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Where to Get Into the Groove, Totally

The '80s are back, as dance clubs rediscover the sounds of early Madonna and Duran Duran.

October 05, 2000|LINA LECARO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Flip through fashion magazines and you'll see the '80s: The decade has reared its big-haired head again. Heavy makeup, gaudy jewelry and "Dynasty"-style excess are everywhere.

So it follows that an audience too young to have ever worn leg warmers is warming to the sounds of the '80s as well. Teens and 20-somethings don't see the days of Pac-Man and the Brat Pack as nostalgia, but as retro-fresh night life. Capitalizing on the trend (and in some cases creating it), the city's dance clubs are just saying yes to everything '80s: new wave, so-bad-it's-good pop and catchy heavy metal. They complement the music with images of Boy George and Cyndi Lauper and screenings of "Pretty in Pink" and "Ghostbusters."

West Hollywood clubsters were the first to be re-enchanted by carefree '80s music. (Could the androgyny of so many '80s stars be one of the reasons?) The now-defunct Club '80s was first to the party at the Love Lounge (the venue now called Ultra Suede). DJs at the dance clubs Cherry and Velvet--both still going strong--started weaving Bow Wow Wow, Billy Idol and the like into their sets.

That '80s Night, Wednesdays at Ultra Suede Lounge, carried the decade's mantle into the '00s in Boys Town. Here, the mostly gay crowd lip-syncs and shakes it to obvious dance-floor hits--Duran Duran's "Girls on Film," Wham's "I'm Your Man"--and some unpredictable club selections--John Cougar's "Jack and Diane," Hall and Oates' "Man Eater." The upbeat ear candy is voraciously digested by bubbly, T-shirt-and-jeans-clad boys and a smaller percentage of straight college-age guys and gals. Songs that didn't deserve hit status back then, much less now, pack the floor.

DJs Angel, Ray Rhodes and Howie mix the good, the bad and the silly from the decadent decade into a musical time capsule. They show off their skills creating diva medleys--Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston in electronically fused duets--and rockin' blends of Joan Jett, Queen and Twisted Sister.

At That '80s Night and another club, Beat It, you'll get a diverse mix from the era--from synthy romantic songs to manic metal grinds. Other clubs focus on tried-and-true new wave. That's the staple of the Xanadu Room, part of Clockwork Orange, and the specialty of the cover band M-80s, which plays at the West End's Flashback Saturdays.

But it's the clubgoers at Beat It who truly take the 1980s to heart. They don cut-up sweatshirts a la "Flashdance," Madonna-style black plastic bracelets and Flock of Seagulls hairdos. Named after Michael Jackson's mega-hit, the 18-and-over club is filled with the most enthusiastic '80s fans you'll find. Never mind that they're barely old enough to remember when Bananarama reigned.

"The crowd at Beat It is reliving their earliest memories growing up," says promoter-DJ Jason Lavitt. "It was a revolutionary time, when MTV first gave images to the music and made style a priority."

Here the Valley Girl threads and '80s concert tees look right again, especially on the nubile dance-happy youngsters. And for those who just can't see the ironic cool in Olivia Newton John's "Physical," the club's back room, called the Chamber, features the decade's darker sounds--hits from the Cure, Soft Cell and, of course, the period's anthem, Killing Joke's "Eighties."

Whether any of this feels new or like a rehash is subjective. But these clubs' successes prove the decade of trash and flash otherwise known as the '80s can still be a thriller.

BE THERE

That '80s Night, Wednesdays at the Ultra Suede Lounge, 661 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-4551.

Beat It, Sundays at the Ruby, 7070 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 467-7070.

Clockwork Orange, Saturdays at the Ruby, 7070 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 462-7442.

Flashback Saturdays, at the West End, 1301 5th St., Santa Monica. (310) 313-3293.

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