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SOCIAL CLIMES / UP ALL NIGHT

Burlesque, 1990s-Style : At Grand Ville, Both Women and Men Line Up to See the Strip Shows, Right Behind the Celebrities

October 09, 1994|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you need any convincing the burlesque show audience has gone "uptown," not to mention co-ed, check out Grand Ville nightclub and revue on Thursday nights in West Hollywood--if you can, that is.

"We had to beg to get in," groused one recent guest, whose group was not of the beautiful people variety awarded easy entry, nor of guest-list status, which most of the in crowd seems to enjoy.

The clubs's A-list clientele is a celebrity-heavy mix including Stephen Dorff, Sean Penn, Stephen Baldwin and Daphne Zuniga. And other familiar faces from film and TV have either dropped by to see the show or have become Grand Ville regulars.

Equally indicative of the new look in burlesque are the groups of women who flock here every Thursday night. Those privileged, cool or lucky enough to be allowed in get to enjoy the midnight show--a series of strip vignettes lasting about 45 minutes, in which women, and occasionally men, strip down to G-strings while the young, good-looking crowd showers them with dollar bills.

"It doesn't look like a topless joint except for the stage, with the pole and everything," says promoter Rick Calamaro, whose previous nightclub experience was running On the Roxx for 2 1/2 years--spanning its notorious Heidi Fleiss period.

"It's a nightclub," he says of Grand Ville. "We call it a burlesque show, but it's a 1990s burlesque show." What that means is, you don't see any men in trench coats trying to slink in unnoticed. Rather, at about 11 p.m. a crush of trendily clad bodies of both male and female varieties pile up around the velvet rope, as eager would-be scene-sters vie for the attention of doormen. Inside, when the show's not on, there's dancing, while in the back room a jazz or rock band usually performs.

"It boiled down to, if it was going to work, it would have to appeal to the women," says Calamaro, whose knowledge of the fairer sex may have been conditioned by the fact that he spent some of his formative years living at the Playboy mansion.

"I wanted it to be a nightclub with a show. I knew that if the girls were going to come back, they were going to have to enjoy the show." To that end, Calamaro and co-promoters Josh Richman and Kiva (who doubles as one of the dancers) allow the strippers to bring in their own concepts.

"I just let the girls go," he says. "Girls come up to me and say, 'I want to do something here.' I'll say, 'Do you need me to put something together for you?' If they do, I do it. And if not, I say, 'Go ahead, get your girlfriends.' "

Judging by the packed house every week, the formula seems to be successful. "I like to look at women stripping and it's more sexy and fun in a place where there are a lot of women around," says Valerie, an actress and Grand Ville regular, who believes a lot of women fantasize about this sort of thing.

She and her girlfriends have been known to stuff a few G-strings, but she chafes at generalizations about sexual orientation. "My husband is home in bed," she says with a wink. "He doesn't mind."

*

Where: Grand Ville, 7969 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 285-3031

When: Thursday 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Show time: midnight.

Cost: Admission is $10. Beer and drinks, $4-$5.

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