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Looking for Ms. Girlbar

September 05, 1993|KEVIN ALLMAN

When Robin Gans and Sandy Sachs moved to Los Angeles in 1989, they couldn't find a place to dance that they liked. "We found lesbian night life to be very cliquish, and the music was terrible," says Gans.

That was the genesis of their club, Girlbar, which has been packing in women every Friday night for three years.

What the two New Yorkers have created is a comfortable, upscale spot "for women and their friends," with amenities like valet parking, go-go dancers, and a back room for billiards and conversation.

The crowd at Girlbar is about 90% women, but the most remarkable trait of the place is its multiculturalism--something rare on the L.A. club scene. On a recent visit, the dance floor was packed with Latina, Anglo, Asian and African-American women, along with the occasional gay man and straight couple. The attitude level is below low, and the only people not welcome are what Sachs calls "the looky-loos--the thrill seekers, or straight men, who come to try to pick up a date."

Girlbar's atmosphere is sedate compared to many other L.A. clubs. Clothing is upscale, ranging from Beverly Center business wear to Melrose couture.

The music is strictly mainstream dance cuts like "Funkytown" and "Supermodel," alternated with disco-fied versions of Top 40 hits by Whitney Houston and k.d. lang. The go-go girls (who have caused some controversy in the lesbian community) wear a lot more clothing than their counterparts in men's clubs.

Girlbar's success has made Sachs and Gans into minor media stars. They've been profiled in national magazines and appeared on several daytime talk shows. The partners sponsored a float in this year's West Hollywood gay pride parade, as well as a party for thousands at last spring's Dinah Shore Golf Tournament.

Girlbar has hosted movie premiere parties, live performances by Nona Hendryx and Sabrina Johnston and benefits for women's causes.

In the planning stages are special events for women over 30 and salsa nights.

Despite the occasional benefit, though, political agendas are largely absent from the girls-just-want-to-have-fun atmosphere at Girlbar.

"Our biggest goal," says Sachs, "is throwing parties where lesbians can feel comfortable. And feel good about themselves."

* Name: Girlbar.

* When and Where: Friday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. For location, check local alternative and women's publications.

* Cost: $5 before 10, $8 after 10.

* Door Policy: Efficient. 21 and over; ID mandatory.

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