They have welcomed the Heartbreakers (without Tom Petty), Weezer, Flea, Gypsy Trash and Marky Ramone to their stages.
They have even had some of the great punk bands like The Weaklings from San Francisco whose lead singer grabbed a bottle, broke it on stage and cut a big Z in his chest.
And let’s not forget the comedian who would staple dollar bills to his body and his face and other body parts and then hang bowling balls off his ears and shake his head.
But what will Maralyn DiPiazza miss most after she and husband Mark DiPiazza retire on Feb. 29? Without missing a beat, she said, “I’m going to say feeding people.”
The DiPiazzas are getting out of the restaurant and entertainment business at the end of the month, turning their establishment located at 5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway — and its name — over to Steve Guillen, the former owner of Iguana Kelley’s.
As bands line up to perform during the final weeks (Abbey Road on Feb. 13 and Cities to Oceans on Feb. 27) the owners of one of Southern California’s top venues for giving young bands a place to play say they are ready to drop the mic one last time.
“I’m going to do a lot of things,” Mark said, “I’m just not going to have the stress of having to run a business.”
“I have my garden going,” Maralyn said. “All my winter vegetables are starting to come in.”
Despite being the oldest music venue in Long Beach, known as a go-to location for punk rock, Maralyn admits to being humble and quiet about their reputation.
“We don’t toot our own horn,” she said, “and sometimes it would hurt my feelings that other places would get so much publicity and we didn’t. But it’s just amazing what we do.”
Both are Long Beach born and raised. Both are Wilson High School graduates; Mark in 1973 and Maralyn two years later. Maralyn’s dad was a Wilson grad, too.
Neither graduated from college; Maralyn did take a UCLA extension class to expand her culinary skills and the course’s guest teacher was Wolfgang Puck, pre-Spago. Meanwhile, Mark started working in restaurants at 14. He was the head chef of the Hind Quarter Restaurant in Naples (where Naples Rib Joint is located) from 1971 to 1981. Maralyn did a stint as a waitress at Domenico’s.
The DiPiazzas opened their first restaurant in Belmont Shore in 1984 at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Termino Avenue, where the Round Table pizza restaurant is located. That spot had been a drive-through donut location before they took it over. The music they played in the restaurant consisted of albums they owned, plus a few from their parents. People loved the eclectic mix of songs.
“You would put a record on the turntable and go back and make the (pizza) pies,” Maralyn said.
The restaurant was a success and so they decided to expand, opening a lunch place on Anaheim Street. The lunch location stayed open for a year and a half. After 10 years in the Shore, the DiPiazzas sold that location.
“People that we had done catering for approached us about taking over the restaurant side of Java Lanes, the only bowling alley in the city,” Mark said. “At first we said no. But then we saw this huge kitchen and the guarantee of 100% of the food service — it was tremendous.
“And then we saw this back room that was only being used for bowling meetings,” he said. “The first thing we did was replace the menu with our Italian dishes. Pizza and bowling were a no brainer. The back room had been their night club and we looked at it and it had potential. We went to a party and after talking to people, we decided we should make it into a music venue.”
The alley owners didn’t agree.
But then the city enacted a smoking ban that affected the bowling alley, and business went downhill.
“And then they said do whatever you want,” Mark said. “So, we turned it into a 700-person night club. Now it’s only us and the Foothill back then; there was no competition. No one was doing music. I started booking bands and really gave the community what they were so hungry for.”
The DiPiazzas started Rock and Bowling at the alley. Mark admits he didn’t know much about booking music, but he learned quickly.
A friend of Mark’s told him Weezer was coming out of retirement and they wanted to do three secret shows. Java Lanes was going to host the second show.
“We couldn’t even say the name,” Mark said, “until two days before the show.”
More than 5,000 people lined up, wrapping around Java Lanes.
“People flew in from Japan,” he said, “they were sleeping on the ground to see Weezer. Tickets were $10 and people were scalping them for $100. I went to the first 700 and said you guys will probably get in but the rest won’t so you should probably go home. But they waited, so I had the waitresses go around and sell slices of pizza and Cokes. And that concert put us on the map. We were crazy busy. We were the premier place in Long Beach.”
Ever the entrepreneurs, in 2000, the DiPiazzas had the opportunity to buy a business on Pacific Coast Highway. It was Captain’s Quarters, a steakhouse that had seen better days.
Mark started booking bands at Java Lanes and the new DiPiazza’s location — 300 bands a month. “It was crazy,” he said. “I was moving the bands back and forth.”
In 2002, the bowling alley closed.
So, they took their cooking and booking skills to the PCH location, where Maralyn did all the baking and creating of sauces and dressings for their go-to meals — pizzas and pasta.
“Some bands would come to Mark and ask to play just for a pepperoni pizza or a plate of spaghetti,” Maralyn said.
One person who played for that pepperoni pizza was Peter Shukoff, aka Nice Peter, a comedian, who will be at DiPiazza’s tonight, Feb. 6.
“He started with us about 15 years ago,” Mark said. “He was a guy who lived in L.A. and was in an Italian restaurant working as a waiter making no money. He came to Long Beach; he was sleeping on a guy’s couch who we both knew and he said can I come and play for a small pepperoni pizza? We said yeah. We heard this guy and we just started laughing; he was so funny, I mean unbelievably funny and he wanted to keep playing so he could develop this idea he had.”
That idea has made Shukoff and Lloyd “Epic LLOYD” Ahlquist very rich. They started a YouTube channel called Epic Rap Battles of History where they have George Washington rapping against Benjamin Franklin or Mr. T vs. Mr. Rogers. As of last July, the channel had more than 14.5 million subscribers and approximately 3.197 billion total video views.
“I texted him a couple days ago to tell him Maralyn and I are selling,” Mark said, “and he texted, ‘I have to do a show for you.’ So he’s going to do a show this Thursday.”
The DiPiazzas have enjoyed all the messages they have received with retirement less than four weeks away.
“It’s kind of funny, too, because over the years, Mark and I haven’t felt really popular,” Maralyn said. “We aren’t like the popular place and we aren’t the popular people.”
In reality, though, the couple has been extremely popular.
Their restaurant is stuffed with concert posters, some that are signed, and album covers. Most of them are now for sale between $35 and $300.
The DiPiazzas knew they couldn’t do this forever. So they are ready for some traveling and cooking for themselves. And, finally, a day off.
“I want to wake up and have nothing to do except what I want to do and not the 100 things I have to do today,” Mark said with a laugh.
“We’ve been married 38 years,” Maralyn said. “We are so lucky because we are best friends and we love each other. We loved seeing the new talent that came to our family place. We were the punk rock kings of Long Beach. We brought it here and it was a great ride.”