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MUSIC | LOCAL ANGLE

New Name, Old Spot

Former Pelican's in Calabasas reopens as a noisy, happening dance place.

September 10, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just inside the entrance to KoKoMo's is a mural of Calabasas from the good ol' days of the occasional hacienda--no smog, no Dodger baseball and no traffic.

That's over, but KoKoMo's is just starting.

This place has had more aliases than a strip club, but as KoKoMo's, the Calabasas night spot may have regained its niche as the Valley's happening hangout. Dave Hewitt, the venue's music promoter, can still list all the names of the place where he met his wife.

"It was Pelican's for 14 years, but the owner got burned out. Then it was Borage, a fine-dining restaurant with some jazz and other stuff. Then it was Fusilli--a place named after a noodle--and that didn't work, either. People still call the place Pelican's.

"Now it looks like what it is--a nightclub. There's a new stage, a light show, plus it's in a nice neighborhood and also, there's nowhere else to go in the Valley."

KoKoMo's is huge and so is the fashionably late crowd. Past the mural is a giant room with a large, hardwood dance floor where an army of barmaids ensures that no one dies of thirst.

Overhead, an intense laser show beams jumpy red lights this way and that. In the bar, the young and the restless are living like there's no tomorrow.

"It's an attraction for the younger crowd, an upscale club where the dress is casual and you can have a good time," says Tony T, owner for the past four months.

"Everyone from all over comes here--from Hollywood to Ventura County--and lots of people from the Conejo Valley."

Meanwhile, herds of young women, who outnumber the men, laugh and jostle one another, priming themselves to dance when the band starts. Until then, a tape plays loud music on a state-of-the art sound system. It's the '80s again as KROQ's greatest hits blast out the likes of Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby and the Go-Go's.

In addition to the lasers, tall lava lamps strategically placed behind the stage and near the stairway gyrate to the music in a manner that could entertain the most finicky of cats.

All the while, the air-conditioning works overtime in a standoff with the fuel-injected rock 'n' roll smoke. Scented like some sort of sterile cotton candy, rock 'n' roll smoke is the only kind allowed inside KoKoMo's.

Smokers can go outside to the large, crowded outdoor patio where customers exchange meaningful chatter as they guzzle their favorite libation.

As with most places that serve alcohol, KoKoMo's bathroom graffiti is an ongoing indictment of the educational system. To help mask this all-too-common affliction, the venue provides stickers as a substitute for writing on the wall.

Sample sticker humor: "Your kid's an honor student, but you're a moron" or "Lottery: A game for people that are bad at math."

KoKoMo's even employs a living, breathing bathroom attendant, ready to dispense that special scent at that special moment.

According to Tony, this is only the beginning for KoKoMo's. He's also found a way to handle the dead bar nights.

"Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we're closed. Thursday, it's Bootie Quake, and Friday, it's the M-80s. Saturdays we have private parties. Starting Sept. 20, we're going to have live rap bands. Eventually, we want to have a great band every night. On Thursdays, we've been averaging about 650 people a night, with about 700 to 800 on Friday nights."

Bootie Quake consists of four guys who wear bad clothes and play bad disco rather well. But there's no use capping on disco--it's more of a hit now than when it was new.

That's why Civil War reenacting and swing-dancing are also popular--everyone wants to live in some other time.

As usual, the owner gets the last word:

"The only problem is that people show up late, about 11 o'clock. We're going to try to change that and get people here earlier with different promotions--maybe have the band start earlier, have giveaways and drink specials. In any case, there's a lot of beautiful women here and there's definitely always more women than men."

BE THERE

KoKoMo's, 24454 Calabasas Road, Calabasas. Bootie Quake plays disco music tonight; Friday, the M-80s. $5. Call (818) 225-8090.

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