Monthly Archives: June 2011


Carpet in the lounge of a deteriorating Midwestern Art Deco theater.

The Cameo

“Are you sure you don’t want to take my picture too?” said the owner of the electronics store when I asked for permission to photograph his storage room. Most people wouldn’t be too thrilled about strangers wandering between their stacks of merchandise, taking photos. But perhaps the employees here are used to sight-seers, since no one paid the least attention when he pointed the way to the back of the building. A generous man, even if he didn’t let me take his portrait after all.

Hardly a stage of decay, this theater has been kept in excellent shape since its closure. Opened in 1910, it was California’s longest running theater until it folded in the 1990s. Like several other original Broadway theaters in Los Angeles, it’s hanging on as a warehouse space. This site has a few dramatic night-time postcards and other information on the former Cameo Theater, also known as Clune’s Broadway.

As one person who saw the above photo has said, “it looks like a huge outer space jewel has crashed through the ceiling”. It’s not just the overall view that reminds of gemstones. A closer look shows a level of ornamentation that must have really dazzled the theater’s visitors when it first opened its doors.

The Michigan Theater in Detroit was built by the architecture firm Rapp & Rapp, which employed a French Baroque style to assist in transporting wonder to the audience. George Rapp didn’t consider the lavish design elements of his theaters to be overly pompous, but rather the necessary “part of a celestial city — a cavern of many-colored jewels, where iridescent lights and luxurious fittings heighten the expectations of pleasure.” Famous as the historic theater that was eventually gutted and turned into a parking garage, its ceiling continues to retain some of this former opulence.