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Camaro Revs Up at the Viper Room

Mondays are for metal at the hot night spot with an '80s-style band and bawdy contests.

September 14, 2000|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the first time in its history, the Viper Room was late to the party.

In the last few years, the Hollywood rock scene reinvented itself, but not at the Viper Room. The West Hollywood nightclub was too busy with high-profile promotions like the electronic club Atmosphere and mid-evening showcases to notice the burgeoning L.A. band scene. At the same time, it took a hit when new showcase venues upped the ante. Suddenly the Viper Room couldn't coast--even a little bit--on its name recognition and celebrity ties.

The newish Monday night rock club Camaro offers an object lesson in clubland Darwinism. Camaro represents the Viper Room's answer to L.A.'s desire to rock. Launched in February by two female promoters, Camaro was a sendup of rock 'n' roll, featuring the '80s cover band Metal Shop (which has been through more drummers than Spinal Tap) and a wet T-shirt contest. It was meant to be ironic.

With the initial promoters out soon after its inception and veteran promoter Josh Richman invited in, Camaro is still a sendup of rock, but now it's evolved into a way over-the-top den of rock debauchery. I guess this is survival of the bawdiest. Richman, some might recall, was the naughty emcee for Grand Ville's famed striptease shows. He does a similar bad-boy gig here, encouraging the brazen females who volunteer for the wet T-shirt contest to show their, um . . . stuff.

The club even provides the shirts and Daisy Dukes. After a hilarious performance by Metal Shop, the contest seems to be the logical next step, not to mention a lucrative one for the ladies. The winner takes home anywhere from $200 to $300 a night.

Metal Shop--brought to you by Perfect World Entertainment, the masterminds behind the Boogie Knights and other excellent cover bands--is so good at pretending to be a '80s hair band, you'll either gag from laughter or relive the '80s.

It really depends on what side of the musical fence you were on in the decade of decadence. C'mon, be honest. Records by Scorpions, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi--all celebrated in Metal Shop's rock revue--didn't just jump off the shelves. Someone bought them. So whether you want to relive the memory or simply amuse yourself, Camaro is pedal-to-the-metal fun.

Local Rock Acts Get in on the Action

Apollo Starr, Camaro's current house deejay, spins a wicked blend of '70s and '80s rock, both heavy and bubblegum. And recently, vital rock acts from Hollywood's club scene have been opening for Metal Shop around 10 p.m.

Richman, who produced Guns N' Roses music videos in the band's heyday (ever heard of "November Rain"?), started making the rounds to such Hollywood rock clubs as the Pretty Ugly Club, Scream and the Cadillac Club, plucking out the finest local rockers, like Motochrist and Broken.

On Camaro night, the Viper's stage is fenced off with chain link; Metal Shop performs behind it. We get it: Welcome to the jungle right back atcha, but the cage might be more effective as a detail. Opening acts, who could gain exposure on the Viper's stage, feel somewhat obscured by it.

Perhaps the best thing about Camaro is everyone gains something by it. The Viper Room regains its footing by creating another strong weekly club. Local bands get a chance to play in front of a crowd that's sure to contain a few industry heads. And it's no real competition to Scream, the already established Monday night rock scene at the Playroom, whose promoter, Dayle Gloria, has worked hard to rebuild L.A. rock.

Camaro, with its $15 cover charge and Sunset Strip parking prices, is for moneyed Westsiders who want to play dirty for a night. Scream is where Hollywood's real rock 'n' roll heart beats on a Monday.

So for now, all's well that ends well. For the first time in its history, the Viper Room had to work some serious overtime, doing the clubland hustle just like every other venue in town. It's nice to see it's got some mettle. Wait, make that metal.

BE THERE

Camaro, Mondays at the Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 21 and older. $15 cover. (310) 358-1880.

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