If you're too cool or too nerdy to go to the House of Blues, the answer may lie just next door, at the Mondrian Hotel, where the stylish, unassuming lounge has a history of harboring many a stylish, unassuming talent. This is the room where Liza Minnelli stumbled upon Michael Feinstein, and where these days hip-hoppers find themselves entranced by singer Fort Atkinson.
The lounge is done up in black on black: black banquettes, black mirrored walls, black tables. (Women: If you really want to scare a man, meet him here and show up in Sharon Stone white.)
Atkinson sits behind a black baby grand, wearing a black suit and black shirt, his black hair slicked back, black eyebrows emoting splendidly.
He is manly and distinguished. Rita Hayworth would have gone for this guy in a hot minute.
His musical selections are so eclectic, you'll eventually hear something you wouldn't normally like, but Atkinson can make you reconsider.
You may find yourself unwittingly enjoying the theme from an obscure movie called "Best Friends" almost as much as the Etta James standard "At Last."
The adjoining Mondrian Cafe has a splendid view of the city, and on fairer evenings, the outdoor patio is a lovely place to enjoy music and conversation. In the bar there is a free snacking buffet of fresh fruit and crudites, although the chicken sticks went down like a bad memory from someone's dysfunctional childhood.
The Mondrian Lounge "is good for people watching," says Atkinson. "Recently Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were in, and Sean Penn. But there's no pressure in the room. It's fun. It's an eclectic crowd, all ages. There are the hotel guests, and quite a few celebrities, but we get a lot of young, street hip people as well."
On a recent Tuesday evening, the mix included grunge-inspired twentysomethings, couples dressed for a night on the town and uniformed flight attendants wheeling luggage.
"A lot of hip-hop artists stay in this hotel, and one night some of them were in here listening, and they were blown away. They love it," says Atkinson. "I said, 'What? I'm just an old fart.'
"Then I thought about it, and I realized that a lot of these people, they may have talent, but beyond that, it's a corporation at work. They see me sitting up there, doing it all myself, and they admire that."
Where: The Mondrian Hotel Lounge, 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (213) 650-8999.
When: Entertainment Tuesday through Thursday, 7 to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. to midnight. Supper 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Cost: Beer $3.75 and up. Supper entrees $5.50 to $10.25.