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Bouncing Off Rubber's Walls

Orange County promoters bring overflow crowds to the strip for a place to express themselves.

September 17, 1998|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Sunset Strip seems to be taken over by Orange County promoters working hard to breathe new life into the old scene. The House of Blues has been singing anything but, with the help of booker and former Orange County kid John Pantle, whose ear for good music has been an HoB boon.

The Key Club is seeing a bit of a turnaround as well. A few months ago, its owners brought in another Orange County promoter, Damian Brawner, and he's been putting in overtime to remove the Billboard Live stigma and concentrate on booking eclectic music acts. During his brief tenure, the club has added more ska, rap and alternative music and increasingly gets broader in its musical scope. Even when veteran metal acts are booked, they are groups that would be a hoot to see (i.e., Cinderella on Oct. 2).

In keeping with this new Orange County presence, the Key Club invited two more O.C. promoters, John Huntington and Damian Sanders, to bring their outrageous Club Rubber to the Key Club. Club Rubber, which launched two months ago with a blow-out party, has metamorphosed into the late-night place to be on Fridays.

As with most outsider influences in the Hollywood scene, Club Rubber was met with skepticism. Although the opening-night crowd was overflowing--so much that hundreds of would-be revelers were cleared off of the Strip by police helicopters--attendance dropped in its second week, leaving the cynics to wonder if these new kids on the block could really pull it off. Now in its eighth week, Club Rubber shows no signs of slowing and, in fact, its popularity is on the rise. And it's no secret why.

Where fetish clubs have been a part of the Hollywood scene for some time now, many of the most popular ones are linked to the gay community, while the others remain in the underground scene. Club Rubber, on the other hand, may be among the first high-profile fetish clubs to reflect just how mainstream sexual exhibitionism has become in Hollywood.

"Our club doesn't have a meat-market vibe," says Huntington, who, along with partner and professional snowboarder Sanders, put together last month's "Pimp & Ho Ball" at the Park Plaza Hotel in L.A. "It's the kind of place where women feel free to show their sexuality without worrying about being groped. It's their chance to express themselves."

Needless to say, this type of environment stimulates the senses and things can get a bit crazy. Club Rubber hosted an after-party for a recent pornography award show, and the club looked like the last days of Sodom. Hugh Hefner joined the party, while other folks got cozy in some dark corners.

"There's nothing wrong with a little safe fun," Huntington says. "This club is a platform for free expression."

Although that particular evening was a demonstration in extremities, Club Rubber is still a hot spot; such celebrity guests as Carmen Electra, Dennis Rodman, Marilyn Manson and Triple X divas Jenna Jamison and Brittany Andrews have made repeat visits.

We wouldn't recommend Club Rubber to the Church Lady, nor would we recommend you bring your grandma here (unless, of course, she likes to get freaky on the dance floor to the throbbing house music provided by DJ Dave Aude), but if you want to get a taste of Hollywood as we approach the millennium, check out Rubber around midnight on a Friday. You may decide you're happy staying home. Or you may take a cue from the gals in the pasties and party like it's 1999.

BE THERE

Club Rubber at the Key Club on Fridays, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (714) 224-3006 or (310) 786-1712. 21 and over, $10 cover for women, $15 for men.

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