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Time Warp: '80s Rock On at Reseda Country Club

CLUBS

June 10, 1999|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If your watch stopped during the last decade, you might want to stop at the corner of Canby Avenue and Sherman Way in Reseda to bond with your buds in that time warp. The big black and gray thing on the corner is the Reseda Country Club, an underachieving music venue attempting to recapture its glory days from the '80s--back when Poison was more of a band than a joke.

The place is vast--imagine the Roxy on steroids--with three bars, a huge upstairs, and enough floor space to hold 982 people. The spacious dance floor features a rotating disco ball that works overtime to create a light show more effective than anything in the first 79 episodes of "Star Trek."

Basically, there are four viable options at the Country Club: Lurk, sit around, stand around or move around on the dance floor. There's ample seating for the less energetic, much of it in areas sufficiently dark as to be suitable for a smooch or two. The sound system sufficiently makes your liver quiver.

Chuck Landis opened the venue in 1980 and booked country acts such as Merle Haggard and George Jones. But the club enjoyed its heyday from 1980 to 1982 while managed by concert promoters Wolf & Rissmiller, who attracted such acts as U2, Culture Club, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Roxy Music, and others.

Mick Jagger filmed videos there. Parts of "The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization--the Metal Years" were filmed at the Country Club. Prince held a post-MTV Awards concert there. MTV, that channel that used to show music videos, taped one of its New Year's Eve parties there.

So the place has history, which is why its name probably never changed. Sandy Landis, daughter-in-law of Chuck Landis, has been there for most of that history.

"It's the biggest and best place to go, and everyone knows the place--even though we still get the occasional call about the golf course and the pool," she said.

The inevitable downward spiral began when Landis kicked out the rock promoters in 1982. Gradually, things took a turn for the worse. Neighborhood complaints resulted in the suspension of the club's liquor and dancing license in the late '80s. While big-name acts played there off and on, the club has been in various stages of a long, uphill comeback for the last decade.

"The most common misconception . . . is that we serve minors," Landis said. "Of course, we don't. We have so much security here, both outside and inside. We check IDs religiously--we have wristbands, the whole thing. . . . If only the West Valley vice would leave us alone. We're just trying to get back on our feet. We don't want any trouble. That's why we don't book punk or hip-hop shows."

While country line dancing remains wildly popular with the pointy boot crowd, the Country Club couldn't lasso that scene. Dancers complained about the hard floor. They wanted bounce. They wanted wood. The club said adios, and wahoo turned to boohoo.

While much of the Country Club story deals with the past, there's a reason--the present does, too. For example, if you've been waiting for long hair to come back into vogue so you will be like a god, Reseda may be your Mt. Olympus. And while you're pretending to be a god, the musicians will be pretending to be someone famous. Friday night, for instance, Ozzy Osbourne and Cheap Trick tribute bands will play.

"We do a lot of rock from the '80s. I know a lot of those bands, and people seem to still love the music," Landis said. "The people that come to see them are all mellow and never cause any trouble."

So what's next for the Country Club? More blasts from the past. Usually the venue has music booked on the weekends. Local band night may also return, because the Valley, as always, has more bands than places to play.

"We want to try to get national touring acts in here again," Landis said. "Bands call me all the time to play here just to help us out. A lot of people remember this place and want to see it do well again." The good ol' days may be yet ahead.

BE THERE

Reseda Country Club, 18419 Sherman Way. $10-$15. (818) 776-8648.

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