In many ways, S.Lo is no different from other grunts in Southern California. At quitting time, I enjoy checking out the night life, and the possibilities in downtown L.A. are growing as we speak.
Just last week, after an exhausting day trying to figure out what possessed Bill "Simple" Simon to run for governor, I met up with the lovely and talented Alison for cocktails at 5th and Flower. The Standard Hotel is in, and if you haven't heard about it, you're not. Patrons wait in line behind a velvet rope as staffers wearing radio earpieces give them the once-over.
S.Lo generally doesn't go anyplace where the staff uses a radio-alert system, which should only be worn by Secret Service agents. But being S.Lo, man about town, carries certain responsibilities.
"Is that what you're wearing?" asked Alison, reminding me that the Standard's rooftop bar is a hipster scene.
Yes, that's what I'm wearing. I was going to pick up a pair of the new low-rise jeans for men, but I didn't have time.
She shook her head.
The first indication of trouble was that the hotel sign was hung upside down. I have left many a bar thinking the sign was upside down, but it's never happened on the way in.
This kind of pretense was apparent even before the Standard opened in May. Gary Leonard says he was shooting pictures for the Downtown News when the hotel staff ordered him to hand over his film. Leonard refused, saying he was on public property, and besides, all he did was photograph the new hotel furniture as it was hauled off a truck.
The mild-mannered Leonard says he was shuttled into the hotel basement and held against his will by a posse of junior crime-busters communicating through radio earpieces. Apparently the Standard did not want to let out the big secret on the Jetsons motif, and photos in the Downtown News would have been catastrophic.
Leonard, 51, says he made a break for the door.
"Stop him!" cried the chief goon, who wore an expensive suit and a styled hairdo, according to Leonard.
Leonard worked his way back onto the street, but the security team kept him on a tight leash. He tried to flag down a passing cop, then played a cat-and-mouse game with his captors, moving up and down the sidewalk as they followed.
Leonard was finally returned to freedom and promptly filed a police complaint. He's now waiting to hear whether the city attorney will prosecute. Not to digress, but S.Lo wants to go on the record recommending long prison sentences for everyone involved.
"They were overzealous and it shouldn't have happened," admits the hotel owner, Andre Balazs, who called S.Lo from New York. He said he's still trying to get hold of Leonard to apologize.
Hey, no hard feelings. S.Lo loves the night life, and could already taste his first drink. I got to the Standard kind of early, so there was no velvet rope to deal with. You take a quick elevator ride to the roof, and when the doors slide open, you're in another galaxy.
The open-air bar has a terrific skyline view and sort of a '70s rec-room motif, complete with Astroturf, love seats and a DJ who looks like Elvis on fen-phen. The waitresses wear lollipop-red car-hop get-ups with knee socks, and over by the infinity pool is a cluster of candy apple pods with water beds inside. I'm almost certain I saw Austin Powers in one of them.
As you might have suspected by now, this is a place where everybody inspects everyone else, unlike a proper bar such as the one at Taylor's Prime Steaks, where people just stare into the bottom of their glass. Moving about the place was like walking the red carpet at the Oscars, and I did my best to hide a slight limp. You don't want to be the only yutz at a hipster convention with fallen arches and sciatica.
But I did see a handful of customers who, like S.Lo, were born before the Kennedy administration. And it's nice to see anyone downtown at night, even if they're sporting pierced eyelids, green mohawks and tattoos the size of freeway murals.
"Look, that woman has a duct-tape head band," Alison said.
Yes, and I wanted to borrow some of it to seal a few yaps shut. S.Lo has a low tolerance for the twentysomething inflection that turns every declarative sentence into a question.
They'll be, like talking?
And I'm ready to, throttle them?
So I was sitting there and next thing I knew, this young twit practically knocked the lovely and talented Alison off her chair so she could stub out her cigarette at our table.
Now we've got trouble.
Alison, who suffers no fool lightly, bolted up and went after the offending party. I had visions of an all-points radio alert, with the Standard's crack security team swarming in and herding Mrs. S.Lo into the basement detention facility.
Just in the nick of time, a friend named Bill appeared out of nowhere, stepping between Alison and her prey in the instant before she committed a felony.
I ordered another round of drinks and glanced about the room, and maybe it was the liquor, or maybe it was the summer night air (probably the liquor), but it started to feel just fine on the roof of downtown L.A. Had I worn the low-rise jeans, S.Lo, man about town, would have owned the scene.
Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org