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SCOPE

'The Hop is someplace where people go to have foot-stompin' fun.'

December 25, 1986|RITA PYRILLIS | Times Staff Writer

Watch them laugh and preen and twirl in their poodle skirts. Three heads of lacquered hair tied up in pink and red bows, smiling into their dressing room mirror with shiny bubble-gum pink lips.

Lipstick, mascara and some tissues quickly exchange hands through a mist of hair spray and perfume as the music begins on stage.

It's show time.

Here they are folks: Nikki Harris, Lora Mumford and Lisa Goodwin--The Hopettes.

Every Wednesday and Sunday night the trio sing hits from the 50s and 60s at The Hop--a Lakewood dance club owned by Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, better know as the Righteous Brothers, the vocal group that recorded the 1965 hit "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " and earned a gold record in 1966 for "Soul and Inspiration."

The girls are greeted with cheers and whistles from fans who come to the club every week for a few hours of nostalgia and dancing in the aisles.

The club is a 50s flashback complete with a miniature basketball court that serves as a dance floor, balloons and a diner with a jukebox.

The side of a yellow Chevy is a backdrop for the stage where Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Johnny Rivers and dozens of other acts popular in the 50s and 60s have played since the club opened in April.

Although several Los Angeles area dance clubs have deejays that plays 50s music, The Hop is the only club that plays live 50s music, said Al Rubalcava, a spokesman for Musicians Union Local 47 in Hollywood.

"They are the only club in the L. A. area with that 50s format," Rubalcava said. "We are out there (at the clubs) all the time looking for live music, and The Hop is the only one I know of that goes all out with the 50s theme."

Mark Vasu, a manager at The Hop, says the Righteous Brothers epitomize that era of rock 'n'roll.

"They don't have to try hard to be 50s," Vasu said. "They are the 50s."

Medley and Hatfield, who tour eight months of the year, opened the first Hop 2 1/2 years ago in Fountain Valley and opened the Lakewood Hop in April.

Both say they are surprised at the success of the clubs, but argue with skeptics who say the 50s theme is only a fad.

"I think for the last 20 years the 40-year-old person is trying to fit into a younger world and music has changed quite a bit," Medley said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. "I don't think adults can relate to it much. They want a place to hear the music they were raised with. People ask me if I think the fad will last but it's not a fad, it's part of these people's lives."

When they are in town, Hatfield says, they perform at The Hop and stop by often to talk with customers.

"I think it's really important that we keep pretty visible--that our customers know we're around," Hatfield said. "The one thing that sets us apart from other clubs is that people can feel comfortable here. There are plenty of clubs where you can go to be seen and be trendy, but The Hop is someplace where people go to have foot-stompin' fun."

After the Hopettes finish their act, the tables are cleared from the dance floor and the stage is pulled back to make room for dancing.

The customers are both young and old. They wear business suits and jeans. Some come twice a week for the show and some come once a month.

Charlie and Sylvia Jackson, a Lakewood couple in their mid-40s, danced and kissed under the basketball net, then walked to the bar for a drink.

"I love this music," Sylvia Jackson said. "It really takes me back a few years."

On the other end of the bar, a tall, lanky 27-year-old with sweat-drenched hair grabbed a few cocktail napkins and wiped his face.

"I came all the way from Pasadena to come dance here," he said as he motioned to the bartender. "I've danced everywhere--Hollywood clubs, Long Beach clubs, and this is definitely one of the funnest places."

After each song, dozens of dancers flocked to the two bars on either side of the room. Waitresses wearing saddle shoes and dressed as cheerleaders weaved around customers and greeted regulars along the way.

"These are really good people that come here," waitress Christine Jepson shouted over the music. "One night this guy bought a whole table a round of drinks just because they were having a good time. I've worked in a few places and I've never seen that happen before."

The tips apparently, are also 50s-style, but Jepson, 36, says it's the atmosphere that makes her job worthwhile.

"This is my era. I grew up on this music," she said with a smile. "I wanted to work in a place where the music was good and the people were fun. This is the place."

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