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Boys' town bar for all

September 04, 2003|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

The music, thanks to DJ Dimes, is bumpin' with a blend of hip-hop, R&B, a little rock and a little disco.

Men and women are dancing.

And drinking.

And talking.

And flirting.

Lesbians and gays coexist. Straight boys and girls mingle. Statuesque transgendered gals rove.

They are white and black, Latino and Asian, all hues in between, and they are having a really good time.

What's going on here?

Or, should we ask, "What's going on at here?" -- the laid-back lounge in the heart of West Hollywood's boys' town that defies most expectations of segregated nightclubbing and posing in Los Angeles.

This Thursday night bash, appropriately named Fuse, is for everyone. And week after week, everyone is showing up, even if it means lining up on Robertson Boulevard, wrapping around Santa Monica Boulevard and waiting for hours for a chance to squeeze in before it's over.

The 4,000-square-foot L-shaped lounge has a capacity of 346, but by the time the club closes at 2 a.m., 700 to 900 partygoers have come and gone.

"The DJ is awesome, the atmosphere is very friendly, but what I like the most about it is that everybody loves everybody," said 35-year-old James Sulcer, who was out with his sister and her friends.

Promoter Linda Fusco and her business partner, Michelle Agnew, are the masterminds behind the party, which started as a lesbian night but evolved into a "mixed party," the way the two women intended all along.

If Fusco and Agnew are to be commended for the upscale diversity they have added to the primarily gay men's club, they should get a nod for creating a genuinely fun club night in which Angelenos actually relax and let loose and leave the posers and divas at home.

"Had we promoted this as a mixed night, it would not have worked because it's so difficult for gay men and women to mix," said the 30-year-old Fusco, who has been in the nightclub business for 13 years.

"If the party is all boys or all girls, then it becomes about who you are, what you look like, you know, that whole L.A. thing. Because there's a little bit of everything in the room, it goes back to the basics of coming out to have fun."

Fuse began 18 months ago, shortly after here opened its doors at the site of the former Fire House. But the club's new dance license, which co-owner Tony Ross obtained in June, pumped it up.

"Dancing has really made the club hop," Ross said. "It was the last little piece that was missing."

Ross, a gay public-interest lawyer turned nightclub owner, has the runway looks of a model and a gene pool that covers a few of the major categories of the U.S. census. The 36-year-old mix of black, Cuban and Cherokee was born in New York City and moved to Hollywood in 2000 to build here, the sister club to the successful and hip g lounge in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, where Ross worked as general manager.

"I always follow my intuition and try to follow what the universe gives me," said Ross, who worked for the ACLU and Lambda Legal after he graduated from New York Law School in 1995.

"There were no interesting law jobs that were coming my way, but the opportunity for this partnership did," he said. "I love it because it massages every part of my brain that I want massaged."

Even when it comes to design, Ross and his partners, Pat Rogers, Michael McGrail and Bob Barbero, like to mix it up. The split-level club, like the g lounge, combines wood, steel, glass and cement. Its tree-filled outdoor patio is reminiscent of South Beach, while the low tables and red leather banquette that span the entire upper level inside offer more of a New York vibe.

"I love the architecture, I love the lighting," said Krissy Soda Pop, a transgendered gal partying at here for the first time recently. "No matter how many people there are, there's always something open so you can have your space to look at the pretty people."

Fusco, who showcases the work of one local artist a month around the main bar, set out to attract a diverse clientele, hoping that "my club would never be taken seriously. It's more about being a child again and having fun, because everywhere else you go in L.A., it's about being cool."

Tina Dee Taylor, a 36-year-old party promoter, likes Fusco's ability to "create a night with personality instead of the club being just an empty box with loud music."

"Every city has its own scene, and there are certain pockets that transcend the pretension, and this is one of those spots," she said. "People here are so friendly. I hope it doesn't change."


here lounge

Where: 696 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood

When: Seven days, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. No cover charge.

Info: (310) 360-8455 or

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