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THE BIG MIX : Night Moves : Dancing Diversity : Multiracial Hollywood crowd gyrates with intensity

February 05, 1989|DOUGLAS SADOWNICK

Hundreds of KROQ-blasting, souped-up Mustangs, Chevies and Cherokee Chiefs are bumper to bumper on Hollywood Boulevard, making the blocks between Bronson and Gower into a virtual inner-city combat zone of post-teens affecting sex-starved attitudes.

An onlooker risks being hit by a hurtling bottle of Bud by rolling down his window to ask where these charged partygoers are off to this Saturday night.

The answer almost always is: "Florentine Gardens, what's it to you?" It's enough to make anyone want to get back on the Hollywood Freeway.

But wait. Once these tough talkers actually enter the club, they seem demonstrably transformed, even elevated.

The club is a smoky labyrinth of dark, bare-bones rooms: a high-school-like cafeteria, a cluster of resting areas for gasping dancers and a bar that's surveyed by security men who are threatening enough to dissuade even the alcoholic, or at least those people with fake IDs.

But the real action takes place in the cavernous dance hall, vibrating like a jackhammer with a primal rap beat.

Def Leppard tracks collide into Johnny D into Sweet Sensation into, of all things, the B-52's, pounding eardrums so loudly that, according to club regular Douglas Garcia, 19, from North Hollywood, "you get laryngitis just asking someone to dance."

Public Enemy leads club habitues into a collective force greater than themselves, a psychological boot camp that turns civilians into dancers who seem ready to risk their lives for a song. What causes the metamorphosis?

Margarita Vasquez, 23, from Studio City, believes it's Florentine Gardens' unique racial mix.

"Everyone gets along," she says. "Why? Well, you got everything here, ya gotcha Orientals, your blacks, your Chicanos--the Cholos and the Melrose kinds--and plenty of whites, the good kinds . . . the not-so-uptight kinds."

But for Linda Miller's part, there's one big difference between the dicey streets and the delightful club: dancing.

"It's like sex," she argues. "It heals all wounds."

" Aye, me gusto esa cancion ," screeches her friend Elizabeth, a Madonna look-alike with a Valley Girl swagger, referring to her favorite song, Tone Loc's "Wild Thing." Her coterie zips off to the dance floor, their mouths no longer busy with gum, cigarettes or comments about the panoply of vato , tough guys grazing them.

Yet, they dance completely alone!

Here, Maria Gonzalez, Jose Fuentes, Robert Gilligan, Joey Miles and Jill Frank and dozens others, wearing Capezio dance shoes or Reeboks or cowboy boots or stiletto heels or spats, occupy an elite tier on the balcony that's surrounded by mirrors and images of their own contorted torsos dancing utterly solo.

When Charlie Plummer, 19, a recent transplant from Virginia, is tapped on the shoulder, interrupting a break-dancing twirl that could pass for a balletic fouette , he smacks the intruder. But he calms down when he sees an accompanying photographer snapping pictures.

Does he always dance alone? "Not if I can help it." Why does he come here? "It's just like T.J., man." What does that mean? "No holds barred."

"People come here to party seriously," he explains while catching breaths. "And I don't care who it is, if it's a black or white, a guy or a girl, if they can dance, I'll dance with them. As long as you got groove, I'll groove with you. Unfortunately, there's lots of safe dancers."

He points with vague disgust toward the dance floor below; it's brimming at club capacity with 1,457 souls. Owner Kenny MacKenzie, of Peruvian origin, has overheard the discussion and wants to show off an aspect of the club that he says "sets it apart from all the rest."

Lights shoot onto yet another small stage. Two dozen dancers materialize, slipping and sliding along the sidelines, waiting for their turn to show off their "popping" and "locking" as solo dancers.

The deejay, Arthur Ibarra, guides them first with Bobby Brown singing his way through the smooth "My Prerogative." Ibarra then swerves the dancers into Gucci Crew's "Sally, That Girl," and afterward, dramatically, pulls the rug out from under the pseudo-disco sounds with the more abrasively cutting "It Takes Two," by Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock.

The crowd screams. A dude called Animation jumps on stage, and he is their undisputed hero. He's shirtless, muscled and kicks his limbs in the air like Brazilian martial-artist dancers. This seemingly double-jointed mover jerks his head vertically as his abdominal muscles ripple horizontally. Two Asian girls, expert at neck and wrist isolations, saddle up beside him. One caresses him--everywhere.

A shirtless Italian kid with a cross dangling from his sweaty chest, seems as proud of his physique as of his bumping and grinding--against anyone and anything.

He dances as if this were his last action on Earth. And according to bouncer Melvin Ammons, it is.

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