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Paul R. Catalana with the Beatles

Paul R. Catalana

Rock Promoter Category

By Jud Cost
Savvy enough to book red-hot young pop juggernauts like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark 5 during the 1964-65 height of the British Invasion, Paul Catalana was the man calling all the shots from his San Jose office, just as Bill Graham was beginning to establish his own empire in San Francisco. Catalana filled the Cow Palace he Cow Palace with screaming legions of fans for the Beatles' Bay Area appearances on August 19, 1964 and August 31,1965, and then presented the Stones, the Hermits and the DC 5 at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Catalana first got the taste for entertainment when he opened the El Rancho Drive-In Theatre in 1950, a storied facility dubbed "the world's finest" by the local press for its exotic game room and kiddie rides. The Tropicaire Twin-Vue would soon follow, presenting first-run silver-screen blockbusters like Ben Hur. Catalana also brought the 1955 heavyweight title fight between champion Rocky Marciano and light heavyweight title-holder Archie Moore into San Jose Civic Auditorium via closed circuit television, then in its infancy.

But Catalana is best known in San Jose for bringing an eye-popping array of talent to the Safari Room (1962 - 1968), a bustling club he conceived, designed and managed that adjoined an East San Jose bowling alley, Plaza Lanes, owned by his good friend and business associate, Victor LoBue.

Located at the corner of Story and White Roads, the Safari Room welcomed a veritable Who's Who of pop music and jazz through its doors. Wayne Newton, Della Reese, Nancy Wilson, Jack Jones, The Righteous Brothers, Pearl Bailey, Sophie Tucker, Louie Prima, Duke Ellington, Mel Torme, The Supremes, Perez Prado, Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, Roger Miller, Sarah Vaughan, Frankie Laine, Anita O'Day and Trini Lopez all played the Safari Room. Don Baskin and Bob Gonzalez of the Syndicate of Sound fondly recall the night they and their girlfriends were Catalana's special guests for a meet and greet after the Everly Brothers' Safari Room show. When Catalana used some of his Beatles profits in 1965 to open a French restaurant on First Street in downtown San Jose called Les Poupees, he booked the hungry, young Syndicate of Sound to play the bistro. Catalana's promotional barometer proved dead accurate once again when the Syndicate stormed the national charts in 1966 with "Little Girl."

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