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SUMMER STYLING : Where Do Teens Find Each Other When School's Out? Despite the Choices, It All Comes Back to the Beach

August 12, 1993|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

Trouble in paradise?

The sun's out, the waves are breaking and, thanks to a cleansing breeze, you can see all the way to Catalina--all the ingredients of a mythically beautiful Southern California summer day.

But here on the foot of the Seal Beach Pier, the natives are restless. An innocent question--just where do teens go to hang out these days?--has touched a nerve.

"When you come here at night, they hassle you because you're young," said Rich Walker, an 18-year-old from Los Alamitos. "They tell you to leave, but there's no place to go."

When someone mentions Illusions, an all-ages dance club in Costa Mesa, he just laughs.

"I need a place, like, within walking distance," says Walker, who makes his daily trek to Seal Beach by bike.

Yes, even in Orange County, blessed with all the beaches and malls a kid could ask for, the age-old art of hanging out remains a sometimes difficult pursuit. More than 20 years after Eddie Cochran sang about the Summertime Blues, there still ain't no cure.

Teens are finding places to find each other though, and coping with one more endless summer in Southern California. The places they hang out, of course, are as varied as the teens themselves, as revealed during several days driving the county.

From the malls to the bowling alleys to underground dance parties, from coffeehouses to skateboard shops, teens blanket the county. Sooner or later, though, most migrate to the beach, where Southern California summers really happen.

Some observations from the front lines:

* All-age dance clubs are on the rise, although the scene remains volatile. Club Post-nuclear in Laguna Canyon closed recently. And in just the last week, Soul Kitchen in Santa Ana was forced to close (temporarily, the owners hope) and Old World in Huntington Beach dropped its Thursday night all-age dance.

Old World maintains its Wednesday party, however. Illusions in Costa Mesa is open Thursday through Sunday, while Soul Kitchen had been operating Friday and Saturday. Both clubs opened less than a year ago. Club Sneakers, a recent addition, sets up shop in the San Clemente Ramada Inn each Friday. Handout flyers and occasional radio promotions are the main lines of communication on the teen dance circuit.

In Huntington Beach, a recent Thursday at Old World gave a glimpse of the all-age dance scene. Alcohol-free, with loud music that tends to the techno-end of the hip-hop and house music styles, it is rife with rituals that can be mystifying to the outsider (especially a somewhat-past-his-teens outsider).

As the evening warms up, circles of teens form on the dance floor, standing and watching with arms folded as dancers take turns showing off their newest dance riffs, with plenty of spinning moves (called free-styling, akin to break dancing).

Meanwhile, at a table outside, Lori (Happiness) Vu is patiently trying to explain what a party crew is. Everyone at the dance belongs to one, says the 17-year-old from Westminster. Her 11-girl crew is called LDS, she says, but it has nothing to do with the Mormon church: It stands for Ladies Destroying Society.

Despite the name, it's a reasonably friendly bunch, she says. Party crews have been associated with violence at illegal "underground" parties, but Vu disputes the image: "We keep peace with everyone as much as we can."

She and others at the dance make the rounds of Orange County clubs and parties and even venture into Los Angeles.

"We go all over," she said. "I wish there were more. I wish (the parties) were closer, because then we wouldn't have to drive so much."

Brian Brown, 19, of Orange, was at Old World for the first time but was seeing lots of familiar faces in the crowd of several hundred. "It's the same crowd. Everyone knows where everyone else is going," he reports. "From the looks of it, it's all right. The more ladies, the better."

The dances have been free of violence or other incidents, said Bern J. Bischof, general manager of Old World. "The kids have no (other) place to go. Here, the kids just dance all night. That's why I have no tables and chairs."

(The next night, at the Friday night banda dance, the scene was incredibly different: Although teens were abundant, the mostly Hispanic crowd cut across a wide age range, from young children to adults. Banda is also featured Sundays at Old World).

* Coffeehouses, of the nouveau Bohemian variety, continue to draw older teens and twentysomethings rushing to embrace the vices (caffeine, nicotine and bad poetry) that their parents have managed to shake.

Java Jungle, within a short stroll of the Huntington Beach Pier, draws a younger crowd than most. It sports a single pool table and a relative paucity of the usual beatnik trappings. Coffee joints are spread all over the county, but Costa Mesa seems to be caffeine central, with such earnest independents as Rock 'n' Java and the Blue Marble leading the pack. Many feature entertainment of the poetry/folk/jazz/comedy stripe.

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