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A documentary about L.A.'s late great fight mecca, told through the voices of fighters, musicians, insiders and fans.
A documentary about L.A.'s late great fight mecca, told through the voices of fighters, musicians, insiders and fans.
189 backers pledged $61,215 to help bring this project to life.

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THE OLYMPIC AUDITORIUM PROJECT

We're making a feature length documentary that tells the story of the Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles' late great boxing, wrestling, roller derby and music arena. The list of people who fought, performed, or were connected to the Olympic are a who's who of major figures of the 20th Century: Muhammad Ali, Andre the Giant, Johnny Rotten. The fans were just as notable: Clint Eastwood, Joan Didion, Mae West, and many more. The Olympic hosted seminal musical artists, including Rage Against the Machine, Frank Zappa and Fela Kuti and was a tribal gathering point of the hardcore punk scene. It was also a major filming location for the entertainment industry: Rocky, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby--and countless other films and TV shows were shot at the Olympic. 

Roddy Piper interviewed at producer Willard Ford's Strong Sports Gym
Roddy Piper interviewed at producer Willard Ford's Strong Sports Gym

We're telling the story from the perspective from the fighters, skaters, musicians, insiders and fans. The Olympic was synonymous with action and intensity, and drew constituents from every community in Los Angeles--with particularly strong representation from Mexican Americans. The crowd was diverse: gangsters, artists, writers and working class people. Where else in the city would you see artist Ed Ruscha of Venice, music historian and boxing fanatic Gene Aguilera from East L.A., Beverly Hills mobster Mickey Cohen, and a construction worker from Tijuana under the same roof?

Art Aragon was a local boxing legend and tabloid star of the 1950s.
Art Aragon was a local boxing legend and tabloid star of the 1950s.

STYLE AND APPROACH

The Olympic was a significant part of L.A. pop culture, widely televised locally from the mid 1940s through the 1980s. We will tell the story with a pop sensibility--full of energy and dynamism--using contemporary storytelling means to engage those who remember the place and those who weren't yet born. Many of the key characters are international icons so the Olympic story has appeal to anyone who cares about old school boxing, wrestling, roller derby, punk or L.A. history.

Muhammad Ali training at the Main Street Gym for the Rumble in the Jungle
Muhammad Ali training at the Main Street Gym for the Rumble in the Jungle

 WHERE WE ARE

Thus far we've interviewed some of the central figures who were part of Olympic Auditorium history: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Gene LeBell, Dick Enberg, Don Chargin, Mando Guerrero, Ed Ruscha, Gene Aguilera, Don Fraser, and others. We have important interview targets within our sight and reach, and have been laying the groundwork methodically. Step-by-step, we've built relationships and credibility within the boxing, wrestling, roller derby and punk rock communities. Our engagement is sincere and deep, and we're eager to deliver a film where the great stories and characters are told in a dynamic and honest way. We've even connected with the current owners of the building (a Korean church!) who have generously allowed us to shoot inside the old arena.

Raquel Welch and Dick Lane at the Olympic.
Raquel Welch and Dick Lane at the Olympic.

THE CHARACTERS

The characters and narratives surrounding this concrete sarcophagus of a building, located at 18th and Grand downtown, are captivating. During its prime, this monument to testosterone was run by a diminutive woman named Aileen Eaton. She was a dominant figure in L.A. sports and cultural history, hobnobbing with mayors and movie stars and building a sports/entertainment empire that stretched from Bakersfield to the border of Mexico. A brilliant but ruthless promoter (her nickname was "The Dragon Lady") Eaton was vital to the career development of Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and the brains behind Gorgeous George, wrestling's first crossover superstar.  Her sons were "Judo" Gene LeBell, jock, wrestling champion, stuntman, and hell-raiser, and Mike LeBell, wrestling promoter at the Olympic with a gambling problem and some not-so-savory friends.  Add in oddballs like Dr. Bernard Schwartz, ring doctor and bass player whose office in Watts was a frequent target of robbery, and Dick Lane, B-movie actor turned wrestling and roller derby announcer, and you have all you need and more in terms of character and drama.  

Mike LeBell, reportedly the victim of an armed robbery of the Olympic safe in 1956.
Mike LeBell, reportedly the victim of an armed robbery of the Olympic safe in 1956.
Roller Derby fans--we haven't forgotten you!  Here's local hero Ralphie Valladares.
Roller Derby fans--we haven't forgotten you! Here's local hero Ralphie Valladares.

THE TEAM

Our team is diverse, with a complementary set of talents, skills, and relationships. Steve DeBro, director of the documentary and creator of The Olympic Auditorium Project, is a veteran producer who has been persistently researching and developing the Olympic project for the past several years. Producer Willard Ford is a longtime student of boxing and wrestling, and is the owner of the Strong Sports Gym in downtown L.A., as well as a sales and marketing agency. Tony Peck, the Director of Photography and Executive Producer, is an Art Center alumni with deep experience and uncommon generosity. Kellie Cunningham, a Producer of the documentary, is enmeshed in combat sports management and film production. Nick Arnold, who leads the operational and business side of the production company, is an attorney with extensive independent film production and business development experience. Executive Producer Robert Benavides shot and Produced Beats Rhymes and Life, The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest for Sony Pictures Classics, as well as a host of commercials for Nike, Adidas, Pepsi, Toyota and many others. And we have creative consultants such as Gene Aguilera and Ben Merlis, who are experts in boxing and punk. For more information about the team, check out theolympicauditoriumproject.com.

Gene LeBell, producer Kellie Cunningham, Roddy Piper at the Strong Sports Gym
Gene LeBell, producer Kellie Cunningham, Roddy Piper at the Strong Sports Gym
Producer Willard Ford with Garry Shandling
Producer Willard Ford with Garry Shandling

WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP

Thus far we've existed on the passion and commitment of a small group of people, who have been extremely generous with their time and expertise.  We've got the ball rolling on the documentary, but we need your help to take this to the next level.  We need to interview more people (we're still deficient on the Roller Derby and Punk side of the story), shoot b-roll in and around the Olympic and throughout L.A., clear music and video footage, and pay for editing, graphic effects and post-production.  We have a clear idea of what needs to be done, and a commitment to make it happen, but we can't survive on favors forever. 

Rage Against the Machine played their "final" shows at the Olympic in 2003
Rage Against the Machine played their "final" shows at the Olympic in 2003

The Olympic Auditorium Project is envisioned as a larger community project, including cultural and fan events, short films and interactive storytelling, and other exciting and engaging activities centered around the Olympic. But first things first--we need support to take our film to the next level!

The money raised from Kickstarter will be both a lifeline and a show of support for this truly remarkable project. So if you care about boxing, wrestling, roller derby, punk rock, or just an amazing story, join the brawl and Kickstart the Olympic Auditorium Project!

Director Steve DeBro with Olympic fighters Armando Muniz and Carlos Palomino
Director Steve DeBro with Olympic fighters Armando Muniz and Carlos Palomino

THE REWARDS

We're offering some amazing rewards to our contributors, from the basics--prints and tees--to one-of-a-kind experiences for fans of boxing, wrestling, roller derby and punk rock.  The photographic prints of boxers and wrestlers are from the archives of Theo Ehret, former house photographer at the Olympic.

Gene LeBell custom belt buckle front
Gene LeBell custom belt buckle front
Gene LeBell custom belt buckle rear
Gene LeBell custom belt buckle rear
Gene LeBell mitts
Gene LeBell mitts
Gene LeBell elbow guards
Gene LeBell elbow guards
Gene LeBell patches (sample)
Gene LeBell patches (sample)
Classic Olympic Auditorium Tee
Classic Olympic Auditorium Tee
OVER THE ROPES tee shirt by Michael Richey White
OVER THE ROPES tee shirt by Michael Richey White
Andre the Giant Battle Royal print
Andre the Giant Battle Royal print
A print of Frankie Crawford at the Hoover Street Gym is available as a reward
A print of Frankie Crawford at the Hoover Street Gym is available as a reward
Neal Fraser, chef of Redbird, will host private boxing dinner
Neal Fraser, chef of Redbird, will host private boxing dinner

Risks and challenges

There are always risks with any film production, but we're doing our best to minimize them. We've assembled an experienced team to manage the production and budget, assist with creative and technical issues, and integrate the film with the outreach to fans of each niche subject area.

Some challenges we might face: difficulties in scheduling and interviewing certain interview subjects; failing to acquire rights to certain desired images, music, and clips; delays in the editing and post-production process, and experiencing a shortfall in the budget to complete the film.

We have worked tirelessly for a couple of years laying the groundwork for this project, and establishing the relationships in the various boxing, wrestling, and other communities necessary to realize its vision. We have built enough buffer time in our project plan to allow for scheduling difficulties and allow for more time to acquire the rights necessary to tell our story. With respect to the budget, your help will go a long way towards ensuring that we complete our shooting, and deliver a quality first cut that will help solicit the additional financing needed to complete the film!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Slap the mat with a five-count if you want to join our list and be a part of the Olympic movement!

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    Give us a ten-count, and you will be added to our thank you list page at theolympicauditoriumproject.com. We will update this page throughout the campaign, so look out for your name, and share with your friends and family to show your support!

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    DOC SCHWARTZ SPECIAL

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary as soon as it's finished in 2016!

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    OVER THE ROPES TEE SHIRT by MICHAEL RICHEY WHITE

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    CLASSIC OLYMPIC AUDITORIUM TEE SHIRT

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    THE JIMMY LENNON

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary, plus a boxing-themed 8"x10" digital print of your choice from www.vault722.com.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    TIGER'S BACK SCRUB

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary, plus a wrestling-themed 8"x10" digital print of your choice from www.vault722.com.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    RICHMOND 9-5171

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a genuine Olympic Auditorium tee-shirt.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    OVER THE ROPES--TEE SHIRT WITH ARTWORK DESIGNED BY MICHAEL RICHEY WHITE plus a download of the documentary when available.

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a genuine Olympic Auditorium tee-shirt. Available in mens and womens sizes. Tee will ship in July 2015.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    "THE TOUGHEST MAN ALIVE"

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a copy of Gene LeBell's biography "The Godfather of Grappling" and a Hank Hangman tee shirt.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    HEROES OF EAST L.A. SPECIAL

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a Mando Ramos 8"x10" digital print + an autographed copy of "Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles" by Gene Aguilera.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    TEE SHIRT SPECIAL

    Receive two tees--the classic Olympic Auditorium shirt, plus Over The Ropes by Michael Richey White. Available in mens and womens sizes.

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    GENE LEBELL AUTOGRAPHED ELBOW GUARDS BY TREBLA

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    GENE LEBELL AUTOGRAPHED MITTS BY TREBLA

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    GENE LEBELL--"STUNTS ARE MY LIFE" CUSTOM BELT BUCKLE CREATED FOR GENE BY AL SHELTON

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    GENE LEBELL PATCHES-LOT OF 25 MISCELLANEOUS PATCHES CREATED BY GENE LEBELL

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    THE DON AND LORRAINE CHARGIN

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a boxing-themed unframed 8"x10"silver gelatin image from www.vault722.com + an Olympic Auditorium Project tee shirt + a signed copy of "Mexican American Boxing In Los Angeles" by author Gene Aguilera.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    BATTLE ROYAL SPECIAL

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a wrestling-themed silver gelatin 8"x10" image from www.vault722.com + a special Olympic Auditorium Project tee shirt + signed copy of "The Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds" by Gene LeBell.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    Original artwork by Michael Richey White: “The Royal Rumble”. Watercolor and ink on cold pressed paper measuring approximately 11” x 17”.

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    Original artwork by Michael Richey White: “Chief Little Red”. Watercolor and ink on cold pressed paper measuring approximately 11” x 17”.

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    Original artwork by Michael Richey White: “Over the Ropes”. Watercolor and ink on cold pressed paper measuring approximately 11” x 17”.

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    Original artwork by Michael Richey White: “Come ‘ere, Pencil Neck”. Watercolor and ink on cold pressed paper measuring approximately 11” x 17”.

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    THE KEENY TERAN

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a 8"x10" silver gelatin boxing-themed print of your choice from www.vault722.com + a signed copy of "Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles" by Gene Aguilera and an invite to the premiere screening in Los Angeles.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    1801 SOUTH GRAND

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a silver gelatin 8"x10" image of your choice from www.vault722.com + an Olympic Auditorium tee shirt + a VIP tour of Olympic Auditorium with boxing historian Gene Aguilera and former Olympic boxer Rick Farris.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    THEO EHRET SILVER GELATIN PRINT

    20"x20" Silver Gelatin Print (unframed) from Theo Ehret. Select any image from www.vault722.com; includes certificate of authenticity from Vault 722. (*Excludes certificates signed by artist--please contact us for pricing for limited editions with certificates signed by Theo Ehret.)

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    LEGENDS OF THE OLYMPIC DINNER AT REDBIRD

    Get a special "Very Special Thanks" Credit and all access pass to the premiere!

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a 8" x 10" silver gelatin print from www.vault722.com plus an exclusive invitation to a special VIP dinner with former WBC Welterweight Champion Carlos Palomino (and special guests) at downtown L.A.’s restaurant Redbird.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    JUDO GENE'S BBQ SPECIAL

    Get a special "Very Special Thanks" Credit in the film and an all access pass to the premiere!

    Receive a digital copy of the documentary + a copy of "The Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds" by Gene LeBell, and an invitation to a BBQ hosted by Mr. Gene LeBell, AKA The Toughest Man Alive. You never know who may appear—Gene knows a lot of people (but who else do you really need besides Gene?)! Oh, PLUS Gene will create a customized message for your voicemail. (Please note that Gene will not actually choke you out--dream on!)

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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    GEORGE FOREMAN 20"X20" SILVER GELATIN FRAMED PRINT SIGNED IN VERSO BY THEO EHRET WITH CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY SIGNED BY THEO EHRET.

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    "GREATEST OF ALL TIME"

    Get a "Very Special Thanks" in the film plus all access to the premiere and VIP events!

    Plus you'll receive a digital copy of the documentary + an Olympic Auditorium tee shirt, a 20" x 20" Muhammad Ali print with Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist.

    *Note: Digital film copy will not be available until 2016.

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Funding period

- (42 days)