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Cahuenga's Dirty Little Secret

June 06, 2002|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don't bother checking your watch--it's probably nearing last call, but you're not going anywhere. If you're planted at Dirty at the Room in Hollywood, you're stuck, my friend. Dirty's DJs spin such a mesmerizing blend of rock 'n' roll, every time you get up to leave, they pull you back in.

The Tuesday night club is Hollywood's little rock 'n' roll secret, and it takes advantage of being at the Room, the last of the back-alley bars in the Cahuenga corridor. No matter how many times you've driven through Hollywood, you need to actually get out onto the streets to find the Room.

The Room is a bit like the Northern California town of Bolinas, where the residents famously remove any signs pointing their way. You have to rely on word-of-mouth directions. Here's mine: If you're walking up Cahuenga Boulevard toward Hollywood Boulevard, you make a right into the parking lot south of Beauty Bar but kittycorner to the Burgundy Room. It's usually easiest to ask the nearest street hustler to point you in the right direction.

No matter how much of a tourist destination the Cahuenga corridor becomes, egged on by hot venues such as the Burgundy Room and Beauty Bar, the Room still belongs to the locals. The bar, located behind curtains and up a few stairs, set down roots in this nook of Hollywood back when the area seemed to draw more car thieves than hipsters. The Room's owners took a chance and began attracting all kinds of young adventurers back to Hollywood. Over its 10-year existence, the Room has managed to maintain a low profile, and it's a very friendly place to chill out.

Its low-key attitude allows Dirty's promoters, Christina Carey and Ian Grieve, to treat their clientele like friends at a house party. They attract a wide-ranging group of customers--from rock 'n' roll refugees like the Strokes to actor Alan Cumming and loads of H-wood clubbers. The common denominator for Dirty fans is music.

Carey gets Dirty jump-started by heaping on heavy doses of Led Zeppelin. She then turns over the turntables to guest DJs culled from the Hollywood underground. Each use Dirty as his or her own pop playground.

When Grieve, who also bartends at the Viper Room, takes his DJ turn, he spins everything from Jon Spencer to Tom Waits and Johnny Cash. Next up, you might hear actor Sean Sweeney working the eclectic crowd with some vintage Barry Manilow and Carpenters before Carey returns to smooth out the night with a gentle track by Oasis. It's an unpredictable mix, but an intoxicating way to spend an evening.

All I can say is good luck trying to get out of there. Dirty is like Hotel California: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. I mean, it's last call but they're playing Jeff Buckley.

Dirty at the Room, 1626 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. 21 and older. No cover. (323) 467-0191.

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