now involved more than ever to continue the legacy of his father and of the Sunset Strip, most directly as a pioneer of the Sunset Strip Music Festival. As the date for the festival inches closer for these iconic clubs, mxdwn got to connect with and get some insight from Maglieri on the Rainbow, the festival, and the Strip in general.

First off Mikael, thank you so much for taking the time of your busy schedule to conduct this interview.

No, thank you.

So, just to get right into it, how did the Rainbow Bar & Grill get started?

The Rainbow Bar & Grill first opened in 1972 as a restaurant for industry people and the Whisky A Go-Go has always been a venue where groups came to see groups play. When we opened the Rainbow, it was a natural hang out spot here on the strip. The fact that my parents have been in the restaurant business for most of my life and that my mother is an excellent cook are big parts of how it started. We have won awards because of the food from recipes by my mother.

Can you give me a play by play of a typical day at the Rainbow Bar and Grill?

Right, in the morning we’re letting people in – ten/eleven in the morning. Then in the evenings, dinner goes to 9 p.m., but after that that’s when the heavy drinkers come in (laughs) and it becomes a nightclub.

Who’s been in most recently?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with David Faustino, you know Bud Bundy [his character from Married… With Children] and then before that, Wes from Puddle of Mudd was here-– not unusual. You never know who’s going to come in. He even got arrested earlier that afternoon too, but it’s old news already. Something new will happen today, it wouldn’t surprise me.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill has such a supporting influence to the industry. What is the relationship between The Rainbow and the Sunset Strip Music Festival?

I am actually the president of the Business Improvement District, which is putting on the Sunset Music Festival– so our relationship is tremendous due to that. The first music festival we had, the Strip wasn’t actually closed, but we put on a three day event that went through all of these iconic clubs: The Roxy, House of Blues, Viper Room and the Rainbow.

Seeing the positive response from the Sunset Strip Music Festival, how did it all get started to begin with?

Our intentions were to pioneer an event that benefits all of these businesses and clubs on the Strip while getting the community involved. At the same time, it also brings awareness to the Sunset Strip that we are still alive up here. We want people to know we’re still going on.

It’s noted that you guys pay tribute to certain artists and recognize them with an award. Who can we anticipate being recognized this year?

So far every year we have recognized an iconic artist. The first year we honored my father, Mario Maglieri, Lou Adler (owner of the famous Roxy Theatre) and Elmer Valentine. Valentine passed away in 2008 before the second year of the festival, so we have named the award after Elmer. Joan Jett is going to be receiving one for her contributions to the music history of the Sunset Strip at The House of Blues on Thursday.

How have the artists that you have signed on for the festival responded?

When Linkin Park signed on, their manager literally called my son (who booked them) to jokingly tie them up because they were running up and down the street handing out fliers for the festival. It was hysterical to see how enthusiastic artists are to get on the lineup.

What has surprised you the most about the Sunset Music Festival?

To see 15,000 people attending this event and see the shifting crowds going from one outdoor stage to another is incredible. We have never had any problems as the festival’s gone on; it’s been completely peaceful and fun.

How has your father helped or inspired you?

My father’s been the backbone in this industry. He’s a legend himself. Every rock star, celebrity and big name in the industry highly regards him because he’s spent most of his career standing outside the door of the Rainbow, Whiskey A Go-Go and The Roxy forming those close relationships. It makes a difference.

Will we be seeing your father there?

That’s funny you asked. I just spoke with him earlier the other day. At eighty-nine years old, he said he’ll be selling t-shirts (laughs).

The Sunset Strip Music Festival, sponsored by Jack Daniels, will be held this weekend, August 1 – 3, 2013. Follow Jack Daniels on Twitter and Facebook! For tickets to the festival, check out http://www.sunsetstripmusicfestival.com