As the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve, 20-year-old Michael Yang was bouncing up and down on the sweaty floor of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, dancing to a techno beat that was almost bone-shattering.
At the adjacent Memorial Coliseum, fireworks were exploding overhead and a laser show turned night into day, but Yang and the 25,000 others packed into the arena were too intent on dancing to catch the show outside.
"This," said Yang, "is the bomb."
After being mercilessly ribbed for its sparsely attended Y2K celebrations, for allowing a few rain showers to extinguish its fireworks displays, for a New Year's Eve lighting of the Hollywood Sign that even special guest Jay Leno found laughably inadequate, it seems that Los Angeles can get into a party groove when it really wants to.
This year, undistracted by fears of Y2K glitches and with ideal weather conditions, tens of thousands of New Year's Eve revelers were dancing in the streets in Hollywood and partying in massive numbers at the Coliseum, Staples Center and other venues.
An estimated 40,000 young people descended on the Coliseum and Sports Arena for Together as One, billed as one of the largest rave events ever in the city.
About 15,000 people crammed into a two-square-block section of Hollywood Boulevard for a street party dubbed Giant 2001. And an estimated 6,000 stylishly dressed fans turned out at Staples Center for an R&B and hip-hop music show hosted by Los Angeles Laker center Shaquille O'Neal, with part of the proceeds benefiting charities.
There were no city-hosted official ceremonies this year, and for many that was just as well. Some complained that last year's small-scale events, held in different ethnic communities, were shortsighted and missed a chance to bring together a city notorious for its balkanization.
"Last year was Los Angeles at its worst,' said Gene La Pietra, owner of the Circus Disco in Hollywood and a coordinator of the Giant 2001 gathering. "The whole thing was planned downtown, and no one called the communities to find out what would it take."
The Hollywood Boulevard event--which promoters hope to repeat next year--staked a claim to being the Los Angeles equivalent of New York's Times Square, though it was restricted to guests 21 and over.
Centered at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, it featured three stages, internationally known DJs, food booths, a Ferris wheel, laser light shows and giant graphic displays projected on the walls of venerable Hollywood buildings.
At midnight, giant cannons spewed confetti that landed an inch deep on the streets and covered an eclectic parade of partygoers. There were couples dressed in bathrobes, two men dressed in bunny suits and hair tinted in various hues.
"L.A. kind of got dogged out last year, but it's making a very strong comeback this year," said Brian Rubenstein, who was manning a booth selling bottled water called H2GLO to the dancers.
All proceeds from the event--an estimated $800,000--will go to local charities, including the Hollywood Police Activities League and the Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood, said La Pietra, president of the Hollywood Police Support Assn.
The Coliseum and Sports Arena event drew a somewhat younger and decidedly more anti-establishment crowd to seven stages and another international roster of DJs spinning techno, hip-hop, jungle and house beats until dawn.
Inside the Sports Arena, decorated with two large luminescent white balloons, pyramids and a tepee, the pounding of the bass beat was heart-thumping.
"I'm overwhelmed," one young man yelled over the roar.
At 8:30 p.m. one reveler who came with 23 of his buddies was already looking for a first aid station to land a few aspirin. "It's lots of music and lots of people," said the 22-year-old Palm Springs resident, who gave his name as Joshua X.
"This is what I've been waiting for, but I've got a headache."
The party at Staples Center was curiously subdued until about 11 p.m., when organizers abandoned the assigned seating arrangement and allowed fans who had bought cheaper tickets in the upper decks to flood the floor in front of the stage.
Then it turned into a regular house party, with revelers decked out in formal attire dancing in the aisles to such acts as Jon B, Ideal and the chart-topping Destiny's Child. Terrie Laney Brown, 29, traveled all the way from Fresno with her husband, Roger, 36, and friend, Sheila Gray, 29, hoping for a Shaq sighting. The Browns, like many other revelers, said they stayed at home last year.
"Because of the Y2K scare," Terrie Brown said. "But we didn't worry this year. I know a lot of my friends are going out this year when they didn't last time. If we can see a good show and have a good party afterward, we'll be happy."