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L.A. catches pool party wave

The trend has been growing for the last several years, taking hold at upscale hotels across the Southland.

August 29, 2008|Charlie Amter | Times Staff Writer

FOR A certain L.A. party crowd, Labor Day weekend can mean only one thing: Everyone into the pool.

In what's become a rite of summer -- and, for that matter in L.A., any given day in the fall and spring too -- partyers in their 20s and 30s are flocking to pool bashes. Not the typical throw-down at your friend's cousin's place in the Hollywood Hills, mind you, but at upscale hotels, with DJs providing a soundtrack that goes on well into the night.

On the Las Vegas scene, similar pool parties have become massive moneymakers for the promoters and hotel-casinos that host bacchanalia lasting up to 12 hours. Last year, the Hard Rock Hotel's popular Rehab party on Sundays took in about $6 million, hotel executives say -- and even in the midst of an economic downturn this year, revenue for Rehab is up about 30%, according to Dorian Cantrell at the Hard Rock. This weekend in Sin City, big parties such as Wet Republic at the MGM Grand will feature top DJs such as Miami's Cedric Gervais and Toronto's Deadmau5.

Here in Southern California, the parties operate on a smaller scale, but they have multiplied over the last few years. Just look at this weekend: They're at the boutique Custom Hotel near LAX, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, both Standard Hotels in West Hollywood and downtown L.A., the W Hotel in Westwood, the LAX-adjacent Sheraton Gateway Hotel and even the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey (which is hosting two VIP-only parties).

Local DJ and record-label owner Franki Chan -- who along with former partner Steve Aoki was instrumental in raising the profile of pool parties with his decadent Sunday bashes atop downtown's Standard Hotel beginning in 2005 -- says such get-togethers are now, well, flooding the local market. And he feels they have changed, and not all for the better.

"Ours was also more based around big talent and dancing, where I think most nowadays are about lounging," he says. "There seem to be way too many pool parties recently."

Though L.A. and Vegas may be spearheading the great pool-party proliferation of 2008, the trend appears to trace its roots to San Francisco, a city not exactly known for its balmy weather. Promoter Sam Gaglani says he began throwing annual bashes, playfully called Wet (and not to be confused with MGM's Wet Republic), in 1996 as a way to fight off the often dreary days in the Bay Area. They were held at the Phoenix Hotel, which had one of the few outdoor pools in San Francisco.

"We started Wet because we were inspired by the scene in Ibiza. We created the vibe and the essence of the pool party as it's known today on the West Coast," Gaglani says, adding rather boastfully that "everyone else is imitating us."

Gaglani eventually moved his party to the Hollywood Roosevelt in 2001. But by 2005, the house-music-oriented Wet proved to not be the perfect fit for the new, post-renovation Roosevelt, with its rock aesthetic.

In its place now are quieter gatherings such as a Tuesday affair, Night Swim, at the hotel's Tropicana Bar. Although women's bikini tops have been known to come loose on occasion, David Schneider, one of Night Swim's promoters, says the idea is to provide a more transportive experience.

"It's just such a unique place," Schneider says. "A beautiful pool in the middle of Hollywood. You don't feel like you're in L.A. while you're there."

Though Night Swim is officially open only to hotel guests and invited friends, up to 300 mostly single people somehow find their way in on a weekly basis.

This weekend, Schneider and Co. will host a special Monday event, with Danny Masterson (Steven on "That '70s Show") spinning rock and soul tunes. (A-list promoter the Alliance is also throwing an exclusive poolside party at the Roosevelt on Sunday night.)

As for Wet, it's found a new home on the other side of town, at Custom Hotel's Hopscotch Lounge. The hotel is taking advantage of the pool party trend, and, owner Avi Brosh says he sees it partially as a marketing tool.

"We have one pool party every Sunday and various other days for special parties, such as Wet, Splash and Made in Brazil," Brosh says. "The hotel has built a reputable scene and consequently has become a music destination for both locals and travelers alike."

Gaglani, the promoter, says some of the San Francisco faithful still make the trek down to support him, especially with a prominent house DJ such as Mark Farina on this weekend's bill. And, he says, no one will be pining for a return to Phoenix, the Roosevelt or anyplace else.

"Our crowd always has a good time, no matter where the pool party is at," he says.




Wet and wild weekend

A SELECTION of L.A. pool parties this weekend. Make sure beforehand that events are not sold out or restricted. Early arrival is strongly encouraged.

Wet at the Custom Hotel

Saturday: DJs Mark Farina, Jason Bentley, Franky Boissy and more. 1-11 p.m. 8639 Lincoln Blvd., L.A. $40. (310) 645-0400.

Roosevelt Hotel

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