Notes from a club-hopping Friday evening:
8:30 p.m. Cabaret lounge, the Airporter Inn, Irvine:
Jan and JoAnn sit at a cocktail table near the bandstand. The musicians talk quietly among themselves, adjusting cables and wires, glancing at the crowd gathering in the cavernous room. Business suits. Sensible shoes. Some polyester. First set starts in 15 minutes.
JoAnn, 40, in a red print dress and red dangling earrings, lights a cigarette.
"I love to dance, and that's why I go out," she says. "Jan's a little bit more up-tight than me."
"A lot more," says Jan, 38.
"But I try to have the attitude that we're just going out to relax and have a drink," JoAnn says. "We work hard all week, and we deserve a break. Who cares if no one asks us to dance?"
JoAnn pauses, smiles. "Of course, it's hard to maintain that attitude Friday night after Friday night after Friday night."
Jan lives in Placentia with her 11-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son; JoAnn lives in Fullerton with her 20-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son. Jan and JoAnn work together at an engineering company. They say they find single life "depressing."
"We don't have a social life," Jan says.
"But we do go out," JoAnn says. "We try to pick clubs where we won't run into our kids."
On the table by Jan's beer bottle are pieces of a torn-up cocktail napkin.
"When we came in," Jan says, toying with the napkin shards, "there was this guy sitting all alone. I could see him looking around. . . ."
"She said she thought he was cute," JoAnn says. "I told her to write him a note."
"Sometimes she writes the note," Jan says.
"I'm the aggressor," JoAnn says. "If she wants to meet someone, I write a note and take it over and say, 'This is from my friend.' "
Jan tugs at the sleeves of her gray suit. "I wrote the note this time," she says. "It's the first time I've written the note. I wrote: 'Please don't take this wrong, but I saw you sitting over there, and you look as bored as I do. If you'd like to join us, please do. Please don't take this as a come-on.' I didn't want to sound like I was hitting on him."
"You should have written faster," JoAnn says.
"Before I was done, he got up and left," Jan says. "Oh, well."
JoAnn laughs. "Too bad you tore up the napkin. You could have used it for someone else."
10 p.m. Peppers, Garden Grove:
Rodney, 21, stands just inside the entrance, watching the rain quicken outside the open doors. A line forms near the building--one dozen, two dozen, 40 people huddled together, waiting to be let in.
Inside, it's SRO. Leather minis. Skintight jeans. Big hair. Cleavage.
Strobes flash with the beat and spotlights lurch around the dance floor. The deejay shouts, "Scream!"
Rodney pops a piece of gum into his mouth.
"This is a good place to meet girls," he says. "I've met three girls here that turned into relationships. One relationship lasted a month--she was 27. When she found out I'm 21, she had a cow.
"Tonight," Rodney shrugs, "I don't know. Some of the girls are acting stuck-up. You look at them, and they look away. Forget it. You gotta catch their eyes. If you look at a girl and she looks at you--bam. You're scoring."
Rodney lives in Orange and works in a warehouse. He says he doesn't drink much when he goes out, just a beer or two, because he's a body-builder. Got to keep the weight down.
"Girls like big bodies," he says, massaging his right bicep. "They like it when you tease. Like on the dance floor--you shake your buns, roll your tongue around. They love that."
Tom, 25, student and salesman, stands near the dance floor. He shouts at his friends over the thundering music, his shoulders bobbing with the beat. When the deejay says scream , Tom lets out a hoot and raises his arms like a fighter who has just delivered a knockout punch.
Led into the lobby of the adjoining restaurant, Tom settles demurely on a bench.
"I don't go to clubs much," he says with a shy smile. "Maybe once or twice a month. With friends from work. I don't usually dance when I go out--I can dance and all, but I don't have the nerve to ask someone.
"If you meet someone in a club, it's probably not the person you'd like to spend the rest of your life with. That's what I'm interested in. Marriage, family, all that. But I don't know where to go to find it.
"I guess I'm looking for a woman who's about my age, not square but someone with a moral outlook--honesty, loyalty. That's the most important thing."
11:15 p.m. The Hop, Fountain Valley:
Susan and Randy hold hands and gaze at the couples on the dance floor. Susan turns back to Randy. He reaches for his beer.
The room is warm, loud, friendly. A blue-jeans crowd dancing to the Outsiders, the Beach Boys, James Brown.
Susan, 22, back from UC Santa Barbara for the weekend, met Randy, 26, four hours earlier during "happy hour." Susan started the evening with girlfriends, all of whom are gone now; Randy came to the club alone--something he has done more than a few times, he says, since he moved to Fountain Valley six months ago.