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WANNA DANCE?

Local Legends Know the Fun Never Sets on the Empire's Disco 2000

October 20, 1994|ROSE APODACA JONES | Rose Apodaca Jones is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition

A hard-working promoter can take a nightclub, turn it upside down, redefine its image and clientele and, with a little luck, produce a night for legends--at least the local kind.

Beej Ryan and Gary Blitz have accomplished just that, again, with the newest location of their Thursday-only club, Disco 2000--the longest-running and best retro haunt in the county. After a hugely successful two-year run at Club 5902 in Huntington Beach, D2000 relocated to the Empire Ballroom in Costa Mesa last month when its previous home was shut down.

The move had local club-crawlers buzzing. Empire Ballroom, after all, had a less-than-regal reputation. Since opening in March, it's been considered a nifty-looking place that lacked the managers and in-house promoters to reach its potential.

Not anymore.

It's a testament the talents of promoters Beej and Blitz (as this dynamic duo is known) that they've managed to get hard-core scenesters to reconsider Empire. Last Thursday, D2000 maintained capacity all night, with few of those inside willing to leave and the multitudes outside continuing to wait patiently in line.

The original cast is here: Beej and Roly at the turntable and the go-go gals in high-rise shoes and glittery garb; Blitz tends to stay hidden in the crowd. The newest member is Los Angeles-based Sean Perry (who actually grew up in these parts). Perry has appeared as a guest deejay at D2000 over the years, including at the club's annual roller disco parties.

Perry heads a secondary room--off to the right of the entrance--known as the Cheetah Lounge, so named for its luscious, spotted carpet. A room more intimate than the rest of the vast Empire Ballroom, the Cheetah Lounge keeps it cool all night, courtesy of Perry's mix of mostly rare groove and some faves with a similar vibe from the likes of Santana, Bob Marley and Willie Bobo. Get in there even if just for a drink at the bar--especially if the tired disco thing is wearing on your nerves; it's an experience not to be missed and unlike any other happening in the county.

Of course, it's in the rest of the club that the goings-on go hog wild. On the main floor it's Thursday Night Fever with '70s dance hits and the occasional new wave oldie. Some patrons get into character with Spandex pants, tube tops, medallions and Afro wigs.

But the real fashion parade comes from all the industry types from the local rag trade and their groupies. Clothing designers and company owners serve as celebrities, as do musicians from the local scene. It's the hippest of hip, the wanna-bes and those who fit somewhere in between.

Having such a fashionable clientele, however, apparently is causing some tension. One guest said he was asked to return his porkpie hat to the car before entering the club. And his story sparked a slew of similar complaints.

"They have a real problem with hats," agrees a troubled Beej. Empire's dress code lists hats, baggy attire, tank tops and sneakers among its no-nos, while requesting "fashionable attire." So what's one to do if old school Pumas or Converse, spaghetti-strap tanks or even porkpie hats are in fashion?

Remind the management of their contract, Beej says. Familiar with a loyal following that takes its image seriously, the promoters of Disco 2000 had originally requested that the dress code be overlooked on Thursdays.

Another thing management might want to rethink are the club's bar prices. There is a $2 drink special on domestic drafts. But this is mostly a cocktail crowd accustomed to the $2 well drink specials that Club 5902 used to offer--not the $4 to $6 they have to shell out for a drink here.

The notion that patrons are willing to pay big prices at the door and the bar went out with the '80s. Reasonable prices are part of the reason why D2000 has done so well since it debuted in 1992. Now that it's moved to the Empire Ballroom, managers there would be wise not to mess with a winner.

* DISCO 2000

* At the Empire Ballroom, 640 W. 17th St., Costa Mesa.

* D2000 hot line, (714) 571-5168; club, (714) 722-6100.

* Thursdays only, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

* Cover: $5.

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