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The Difference a 'Dae Makes

Spundae, a San Francisco institution, brings its electronic music parties to Circus Disco in Hollywood.

July 26, 2001|RICHARD THOMAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Unless you arrive before the pay lots fill up, you'll still have to scour the neighborhood for a parking spot. Hungry? You can still grab a bacon-wrapped hot dog from the vendor on the corner, though I'd advise against it. Upon entering the perimeter of the venue, you'll find the projected EAW logo still twirling on the wall adjacent to the queue. Oh yes, and you can still take your place in line with the rest of the fabulous ones.

The trappings surrounding Hollywood's Circus Disco on a Saturday night haven't changed that much since Spundae replaced Giant as the venue's resident superclub, so much so that one clubber I stood behind on a recent visit botched the names multiple times during one cell phone conversation. Misunderstandings of that nature are inevitable though, and for your average punter looking for a good night out, a club is a club.

If you've been privy to any gossip, however, you'll know there's still a bit of confusion surrounding what exactly went down between Giant, Spundae and Circus Disco. While Giant was Dave Dean's brainchild, the DJs were booked by folks associated with Spundae, a long-established weekly electronic club in San Francisco. Neil Thomas, the L.A. connection for the Spundae crew, says money disagreements led them to disband the popular club. Dean says the new contract that Circus proprietor Gene La Pietra offered for the venue was unacceptable, and he's moved Giant to the Park Plaza Hotel with plans to throw parties monthly.

Regardless of who gave the you-know-what to whom, Spundae's got the spot, and they're doing everything they can to up the ante on electronic music clubbing in Los Angeles.

"We're constantly making changes to keep it fun and different," says Thomas, who, prior to his involvement with Giant and Spundae, administered the weekly Groove Garden at the Mayan Theatre downtown. "Each week they're going to find something new."

For starters, they've made a few alterations to the patio scene. In addition to Alejandro's Grill--serving up tacos, hot dogs, cheeseburgers and quesadillas well past midnight--you can stuff yourself on a free assortment of crackers, veggies, fresh fruits and cheeses. A few feet away sits the massage table, where one can procure a full-body rubdown to the tune of one dollar per minute.

For less expensive lounging, mats have been laid down toward the back, where one might get a light show from some guy with multicolored key chain lasers fastened around each finger, and a pulsating red bike light clenched between his teeth.

Go-Go Dancers and Apocalyptic Lighting

A VIP area has also been set up outside, where DJs and industry types can wash down quiche, chicken wings and other hot hors d'oeuvres with plastic flutes of complimentary champagne.

Inside, delectable go-go dancers, hi-fi visuals and apocalyptic lighting combine with a whopping 44,000 watts of sound--by comparison, the Palace in Hollywood boasts a 20,000-watt system--and a third setup has been erected upstairs to accommodate guests who prefer breakbeats to the trancier, more progressive sounds of the primary or secondary rooms. Furthermore, the entire back wall, from behind the main DJ booth to the ladies restroom, has been turned into a lounge complete with drink tables and red leather couches. Thomas and Spundae--the booking team who helped Giant pull in performers like Groove Armada, BT and Boy George--have already featured an assortment of first-class talent, including Darren Emerson, Timo Maas and resident Max Graham.

"They've really got to have good talent or they're not going to get anybody in their club that night," commented Greggory Rogen, a longtime patron of Circus Disco. "But there are now more chances to see more DJs in L.A. For the first time in my 10 years of living here, it feels like what it was like in New York City."

Grant Plant, an L.A. favorite since his unforgettable New Year's Eve performance, is Spundae's newest resident. "You've got all the top DJs in the world writing in magazines about how brilliant LA is. How brilliant Circus is," says Plant, on the phone from his new Westside digs. "The U.K. club scene is on its arse, it's crap. I'm not saying there're not great clubs in England 'cause there are. The underground scene is fantastic and the energy is there, [but] you have to go where you feel you fit. I feel like, musically, I've found my home in L.A."

Twenty-eight years in business and over 2 million total visitors should be a sufficient testament to Circus' longevity, regardless of what club sets up shop within its walls. And in the long run, though a few of the Saturday night faithful may be displaced, L.A. will benefit from a larger set of clubbing options.

"The nightclubbing business shouldn't be taken too seriously," says La Pietra. "It's not rocket science. It's just fun."

*

Spundae at Circus Disco, 6655 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 21 and older. Saturdays, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. $10 before 9:30 p.m., $20 after. For advance tickets and information, http://www.spundaehollywood.com.

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