For the last three decades, DJs have had a little trick in their back pocket guaranteed to fill a dance floor: When all else fails, play Michael Jackson.
DJ Paul V. put this theory to the test at the inaugural edition of Swagger, a new weekly Sunday afternoon post-brunch party at the Barbarella Bar on Hyperion (in the old Zen Sushi space). A mega-mix of MJ hits elicited a swarm of bodies onto the makeshift dance floor at the back of the bar, led by Paul Grillo, replete in a powder-blue Farrah Fawcett T-shirt.
"Come on, it's time to party!" he shouted to no one in particular. The boisterous crowd seemed to agree. While a birthday party was in full swing in the front patio area, a gang of guys milled around the bar, taking in the scene and indulging in the exotic beers on tap. The waitresses clad in their Barbarella uniforms of short shorts and corset-like tops seem especially relaxed during the gay-friendly event. It's such a laid-back and open-minded scene that no one blinks an eye at the fact that there's a baby in the bar being cooed over by a couple of the waitresses.
"In Silver Lake, the tradition for gay guys is the old-fashioned beer bust at places like the Eagle and Faultline," explains Paul V. over the phone from his home in the area. "You go in the afternoon, get cheap beer in plastic cups and go for it. We wanted to have a place where the alcohol has more to offer, with microbrews, wine and cocktails. Plus Barbarella has really good food."
Paul V. is also excited to provide a Sunday afternoon hang for L.A.'s more mature gay scene, as opposed to the under-30-or-die "Logan's Run" mentality that he thinks pervades much of West Hollywood. A joint collaboration between V. and fellow promoters Matt Cornwall and Rusty Updegraff, Swagger is all about grown folks' business.
"God forbid you're over 30 and hanging out on Santa Monica Boulevard," V muses. "I can walk the streets of West Hollywood and be completely ignored because I'm not a 25-year-old fashionista that goes to the gym three times a day. I hate to stereotype, but that's just how it is over there. Out here in Silver Lake, you can be a gay man over 30 and feel totally comfortable. But that's not to say that Swagger is a totally gay event. We want it to be more of a pansexual experience, where women and straight people can hang out and not feel weird."
The Barbarella Bar is part of a recent resurgence of hot new bars and restaurants popping up along the "Hyperion Corridor" just southeast of Los Feliz, including Barbrix and Cafe Bravo alongside old favorites like Say Cheese and Hard Times Pizza Co.
"Part of the reason Swagger came about is because of Barbarella's owner, Anat Escher [who also owns the Bungalow club on Melrose]. She's only been really getting a straight crowd coming in for drinks," Paul V says. "She really wanted to reach out to the gay crowd in Silverlake."
Paul V. is quick to praise his business partners in the event, who both come with formidable night-life resumes. "Rusty was co-creator of the party Beige, which ran for many years at the old 360 Bar that used to be on Sunset and Vine before it moved to the Falcon," he explains. "That event had a similar feel to what we're doing at Barbarella.
"The music format is anything goes -- except for crappy pop music," he laughs. "But if someone wants to hear Britney Spears or Lady Gaga, we'll play it. We'll let the crowd tell us what they want to hear."
Where: Barbarella Bar, 2609 N. Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays
Price: No cover
Contact: (323) 644-8000; www.thebungalowclub.com /barbarella