ACTION HOUSE—50 Austin Boulevard, Island Park, New York. Few suburban rock clubs were ever so accurately named. As Lenny Kaye wrote in his essay “New York in the Sixties”: “[T]he real home of the Long Island sound, as it came to be known, was a large club outside the city in Island Park called the Action House, where groups like the Vagrants (featuring guitarist Leslie West), the Rich Kids, the Hassles (with a young Billy Joel behind the Hammond) and the Vanilla Fudge indulged in all manner of baroque showmanship, complete with drummers twirling sticks, heavily-vibratoed voices, ornamental starts and melodramatic stops.” In operation from the mid-’60s through the early-’70s, the club also hosted many of the era’s biggest international touring acts.
It was owned by Phil Basile, described in this New York magazine article as “the all-time classic Island club owner. A reputed Luchese crime-family member, Basile operated several famous L.I. clubs—the Action House, Speaks, Channel 80, Industry—three of which were the same club (on Austin Boulevard) with different names.” He also dealt in artist and tour management. The Action House itself changed names, ca. mid-1970, to the Rock Pile. But unfortunately, I haven’t located many concrete details on the history, appearance, or atmosphere of either incarnation of the joint. This quote, from an otherwise terrific article on L.I. rock and roll entitled “Beaches, Bars and B-3s,” is about as colorful a description as I’ve been able to find:
Throughout the ’60s, the party would hang a left up Long Beach Boulevard to The Action House, so aptly dubbed. Mike Ricciardella, drummer for The Illusion, described it, “The Action House was a wild place back then. The bouncers were nuts and very wild! The drug scene was wild! The chick scene was wild! The parking lot scene was the wildest, though. Really nuts. The parking lot was the place where the crowd hung out and got high. Inside was rock’n’roll, outside was Fantasyland.”
While wild is certainly among the most evocative of ‘60s descriptors, I need more to go on than that! If you’ve got any good memories to share, I implore you to leave a comment. Meanwhile, it’s a good thing the list of legends associated with the Action House is long and stellar enough to speak for itself.
First, some locals. I wish all ‘60s-band websites were as comprehensive and memorabilia-rich as thevagrants.net. Feast your “Oh Those Eyes” on the gallery pages in particular, which feature an incredible array of band photos and gig ads/posters/flyers. The two Action House ads at the site also list gigs for Wilson Pickett, the Outsiders, the 5 Illusions (precursors to the aforementioned Illusion), the Young Rascals, and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.
Be sure to check out the captions for the Vagrants’ live photos, which reveal a treasure trove of obscure NYC and Long Island club names, including the Big Toe Au Go Go in the Bronx, Tempo Dance City and the Golden Note in Brooklyn, the El Patio Beach Club in Lido Beach, the Bustard Buzzard in Baldwin, the Mod in Mt. Sinai, and Danny Maser’s My House in Plainview (described as the “Home of ‘the Hassles’ featuring Billy Joel”). About the only names I recognized were Queensboro Community College, the Scene, Scott Muni’s Rolling Stone (304 E. 48th St. at Second Avenue), and Brooklyn’s Action City. Further info on any of these joints would be greatly appreciated! More Vagrants vittles are yours for the clicking.