Pasadena Civic Auditorium – Pasadena, California - Atlas Obscura

Pasadena Civic Auditorium

The simple auditorium that launched a pop icon's career into the stratosphere. 


The Pasadena Civic Auditorium has been the site of many important pop culture moments, having hosted the Emmys, American Idol, and The People’s Choice Awards. But there’s no doubt that the most well-known moment that occurred onstage at the Civic took place on March 25, 1983.

On that day, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was taped in front of a live audience, and while the television special featured performances by Lionel Richie, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson’s explosive, moonwalking performance of “Billie Jean” eclipsed everything else.

It was the first time Jackson performed what would become his trademark move in public, reportedly putting the classic dance routine together in his kitchen the night before the show. Overnight, Jackson went from being one of the Jackson 5 to becoming an instant pop icon with his sequined glove and socks, fedora, and penny loafers.

The Civic Auditorium was built during the Great Depression, and it became one of the centerpieces of the expanding Civic Center District, which included City Hall and the Pasadena Public Library to the north. Designed in part by George Bergstrom (who also co-designed the Pentagon) the building is styled after Italian Renaissance palazzi, and complements the City Beautiful ethos of the rest of the District.


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August 19, 2012

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