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Making the Scene: A Rookie's Cheat Sheet

If you're not a habitue of the night life in L.A., get in line before there's a line. And be patient.


So many clubs, so much drama, what's a greenhorn to do?

Rule No. 1: Breathe. I'm here to help you get your groove on.

The Hollywood club scene is intimidating and not particularly user-friendly. That's not because it doesn't want customers--a club scene cannot thrive without a nightly influx of new guests--but because Hollywood isn't fond of divulging its trade secrets.

There's a sense that you can't get into L.A.'s trendiest clubs--such venues as the Sunset Room or the dance club Cherry--but it's not entirely true. Sure, when a club has booked a private party, your only hope might be to waft in on the arm of a celebrity. But on most nights, here's all you need to know:

* Arrive at your destination early. At 9:30 p.m., any club will take your money. By midnight, however, when the club is at its peak and the fire marshal's already made a visit, only Allah and Jack Nicholson will get in for sure.

* If food is served, like at the Coconut Club, book dinner reservations. It's a heckuva lot easier to get inside a venue when there's a table with your name on it.

* Plan to spend money.

* Wear a smile. There isn't a doorman or doorwoman in Hollywood who doesn't appreciate a break from aggressive, whiny customers.

* Don't worry about people who appear hipper than thou--say, those trendsters at the Garden of Eden. I guarantee you that they are just as confused as you and possibly more so.

* Wear whatever makes you feel good about yourself. But don't dress down unless you're Michael Eisner--many places start enforcing a dress code when they've hit capacity and can pick and choose.

* Those who walk right up to the door and are let in without question have earned that right. (They've already been doing their tour-of-club duty--it's not a birthright.)

* If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. The people inside these venues really are having fun or they wouldn't be there.

Some of the current hot spots require prep work. Right now, many folks want to hit up the Sunset Room--by virtue of its ties with the old Roxbury, which lit the Sunset Strip on fire in the early '90s--and the Sunset Room wants your business. But if you don't have any connections, the weekends are going to be tough sailing. So, what have you learned? Arrive early. Yes, that means 9:30 p.m.--most clubbers don't even get outta bed till after 11.

Your best bet, however, is to make dinner reservations. The Sunset Room, an opulent club in the heart of Hollywood, is just as happening in the restaurant as on the dance floor. Cherry, a gay and straight dance club at the Play Room in Hollywood every Friday, is a club with a heart of gold. The sexual, colorful nightspot is a must-stop on the tour bus of life, but with all its recent exposure, you might find yourself sitting on the bench for a spell. Be patient and remember, the line is half the fun.

For access to the show-biz favorite Sky Bar at the Mondrian Hotel, we recommend booking a room, because you'll be guaranteed entry to Rande Gerber's lovely poolside bar. If that's out of the question, try the reservation phone line, leaving your name and company affiliation, and hope for the best.

Finally, some of the hottest clubs don't technically exist. The names are created by the promoters, who christen a nightclub on a specific night. So, be sure you make calls to the actual venues in advance to learn which night might appeal to you (for help, see the Night Life listings on Page 61). And remember, it's not a science. If, for example, the crowd outside the Viper Room looks like a crowd you want to hang with, give it a try. You know the logic: If you don't play, you can't boogie.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda is The Times' Club Buzz columnist and the producer-writer of "Fox Rox," a segment about the Hollywood underground and beyond, airing Thursdays on Fox 11's 10 p.m. news.


Where They Are Cherry at the Play Room on Fridays (836 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, [213] 896-9099). Simply stated, it's the best dance club in L.A. 21 and older. $10.

Coconut Club (9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, [310] 285-1358). Merv Griffin's nightclub, located at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, offers disco dancing on Fridays with L.A.'s original disco cover band, the fabulous Boogie Knights. 21 and older. $10.

Garden of Eden (7080 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, [323] 465-3336). 21 and older. $10-$15. Dancing Wednesday to Sunday.

Sky Bar at the Mondrian Hotel (8440 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, [323] 848-6025). Very beautiful, very romantic, very very bar. 21 and older. No cover.

Sunset Room (1430 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, [323] 463-0004). Dinner Tuesday to Saturday, dancing Thursday to Saturday. Call for reservations Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 21 and older. $15 cover.

Viper Room (8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, [310] 358-1880). Hot nights include Monday's Camaro, a low-down rock 'n' roll club, and Friday's late-night disco party. 21 and older. Cover varies.

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