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Obituaries

Scott Forbes, 57; Ran Dance Palace

February 07, 2002|JON THURBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scott Forbes, a leading figure in the social history of West Hollywood as the founder and managing partner of legendary dance palace Studio One, has died. He was 57.

Forbes, also active in West Hollywood as a longtime member of the city business license commission and a onetime candidate for City Council, died Jan. 20 at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles from complications following elective surgery. He had not been in ill health.

A former factory converted to commercial use, Studio One sat prominently between two city blocks just off Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

With its massive dance floor that could hold well over 1,000 people and its adjacent Backlot Theater, which presented some of the finest cabaret performers of the time, including Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Joan Rivers and Madeline Kahn, Studio One was considered by many the place to see and be seen through much of the 1970s and 1980s.

Open at 9 p.m. seven nights a week, the dance floor was often populated by some of the best dancers in town.

"You would see some amazing dancers, professionals who wanted a workout," recalled Bill Miles, Forbes' life partner. "Scott made sure the DJ working the room was right on top of things."

A native of Boston, Forbes came to Southern California in the early 1960s. After graduating from USC, he practiced optometry in Santa Monica and later in West Hollywood. According to Miles, he counted celebrities such as Elton John and Rivers among his clientele.

But he found the late nights involved in running a disco not conducive to running a daytime practice and gave it up.

According to Miles, Forbes designed the club to fill a void in the community.

"Scott thought it right that gays have a place to go to that was a dynamic spot, a place of prominence in the community," Miles said.

Studio One became Forbes' focus and he talked candidly about the disco's founding in an interview with The Times some years ago.

"Studio One was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people," he said.

"Any straight people here are guests of the gay community. This is gay!

"Studio One needs 1,000 people per night to survive. The only ones who would do that are the gay people, because they are the ones who go out every night of the week. Straight people tend to go out just on weekends. This club would not survive as a straight club," Forbes said.

The club was an immediate success.

Forbes was also active in bringing gay clientele into other venues. In 1978, he decided that Disneyland was a good spot for a gay party. So he booked the park in the name of the Los Angeles Bar and Restaurant Assn. He did so without telling Disney officials that most of the association members were gay.

"Once we had the contract signed, I invited them to Studio One," Forbes said. "That was a little shock for them."

About 18,000 people, most of them homosexual, jammed Disneyland on the night of the party, May 25, 1978. Forbes was active in West Hollywood politics. He ran for City Council in the city's first election after incorporation in 1984 but finished in the middle of a crowded field.

Some years ago, Forbes sold his interest in Studio One. It was renamed the Axis and now operates as the Factory.

For the last 15 years or so, Forbes and Miles ran a travel business in West Hollywood that emphasized cruises.

Forbes also served on the city's business license commission, which he headed from 1994 to 2000.

"He was a very rational guy and looked at things very evenhandedly," said Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-W.Hollywood). Recently, Forbes had been active as a community liaison for the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station.

He is survived by Miles; his mother, Esther Forbes, of Framingham, Mass.; a sister, Gail Forbes, of Framingham; and a brother, Leonard Forbes, of Valencia.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Schindler House, 835 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, on Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (323) 651-1510.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station Fund, 720 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069.

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