Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE SCENE | SO SoCal

Don't Trend on Me

June 01, 1997|Natalie Nichols

It's Saturday night at LAX, and we've landed in a world as weird as any feudal society Gene Roddenberry could've dreamed up. My date and I are mingling at the new retro-space-age Encounter restaurant, slung underneath the parabolic arches of the old Theme building, guzzling martinis and free drinks with names like "Pink Shuttle."

The occasion is the third anniversary of Lounge magazine, chronicler of the post-Watergate generation's worship of "swinger" culture--inasmuch as Dino Martin and three-button suits and House of Lords martinis constitute a culture worth venerating 35 years after the fact. Ironically reverent of the pleasures of bachelor pads, cigarette holders and leopard-print anything, lounge mania is showing signs of having peaked. Esquire belatedly discovered it and put it on the cover a few months ago, a sure sign of pop-cultural fatigue.

The lounge phenom probably started when someone found his parents' Martin Denny records in the garage and decided they were stupid enough to be cool. Before long, it seemed as if everyone who knew Joey Heatherton only as a Final Jeopardy answer was a citizen of Cocktail Nation. Then came the movie "Swingers," and suddenly the Dresden Room--the longtime Los Feliz lounge-rat haunt--was jammed with the young and clueless.

But tonight's swinger scene is playing out against a backdrop far freakier--and more fitting. The Encounter, brought to us by Disney Imagineering, is the past's vision of the future made manifest--where better to celebrate the future's vision of the past? Stylish women in vintage strapless formals, tattoos spidering across their bared skin, strike poses amid amoeba-shaped lights and Lava-lamp pods. The din almost drowns out Orbital's theme from Val Kilmer's "The Saint."

We've already got vertigo from this cold fusion of eras when someone steps up to the microphone and actually says, "I see this place as space-age dining for the jet set, and you people are IT." Then the bespectacled gent, attired in a white turtleneck and black jacket, reminds the assembled daddies and babies that smoking is not allowed. Well, it is the '90s. We can celebrate the retro-theater of perfect martinis and fine cigars--but we can't actually smoke them. What's a hipster to do?

At 1:30 a.m.--about the time the besieged bar runs out of margarita mix--most of the remaining revelers migrate to the roof. The setting isn't quite as fab, but the cool air feels good after the stifling heat inside. Knots of snazzily dressed celebrants puff away happily, as jets take off and land in the distance. It's a genteel act of rebellion but momentous in its own casual way. I can't understand the appeal of fezzes and cinched-waist gowns, but I sense sly subversion beneath the relentless pursuit of kitsch. To these folks, the 1950s was the era not of family values but of utterly civilized hedonism--stirred, not shaken.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|