*I called him the unofficial mayor of Black Los Angeles. From the time I was old enough to go to the clubs in Los Angeles, it wasn’t a party unless it was a Roland Wirt party.
Although I claim that “I’m still 39,” fact-checkers will find evidence of my post-college years in the 80s shaking my booty in crowded, healthy gatherings of classy and good clean entertainment in Los Angeles, mostly promoted by Roland Wirt and his colleagues Marc Gaspard, Tony Joseph, Felipe Darrell, Kevin Rouse, Bob Lott, Jonathan De Veaux, Tony Calloway, Derrick Pipkin and Artris Leftage, among others. I’m talking about hanging out wearing soft leather at The SpeakEasy, the one that Klymaxx talks about in “The Men All Pause” or sporting shoulder-padded jackets at Osko’s, The Palladium, The Hollywood Athletic Club, The Xerox Club, The Aqua Lounge, The Regency West, First Fridays, The Town House and the almighty Paradise 24!
Not only were these the gathering place of young professionals, athletes and entertainers but it’s where Roland Wirt provided an atmosphere for rising stars to perform, be seen and just be there. And then there’s what Roland Wirt did for me. I had birthday parties at venues that I could not afford to rent for a private event. My name was always on the VIP list. Roland Wirt was the king of the L.A. social scene, a curator of tastemakers, stars and pseudo-celebrities like me.
When the non-profit Hands For Hope solicited my help for the first Starlight Jazz Serenade in 2002, the first person I called was Roland Wirt. We met. I handed him a stack of tickets and in days they were sold, and he was asking for more. Funds were raised for charity, and some L.A. folks who rarely venture to the San Fernando valley were headed to North Hollywood’s TV Academy for the indoor jazz event of the season.
Roland graciously supported the Starlight Jazz Serenade for years. I always thought that he deserved a trophy for that but Roland never sought anything for himself. He served others in a selfless kind of way, with coolness, a warm smile and a swag that was all his own.
And then there was the Gatsby Jazz Festival in 2008. Upon the referral of Roland Wirt, I got a call from Mike Patterson. A jazz festival was planned for the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet club. A host was needed. Roland had seen my jazz act at the Starlight Jazz Serenade. Upon his word, I was hired. A limo was sent for me, my music director Willie Daniels and good friend Ida Gibson. We were chauffeured from Studio City to Santa Barbara. It was inspired by The Great Gatsby and yes, the suave L.A. crowd showed up and joined the posh Santa Barbara crowd decked in white to hear LA Mambo Combo, Himalaya, Gerald Albright, Brian Culbertson, Marcus Johnson and Jazzy Rita.
What is ironic is that Roland brought us all together but at this time in the world, we can’t physically come together. We would all be somewhere right now, jam-packed in a club in a state of love and disbelief, expecting cool azz Roland to ease in and work the room making everybody feel like a star.
In a world where Hollywood bad boys and bad girls are rewarded, a Roland Wirt event was always, ALWAYS a classy affair. I’m in slow motion now, a freeze-frame to the already tilted twilight zone world that we are currently in. Roland Wirt was synonymous with a good time, feeling good, dancing and having fun. We are already feeling some kind of way smack dab in the middle of COVID 19 and a world we’ve never seen. And now our feel-good man is gone? The party is truly over now. L. A. nightlife will never, ever be the same.
Roland Wirt’s all-white party has ascended to another location where he is well dressed in white and his is the only name on the list. Thank you Sir Roland Wirt. We will cry, we will continue to wear white in July and we will step in the name of love as we remember all that you gave us. God bless your wife Lisa, your family and friends.
There will never be another Roland Wirt (R.I.P. April 13, 2020) To share your love with the Wirt family, click here.
Lee Bailey, Publisher & CEO of EURweb.com would also like to echo heartfelt sentiments over the loss of Roland Wirt. Roland, along with Marc Gaspard & Artris Leftage honored Mr. Bailey and EURweb.com for Black Music Month at the Aqua Lounge in Beverly Hills in 2009.
This is another prime example of the high brow and culturally conscious brand of entertainment for which Roland was known. With our arms crossed in Wakunda style, we say “Roland Wirt” forever, FOREVER and a day.
LaRita “Jazzy Rita” Shelby is a writer & entertainer & Director of Digital Strategy & Sales for EURweb.com, newly branded Everything Urban & Radioscope. Chat, swap ideas & vision at [email protected]