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COVER STORY

Legends from L.A. night life

September 20, 2007|Margaret Wappler

SEEMINGLY since the dawn of time, after-hours clubs have offered a place to get loaded without those stick-in-the-mud cops enforcing their stick-in-the-mud laws. A look at some of L.A.'s most infamous spots through the years:

Rudolph Valentino's speak-easy: Accessible by trap door from the sidewalk, Valentino's secret club in the Hillview Apartment building at Hudson Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard pushed illegal hooch for a year or two in the '20s, says Steve Adelman, owner of the Avalon and Spider Club. Adelman will capitalize on that old-time cachet when he opens 86, an upscale lounge and performance spot, in the Hillview next month.

The Riot House, a.k.a. the Continental Hyatt House: Like a folk tale, there are several variations on the thrashings this infamously lax hotel suffered from Led Zeppelin and the like. In Michael Walker's "Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood," REO Speedwagon member Neal Doughty paints it this way: "One night we got crazy and threw a chair out the window. Ten seconds later, we got a call from the desk. All they said was, 'Did you at least look first?' " Incredibly, the structure is still standing but undergoing renovations. Chair pitchers, be warned: No more balconies.

Filthy McNasty's: The name pretty much says it all. Described as a scruffy show lounge in the 1979 guide "All Night L.A.," this North Hollywood club was packed to the gills every weekend till 6 a.m. The star attraction was Filthy himself, dressed in silver lamé or fringed white leather. With the help of his all-girl band, the Foxy Filthettes, Mr. McNasty reportedly sang and talked dirty to the female patrons. Cover charge? $2, which skyrocketed to $3.50 after hours.

Zero Club, a.k.a. Zero Zero: In the book "We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk" by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, party people document this '70s-era Hollywood "art gallery" as a "members only" club that opened at 2 a.m. for boho artist types or anyone with pills and powders. For $5, you could rub shoulders with Warhol entourage member Mary Woronov and, perhaps incongruously, David Lee Roth, who apparently loved the Zero so much he eventually covered the rent.

Al's Bar: Loads of kids scuttling from one downtown party to another count themselves as urban pioneers these days, but they've got nothing on the illegal loft dwellers who populated this avant-theater and punk club, which closed in 2001. Downstairs from the American Hotel on Hewitt Street, Al's Bar hosted a motley crew of bands, including X and Los Lobos, plus anyone else inhabiting the fringe in the '70s, '80s and '90s. YouTube has many a video documentation of Al's heyday.

-- Margaret Wappler

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