It's early evening at Cutters, a Santa Monica bar and restaurant, and dozens of well-appointed men and women are already elbowing their way up to the bar to order an after-hours libation. One glance and you know that this group takes work and play seriously.
A short while back you might have called them yuppies, but many have now adopted a new term whose paint is barely dry. I'm referring, of course, to dink.
The Charter Members
Dinks are married or seriously committed couples, with two incomes and no children. Most of the people I talked to at Cutters that night are charter members.
Charles Horkan is an investment banker for Security Pacific, and his wife, Tess, works for an airline. Charles just can't believe I don't have a drink, and he insists on buying me one. Without even being prompted, he says, "Don't call us yuppies anymore; we're dinks."
This new phenomena also happens to be the very soul of Cutters; just look at the bar menu. Cutters has hors d'oeuvres from all over the world: foccaccia bread from Italy, Japanese sushi, even Buffalo chicken wings. Dinks love travel (perhaps not to Buffalo). Drinks are even more international: beer from Finland and New Zealand, and single malt scotches, where the malts themselves have names like Balvenie, Cardhu, and Glendulian. After-burner drinks for an after-burner crowd.
People are overflowing the bar, practically on top of the open kitchen, where garlic cloves hang like Christmas lights. Men dressed in nouveau gray flannels are downing oyster shooters (oysters and cocktail sauce in a shot glass), women are clutching monster drinks in frosted glasses.
A Happy Birthday
Inside the bar, a woman named Denise Albright is being feted for an unnumbered birthday. She is surrounded by friends, pink and white balloons, and gifts. One of the balloons pops, but the pop is not heard above the din. Two of Denise's friends are engaged in an animated conversation about an upcoming triathlon.
I notice a tall bronzed fellow noticing me. He is full of self-assured suavity and is wearing a blue blazer with the letter "T" standing out in red. I think he suspects I'm looking for a story. I throw caution to the wind and approach him. "What do you do?" I ask. "Win," he says, and walks off.
This kind of attitude is reflected in everyone's body language. A gentrified blue-collar type has just made eye contact with a young ingenue, who is sipping innocently on a tall drink. An executive assistant from MGM sits haughtily on her stool, daring a man to approach her. Two guys named Steve are sizing up their chances.
But for all that, Cutters definitely doesn't have the feel of a singles bar. Too many denizens belong to small groups, as in an after-work get-together or a special celebration. There just isn't much mixing, except behind the bar.
In that way, Cutters is almost like a bar you'd find in San Francisco, the ultimate dink town.
San Francisco bars are full of dinks from Marin who ride their Italian bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge to their jobs in the city. The difference is, in Los Angeles, the cars, not the bikes, are supposed to be from Italy.
There's that blue-blazered winner again. "Hey buddy," I call him in my dinkiest voice, "what's the "T" stand for?"
"Talent," he says smoothly.
Cutters at Colorado Place, 2425 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica; (213) 453-3588.