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Pandemonium With a Touch of Class

February 25, 1993|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Webster's defines "pandemonium" as the abode of all demons; the capital of Hell in Milton's "Paradise Lost"; any place of wild disorder, noise or confusion.

To club promoter Danny Aguilar, long-time operator of the county's Visions one-nighters, Pandemonium is a place bombarding the senses with loud, pulsating music, bright laser lights, mood-altering caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, and luxurious fabrics covering the walls and furniture. It's also the name of his new nightclub, staged every Tuesday at McCormick & Schmick's in Irvine.

Noting that there are few places to party on Tuesday evenings, Aguilar decided to open a club that could rival anything happening on the weekends. Pandemonium achieves that, plus it has a more grown-up mood and environment than Aguilar's other clubs.

The place recalls an old gentlemen's club with its curvy, long bar, stained-glass light fixtures and boxy, velvet sofas and chairs. Aguilar makes use of the wall covers used briefly at Blue Velvet, another one-night-a-week club that inhabited the space for about five weeks at the turn of the year. Cognac-colored velvet, leopard-spotted chamois and blue/black satin with gold stars drape the walls, framed at the top with a gold lame valance. For an instant, mass-scale approach to art, Aguilar has added photocopies of 19th-Century paintings in gold rococo frames.

It's an artsy backdrop for the packed house, but only a few handfuls of the almost 900 patrons there on Feb. 16 cared for a truly stylish costume. That was opening night, so it will be interesting to see what patrons don on future Tuesdays.

Aguilar also plans to give guests big production value for their $5 cover charge.

He promises fashion shows monthly, complete with a catwalk and ramp-side seating (if the first show is any indication of things to come, don't expect too much in terms of vogue mode.) There's blackjack for $10 to $20 a shot; don't expect returns, it's just for the thrill of the game.

Future plans include a pre-club dance-class session from 9 to 10 p.m., a coffee bar for designated drivers and other teetotalers, and a finger-food menu for those with the munchies.

Aguilar maintains there are no go-go dancers at the club, but what would you call females painted a la Goldfinger gyrating on a 10-foot-high platform? They and other ladies dressed along various themes will be featured occasionally.

When the stock footage of dancing fools isn't running on the several TVs stacked here and there, you can televise personal messages via a computer. Other high-tech touches include lasers, strobes and spotlights.

There's elbow room outside on the patio, where there's plenty of seating and heat lamps. Or head upstairs to a barlike banister where you can sit and get a good view of the dance floor. Restrooms are up here, as well as the ubiquitous VIP room open only to those with plastic Vision cards. (The beefy doorman in charge one recent night would accept only gold--not silver--cards, but Aguilar says that either card is OK.) Those without plastic can ask for a temporary pass at the door and sign up for the real thing--which Aguilar distributes free.

But don't knock yourself out trying to get into the VIP room. It's Dullsville with a capital "D." There is a dance floor, but the real purpose of the room seems to be a refuge for the inhibited and those without rhythm. After several visits, there was no doubt that the hot boys and girls hang downstairs.

The VIP card is good for something, though: bypassing the long line outside the club, waiting for entry.

In the adjoining restaurant/bar, a different live band appears monthly. One month it's reggae, another month jazz, Top 40 or alternative rock. Aguilar said he won't advertise who's performing, but apparently once you check out the band, you know they're playing the remainder of the month.

As for the tunes (this is essentially a dance club, right?) expect blocks of deep house, underground hip hop and '70s disco and funk. Overzealous deejays Frank Love and John Eliott spinned frenetically on opening night. They mixed so many songs and tempos in such a short time that it proved unbearable.

Let's hope they mellow a bit and let the music develop some; nothing wrong with showing off, just remember why you're in the record booth.

Beverage specials are a buck for well drinks and domestic brews; $2 for premium potions and imported beer.


At McCormick & Schmick's, 2000 Main St., Irvine.

(714) 756-0505.

Tuesday only, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Cover: $5.

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