There's probably only one way to become immediately comfortable with the Funhouse, Huntington Beach's Friday night-only nightclub at Old World Village. Go into a dark room, pull all the shades and put a tape of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" on the VCR. Watch all of it. Then go straight to the Funhouse.
After 90 minutes or so of watching the pioneering silent psychological horror film--in which everything appears both misty and garish and none of the sets contains a right angle--the Funhouse ought to look pretty familiar.
"It's kind of a carnival for adults but kind of twisted and scary," said Gary Tesch. And Tesch, 29, ought to know. A nightclub disc jockey from Long Beach, he is the prime mover behind the Funhouse and the one who early last year brought together a small team of artists and prop men who shared his slightly skewed vision of a good time.
The result is the conversion of the covered, cavern-like beer garden of the Old World Village restaurant into a multiroomed, black-lit, bizarrely decorated dance hall/midway/maze.
The simple act of arriving at the Funhouse offers a big clue of things to come. Each person admitted must negotiate a maze constructed of darkly painted cloth partitions (and, said Tesch, the layout of the maze is changed weekly).
On arrival in the main section of the club, visitors are surrounded by high fabric walls painted with such stylized figures as carnival freaks, acrobats and various leering faces. A fog-making machine puffs to life occasionally, filling the air around the exit of the maze with strawberry-scented clouds. From time to time, projections of cartoons and other features are shown on the walls and, in an adjacent room, various adult carnival games are offered for $1 per play.
(The games are uncommon, and anyone who would be put off by a dart throw in which the targets are the derrieres of mannequins--one of the actual games, and typical of the rest--might want to give that part of the club a miss.)
Holding it all together is Tesch, who plays music that is anything but homogenous. Heavy metal often gives way to doo-wop, which in turn gives way to reggae.
The crowd, said Christian Cucnar, general manager of the restaurant and beer garden, generally is 20-ish and punk to varying degrees. And, he said, during the 4 hours the Funhouse is open each Friday, more than 500 people routinely show up.
The Funhouse is almost more a state of mind than a location, since it is put up every Friday afternoon and taken down every Saturday morning, leaving the rest of the week for wedding receptions, dances and private parties in the beer garden. During Oktoberfest, which is celebrated there from mid-September through mid-November, the Funhouse takes a 2-month hiatus.
THE FUNHOUSE AT A GLANCE
Where: In the beer garden area of the Old World Village restaurant, 7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach.
Hours: Fridays only, 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Restrictions: Must be 21 years or older.
Information: (714) 895-8020.