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WANNA DANCE?

Buena Park's Back-to-Basics Koko's Keeps the Locals in '50s Time Warp

August 18, 1994|ROSE APODACA JONES | Rose Apodaca Jones is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition

A hang need not be trendy, flashy or much of anything to claim a place in the hearts and daily lives of a community. Take, for example, Koko's in Buena Park. Call it a dive, but it's a favorite hideaway among the locals.

This is a "3-D" establishment, where drinking, dancing and diversion don't have to aspire to anything but no-frills fun. They even celebrate customers' birthdays on the last Sunday of the month with a potluck.

Koko's has changed little since it opened in the late '50s. (No one is sure of the year, though they put it around 1958.) You'll still find wood paneling, ruby-colored velvet drapes, black vinyl booths, strands of white Christmas lights (shining year 'round), red spotlights and stiff drinks.

More modern additions include a 52-inch television, hidden much of the time behind the red drapes at the stage. The set satisfies the sports fans who would probably otherwise visit one of the dozens of sports bars cropping up nearby.

Taking the narrow stage Thursday through Saturday is the five-piece Bob Chance Band, cranking out R&B, country and lounge-style tunes from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. All members of the quintet contribute vocals, with any one of them taking the lead on selections such as "Lay Down Sally" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." There's nothing glamorous about these musicians; just close your eyes and get into the groove.

The same applies on Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m. with the Old Time Rock 'n' Roll Band, which performs, as the name implies, golden oldies.

The dance floor sees plenty of action on any of these nights, with couples two-stepping, swing dancing and making it up as they go along.

Not so busy is the game room in the back. A pool table and dart board see little action some nights. Maybe it's the abrasive decor of lighted and colorful beer ads, trophies and other items that clutters the tiny room. It's quite a contrast to the soothing darkness of the bar area.

Around that long rectangular bar, patrons camp out and catch a glimpse of themselves in the gold marbleized mirror tiles covering the opposite wall. Drafts and imports are not poured here--just domestic beers by the bottle for $2. Glasses of wine and wells are $2.25, and sodas are $2. Drink prices rise after 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when beer goes up 50 cents and other drinks go up a quarter.

* KOKO'S

* 8858 Knott Ave., Buena Park.

* (714) 995-9785.

* Open Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday till midnight.

* No cover.

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