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GOING OUT | A NIGHT AT BRICKTOPS

In days gone by

The Roaring '20s return in the arty atmosphere at Bricktops. Look for flappers.

April 03, 2003|Adam Bregman | Special to The Times

Aprofessional-basketball-player-sized drag queen, Vaginal Davis is one of the more unusual and lively hostesses in the L.A. club scene.

For five years, she reigned over a Sunday afternoon club at the Garage in Silver Lake, which featured an amazing lineup of bands, accompanied by Davis' hilarious introductions and her frenzied groping of band members. Later, she and performance artist Ron Athey came up with Gimp at Zen Sushi in Silver Lake, a short-lived club that ambitiously attempted to showcase performance art and installations.

Davis' latest club is perhaps her snazziest yet. A tribute to the era of Louise Brooks, "The Great Gatsby," Charlie Chaplin, Al Capone, Cole Porter, Weimar Berlin, the Lost Generation and the Algonquin Round Table, the Roaring '20s-themed Bricktops is named after Ada "Bricktop" Smith, the African American, redheaded vaudevillian entertainer and nightclub owner who once owned a string of international clubs called Bricktop.

"If you came from the upper echelons and you lived the enchantment of Manhattan in the '20s," says Davis, "then, when you wanted to escape that, you went to Harlem to a speak-easy and you went into this other world. I wanted to try and capture that."

Appropriately, Bricktops takes place every Friday in West Hollywood at the Parlour, a club that was both a speak-easy and a bordello during the '20s. In its heyday, the club featured both female and male prostitutes, a rarity at the time.

For Bricktops, Davis appears in drag impersonating Ada and performs with the club's talented house performer, 21-year-old Mr. Uncertain, who plays original songs on piano. Also performing recently was the Acres, a hillbilly outfit that sang old-timey tunes accompanied by an autoharp. But the knockout act of the evening was the Boyfriend, a barbershop-style act that featured six fellows in bowties singing Sandy Wilson's "The Boyfriend," backed by the accordion player from Los Super Elegantes.

"I was just so sick of discordant rock music," says Davis, "and everybody's mother, brother, sister and uncle are doing an electroclash club. I've always been really into the '20s, and I found out that there are all these young kids who are into that Tin Pan Alley type of music and entertainment. When I started this club, I didn't think that anyone would be into this. I just thought that I was the only one and that I was doing something way too esoteric that nobody else would like. I also didn't think people would be dancing, but the music just makes you dance. Even if they don't know how to do the dances like the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Georgia Bo Bo, the Varsity Drag, they try their best."

One girl in her early 20s has become a Bricktops favorite. "We usually have her get up on one of the go-go pedestals and she does a little tap dance number," says Davis. "She dresses all '20s and goes into a really fast, Ann Miller-style tap dance routine and she's fantastic."

Folks get dolled up for Bricktops. At a Valentine's Day show, there were several flappers and floozies, a gentleman wearing a plaid suit that looked right for a fox hunt, and a man in a top hat and fine suit clutching a martini glass. Every night has a theme, such as "Brechtian Modalities," "Django Reinhardt -- King of the Gypsies," "Loves of Isadora Duncan Nite" and "The Savage Genius of Baroness Elsa." Patrons can also sample an eclectic menu of distastefully named cocktails, the most popular of which is made with Malibu melon, pineapple and cream.

Silent movies are projected on a wall, and the Boydello Backroom, a comfy lounge with sofas, looks to be ideal for smoking opium and reading the Gazette. The crowd is both gay and straight, impeccably dressed and casual, and ranges in age from 21 to 65.

"To me, the best kinds of parties," says Davis, "are those where socialites and debutantes mix it up with someone who was just released from prison. Because if it's all just wealthy people and models and actors, that's boring. But when you mix it in with something that's kind of grimy, and real funky people and people who live outside of the white, middle-class norm, then you have a good mix. That's what makes a party really shine." *

Bricktops

Where: Parlour Club, 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

When: Fridays, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Cost: $5

Info: (323) 650-7968 or www.parlourclub.com

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