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Out and About

The Life of the Edgiest Parties

April 12, 1999|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Can you identify the owner of this refrigerator by its contents?

Twenty bottles of bottled water, tuna fish, skim milk, decaf coffee, vodka. And this: "A bunch of takeout food that's living its last life in the back of the refrigerator," says our mystery refrigerator owner, "and a case of Veuve Clicquot."

An entire case? You must have a lot to celebrate.

"I love Veuve Clicquot. To me, it's the perfect champagne."

Soon, Jeffrey Best will be breaking open a split at Sugar, a new fake-fog-shrouded club in Santa Monica in which he's a minority partner. But the night is still young and the day has made him feel every minute of his 39 years. At the moment, Best is grumbling about the suits at Columbia because he's planning the premiere party for the studio's new dark comedy, "Go."

"This movie is all about the rave culture, about people taking ecstasy and doing other drugs and everything that goes on with it," Best says, nibbling Thai beef on lettuce bits at the Santa Monica hot spot Voda. "And I'm trying to get a corporate culture like Sony and Columbia into the fact that I'm really doing a rave.

"It's like an acid trip without the acid. In the rave culture, there used to be a big X marked in tape on the floor, and that's where you went to get your ecstasy. So I go, 'OK, I'm going to have the big X on the floor.' They're like, 'What's that for?' I'm like, 'It's a rave. That's where you go fix up.' 'Oooooohhhh, I don't know if we can have that.' "

As it later turned out, Columbia did party on top of an X, one more stroke for the highly successful bad boy of L.A. night life. OK, one of them. Best has climbed to the top of the party-giving heap by throwing many of the town's biggest and edgiest premieres. The night before the Oscars, Best was so in demand that he threw three parties--for Miramax, Gramercy and Lions Gate--and shuttled among them.

"I told all my staff, whenever anyone asks for me to say, 'He was just here. You missed him.' "

The secret to Best's popularity? A big serving of imagination and great food. Oh, yes. And giving people what they don't want.

Best learned that last bit about the L.A. psyche at the feet of the legendary restaurateur Michael Chow, for whom he choreographed a 30th anniversary party complete with rickshaws depositing guests at the restaurant door.

"He said, 'Jeff, the first thing you've got to learn about me is that I like people to be uncomfortable. I don't want enough seats for everybody. I don't want them to have drinks handed to them.' His theory is that everybody wants struggle, some effort in order to feel that whatever it is--that parking space, that seat at the bar--is worth it."

Best applied the Chow Principle to the massive "54" premiere he orchestrated last year. And some people are still trashing him for it.

"We ran out of parking spots. There was a wait at the door. The food was very insubstantial. The music was loud. All we served was champagne, vodka and water. I was in this post-Michael Chow kind of--everybody, this is what you get and you will like it!"

Transvestites swung over partygoers' heads on trapezes. Waiters in silk shorts and carrying bottles of champagne, walked up to guests, took swigs and offered drinks. Guests tumbled in the silk-sheet-covered beds Best had brought in as party props. Outside, 40 club kids hired by Best insulted guests who were forced to wait behind the velvet rope.

"The comments that these club kids were making toward the crowd were vicious, like 'Hey, buddy, why don't you go get a new wig?' Or, to women, 'Have much plastic surgery, baby?' "

We're not sure we could take that much fun. We could take this much fun, however--Best's own idea of personal paradise, now that he's a semi-grown-up, no longer the naughty boy who went to bed with the sun: "Now I'm a hedonist with a platinum card. It's a completely different world. Hedonism now is going into Kenneth Cole and buying four pairs of shoes in one sitting, so you feel like, Wasn't I crazy? Doesn't it feel good?"

*

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at socalliving@latimes.com.

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