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WANNA DANCE

With the Roxbury, O.C. Gets Hipper--Three Nights a Week

March 11, 1993|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

Another chapter in Orange County's quest to become a hip place to party unfurled Friday night with the splashy, flashy opening of Roxbury in Santa Ana.

The supper club marks the latest step in the sweepstakes to bring L.A. night life to O.C., following the yup-scale pool halls, the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood (true, the other P.H. is in N.Y., not L.A., but the theme is California-grown).

Roxbury owners Elie and Demitri Samaha are banking that the Santa Ana version of their famed West Hollywood hang will become just the playground that grown-up night-clubbers here have been hankering for.

But this is Orange County, after all: Roxbury will be open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays only--as if no one here has a social life the other nights of the week. (Sundays through Wednesdays the club will be available for private functions.)

And when the doors officially open to the public on March 26 (until then, it's charity-related events, by invitation only) don't expect a repeat performance of opening night.

Some limos might roll up for the red carpet welcome, and a parade of fabulously fashionable divas and dudes undoubtedly will enter the nuevo-Victorian building. But star-gazers probably will have to do without the hodgepodge of well-known and notorious who were present last week, from Tori Spelling and Corey Feldman to Rick James and Ray Liotta. Twin Peakie Lara Flynn Boyle proclaimed enthusiastically that she'd "come back without a doubt. It's great here. It's dandy." But don't hold your breath.

Actually, those breathing easiest Friday at the opening were the locals, who didn't seem to care who was who, but just came to get down and get funky, to shake their booty and raise a hooty. They didn't seem to give thought two to the "privileged" who were holed up all night in the dark VIP cave.

Word is spreading, by the way, that the VIP lounge could become open to anyone who just wants to get away from the loud crowds. Well, almost anyone. A membership card is rumored to cost $800. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 16,000-square foot club affords plenty of room to do what you will. Thanks to interior designer Chris Breed (co-founder of the original Roxbury) and local restaurateur David Wilhelm (Diva, Kachina, Zuni Grill), there would seem to be enough options packed into this two-story dig to please any group of friends.

Upon entering the club, you come to a fork in the marble tile road. Go left, past the coatroom, and you'll get to the bar room, where blues and jazz musicians jam and you can snack on wood-oven baked pizza topped with such items as green chile sauce, artichokes or radicchio (Domino's this ain't).

If you prefer your meals sitting down, trot on over to the east wing. With menu prices ranging from $5.50 to $17, the Roxbury restaurant could prove the hot pick on weekend nights, so reservations, though not mandatory, are recommended. The kitchen is open from 7 to 11.

Of course, this one-stop fun center also includes a discotheque, pumping from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., up the stairs and to the left.

There's an eerie quality to the winding staircase and its painted walls, brought on perhaps by one of the artist's use of her own blood to color one of the character's nipples (it's the artist's signature trademark) and further conveyed, no doubt, by the likeness that the muraled wall shares with the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

Midway up the stairs, few patrons can help stopping at the huge mirror to give themselves a quick looking over before heading the rest of the way up, albeit sluggishly because the narrow walkway stays jammed through the night. Tip: Use the elevator. It lets off near the disco entrance.

The no-frills disco is a small club in itself. Red Naugahyde tuck-and-roll seating lines the walls, complemented by tall, round cocktail tables. A few paces forward and you're at the waist-high wood wall that pens in the dancers, who tend to overflow from the 5,500 square-foot dance floor at each opening. There are plenty of strobes, lights and smoke for that Studio 54 effect; the sound system thumps loud enough to jar the senses wonderfully.

It's still unclear as to who the house deejay will be, but expect guest spinners from the other Roxbury and from nightclubs in New York. The playlist is all dance beat: '70s disco and funk, hip-hop, house, some mainstream techno, plenty of pop.

Speaking of pop, sodas sell for $1.50. Mineral water is $3. Domestic and imported beers are from $2.75 to $3.50, wine (Italian, French, California) is $4 to $5.50 and well drinks are $4 to $6.

The parched will find three bars on the second floor: at the top of the stairs, in the disco and in the VIP room. Downstairs, besides the bar room, there's one in the restaurant. With beverages flowing from five bars, one would hope for enough restrooms to handle the up-to-800 patrons who could visit on any given evening. Wrong. There's one full restroom--two if you count the single stall his-and-her lavatories upstairs, to which only those in the VIP room have access.

But partying in the powder room is not what you come to Roxbury for, is it? Don't forget your vitamins and your dancin' shoes.

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