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WANNA DANCE?

From the '50s to the '70s, Nostalgia Lasts Longer at Music City

January 06, 1994|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

"Golden oldies" might mean bobby socks, doo-wop music, tail fins and a slim King to a generation of baby boomers, but as far as nightclubs are concerned, that category is redefined as each year passes.

When Righteous Brother Bill Medley opened the Hop a decade ago in Fountain Valley, it was sounds of the '50s and early '60s that rocked the house, to the delight of the middle-aged, suburban denizens who packed the place. But today's thirtysomething club-goers came of age during Vietnam and "Disco Duck." So the Hop became Music City in late 1992 to reflect the musical and generational shift, adding another decade of tunes to its playlist.

In the initial months of the change the club also dabbled in country--apparently to cash in on the trend--but after three months, Music City turned to classic rock 'n' roll and pop. Sounds from the '60s and '70s groove the crowd almost exclusively now, although occasionally a song will still inspire the crowd to break into a country-style line dance, and some '50s acts periodically resurface for live concerts.

Even on the several large screens throughout, videos rerun programs such as "Hullabaloo" and '60s episodes of "American Bandstand," starring a variety of rock stars, celebs and those ever-peppy dance choruses in a range of mod to hippy modes. It's a chance to watch the likes of the late Michael Landon singing some finger-snapping ditty while a multiethnic troupe of dancers in cheerleading outfits and go-go boots bounces in the background. Tres entertaining.

Music City's walls are covered with posters, photographs and gold records of everyone from the Beatles to Billy Joel. Even though Medley sold his interest in the club a couple of years ago to a group of investors, his presence is still evident: There's Righteous Bros. memorabilia at every turn, and his name still graces matchbook covers and flyers advertising Bill Medley's Music City. (Footnote: This club is no longer affiliated with the Hop in Lakewood, which Medley also previously owned.)

Other nostalgia items include a cheesy faux marquee for the film "Dirty Dancing" and an abundance of photos of that movie's star, Patrick Swayze. Medley, who (along with Jennifer Warnes) sang the hit theme from that flick, is still likely to work the song into the 20 or so annual appearances he makes on the Music City stage.

Other entertainers from yesteryear also perform live at the club, including Medley's pianist Lee Farrell, who will tickle the ivories in a concert Jan. 26 (tickets: $5). On Jan. 15, the Drifters featuring Bobby Hendricks will remind patrons of their musical roots with hits such as "Under the Boardwalk" and "There Goes My Baby" (tickets: $7.50).

As of this month, Saturday night concerts will no longer be a seated-only affair: The dance floor will be open for those who can't sit still.

Weekly, cover bands with such original names as the Casualties and Double Parked interpret their favorite oldies, alternating nights with the recorded versions rotated by deejay Kevin 'R', who annoyingly tries to imitate those loudmouths on oldies stations.

Signs of rock's early roots still exist here, and not only with concerts by groups like the Drifters. The entrance resembles the front of a Wurlitzer--one that's 15 feet tall, so patrons get the sense of walking into a giant juke box. On the cluttered walls are photos of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and other rock legends. A faux hotel facade, like those found on the sets of high school musicals, flashes "vacancy" at the Heartbreak Hotel.

At the entrance to the kitchen, a diner sign glows, but the "diner" is the club, which seats about 320 of its 380 occupancy limit. The cuisine is decidedly Americana, with hot dogs and prime rib included on a menu featuring nothing more than $6.95. Appetizers, starting at $2.95, include taquitos, mushrooms and shrimp cocktail. Nightly dinner specials will start this month, such as swordfish for $4.95.

Dinner starts at 7 p.m. when the club is open (it's closed Sunday through Tuesday, except for special events), and ends at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Thursdays and Fridays feature complimentary buffets from 5 to 7 p.m.

Drink deals like $2 "you-call-it" specials and shooters vary nightly. There are also wells for $3, domestic and imported beers ($2.75 to $3.50) and glasses of wine ($2.75 to $3.75).

*

In other club news, Tia Carrere--who reprises her role as Wayne's rock singer girlfriend in the current "Wayne's World 2"--will perform tracks from her recently released debut album, "Dream" (Warner Bros./Reprise), at Roxbury South in Santa Ana Friday night.

The model-turned-actress-turned-singer, besides being on the cover of this month's "Mirabella" as one of the magazine's seven women to watch for '94, is the wife of Roxbury owner Elie Samaha.

Carrere will hit the stage around 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Roxbury, 2 Hutton Center. (714) 662-0880.

* ORANGE COUNTY'S MUSIC CITY * 18774 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley. * (714) 963-2366. * Open 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday. * No cover on Wednesdays and Thursdays; $5 cover after 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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