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Hollywood Makes a Scene Again

The energy has been building toward another great club era. Owners, bands and fans can feel it.


Hollywood. She has a wicked beauty. She writes her own history, creates her own stars, decides who's in and out and, frankly my dear, she doesn't give a damn what anyone else thinks.

And that's why she's in demand again.

Any nightly eyewitness to the crazy Hollywood club scene can tell you its growth in recent months is staggering, the energy and excitement level unprecedented. Hollywood is on the brink of another great era, when the planets of money, celebrity and great live music all come into perfect alignment.

And all the participants know it. Hot rock bands such as Broken, Earshot and Jet 68 are hunkering down with label execs, quietly working out record contracts. New Yorkers are relocating in droves, all looking for a piece of the action. Club kids who came up through the late-night trenches are buying and renovating their own nightclubs.

"For how long did we have owners who were rich guys who didn't have a clue?" asks Brent Bolthouse, a 13-year veteran of Hollywood night life who also owns Coffee House on the Sunset Strip. "Then they'd have to hire guys like me to create scenes for them."

Bolthouse promotes Wednesdays at Las Palmas, star-studded nights of hedonistic fun that channel memories of his nights at the Roxbury at its peak. He's certainly one leader of this new school. As is Rick Calamaro, a longtime promoter who recently opened Fuel, a new bar at the old Bob's Frolic II.

"It's the natural evolution of things," says Calamaro. "As promoters, we know the night better than anyone else. It's time we owned a piece of it."

J.D. Terziu, a partner in Dragonfly and co-promoter of one of the club's sizzling rock nights, Wednesday's Pretty Ugly Club, says, "Dragonfly's gone from being a no-frills flannel-shirt music club to a [hard-core] rock club. We aggressively bring in bands who are working it with passion and conviction. Every week, you can come here and see the best bands L.A. has to offer."

And they come by the hundreds, rain or shine, to get an earful of the latest sounds or simply to be seen on the scene at the Dragonfly, one of the few older venues at the forefront of the new revolution.

In addition, newcomers Vynyl, the Sunset Room and Blue have worked out some freshman-year kinks and are settling in for good clubland runs. Vynyl scored the sizzling-hot dance club Cherry when its previous location the Play Room burned down. And now Bolthouse has taken on Friday at Blue, a dance club in the heart of Hollywood.

The opulent Garden of Eden and its neighbor the Ruby also hold some of the city's hottest dance nights. Such art-damaged mainstays as the Opium Den, Boardner's and Goldfingers still provide raucous rock and innovative dance promotions.

New hot spots such as the year-old Las Palmas, owned by handsome hipsters Chris Pike, Loyal Pennings and Sky Reiss--also vets of the Hollywood scene--will probably stay hot. They've all been around too long; they know the cycle and take nothing for granted.

"We're not exactly new kids on the block," says Pennings. NKOTB might not be in the house, but 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears are. Not to mention Mariah Carey, Oscar de la Hoya, Slipknot and Crazy Town. Hefner has his own booth. (I know. I've been asked to vacate it.)

"Owners who stepped into or bought their way into ownership, they think it goes on forever and then they're real disappointed when it dries up," says Pennings, whose first club with Pike 10 years ago was an unremarkable failure. "We opened up a bar in San Luis Obispo in '91; as soon as the honeymoon was over, so was the business. We spent the next few years playing catch-up, and it was really scary."

Sticking Around Can Sometimes Pay Off

Members of this new Rad Pack share key characteristics. They've had their share of clubland battles and all-out wars, and some have had very public failures. But the promoters and rockers who stuck it out are now rising to the top. Wow. A union of hard rock and hard work paying off.

"This reminds me of the late '80s, when Los Angeles was really going on," says Xen, the manager of the scene's hottest young rock band, Otep. "You had all kinds of different clubs going on, and people were out every night. And people were happy to be out. It's like that all over again."

In part, that's because a clubber can once again park his or her car and leave it in one spot all night while walking to multiple venues. What's come to be known as the Cahuenga Corridor offers the best example. It's a stretch that includes the red-hot Burgundy Room, the Room, Beauty Bar, the El Camino.

It's like a mini-Sunset Strip without the dizzying Vegas-like atmosphere and $15 valet parking. The bars benefit from being so close, as each gets spillover crowds and club-hopping traffic.

The latest addition is the newly minted Hotel Cafe, a coffeehouse reminiscent of La Brea Avenue's famed Living Room, which had similarly remarkable timing.

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