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Costa Mesa's Illusions Keeps Party Going for Teen Crowd

August 12, 1993|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition. and

Like youth, under-age clubs are here today and gone tomorrow.

Soul Kitchen in Santa Ana, an underground rager that drew as many as 700 nightly and didn't serve alcohol, got shut down indefinitely last weekend because of a permit problem. Thursday nights at Old World in Huntington Beach, known as Da Bomb, also got snuffed out--probably for good--over a conflict between the promoters and the owners.

Even Illusions in Costa Mesa, one of the longest-running hot spots for teens (at less than a year in operation), has struggled to regularly keep a full house. Its patronage fluctuates because of inconsistent promoting and the advent of competing venues.

Still, in the realm of nightclubs open to high schoolers (which is a smaller world than the market would seem to support), Illusions has potential.

For you old-timers, the club at hand used to be Deja Vu, before undergoing several incarnations, losing its liquor license and settling on a club targeting teens. So the only liquid kick comes from the caffeinated sodas ($1), otherwise the "poisons" here are bottled water ($1), Snapple and Tropicana Twisters ($1.50). And at what other bar can you get candy, beef jerky or potato chips for 25 to 75 cents?

The place still boasts its Saturday Night Fever-era decor. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors line the walls and a see-through dance floor flashes with a thousand points of light.

The current patrons love it. Dancers who freestyle (a cousin to breaking), however, are banished to the dark stage nearby, for fear they will make it difficult for anyone else to dance.

What is missing from the disco days is the seedy atmosphere that permeated the place like polyester-the-morning-after. Girl still meets boy and vice versa here, but it's apparently not as heavy-handed nor a goal as it is in 18-and-over clubs.

If a young woman is pressured, she can ask the bouncers to have the culprit removed. Security is instructed to interact casually with the crowd, organizers said, and keep an eye out for such situations, with the intention of keeping everyone at ease.

Though Illusions does not have an official age limit, it does card those who look like they're out of high school. Says one doorman: "We don't want some older guy in here hitting on girls who are 14, 15 years old. They can go somewhere else where there's women their own age." No word if it's an equal opportunity situation.

Another typical nightclub negative that's gone is cigarette smoke. No puffing is allowed; leave without that eau du ashtray that loves to coat hair.

On that note, those of you with bad hair days will have to deal with it before heading to Illusions; the dress code prohibits baseball caps, bandannas and beepers.

Recently, about 150 to 350 teens have been bringing down the house every weekend, which kicks off Thursday with free pizza until 9 p.m. But the grub isn't enough to bring the masses in early and the jams don't snap into effect until later.

To the anti-techno brigade out there: The night promises hip-hop, funk and old school only. Hearty helpings of the same choice tastes are served, along with a dash of house tunes, on "Da Flava" Fridays. This playlist continues Saturday nights, with techno sneaking in.

Too many of the songs spin at a faster-than-normal speed. The crowd responds at a hyper level, but it gets old when it seems the only purpose is to fit more songs into a set or is the result of faulty equipment.

Parent-imposed midnight curfews make a dent in the numbers, but it's not enough to kill the party.


* 2285 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa.

* (714) 642-5477.

* Open Thursdays through Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

* Cover: $5 before 8:30 p.m., after that it's $7 on Thursdays, $9 on Fridays and Saturdays. Pick up a coupon at the club for $2 off.

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