Actor-comedian Rusty Dooley depicts Bram Stoker's Dracula as he… (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles…)
Hollywood is awash in recently opened bars and clubs right now, but two brand new destinations near Hollywood & Highland are using a fresh approach to woo night owls: experiential entertainment. At new clubs Premiere Supper Club and Supperclub Los Angeles at the Vogue, guests interact with friendly staffers (who are sometimes in character) and take in light theater-inspired entertainment. It's the latest bid for your club dollar.
"The two things I'm best at [are] theater and night life," said Premiere's principal owner, Vinny Laresca, last month inside his 5,000-square-foot bilevel lounge. The 36-year-old actor, most recently a partner at Villa on Melrose Avenue, wanted to combine the worlds in a new kind of supper club. "Theater is just life: it's seeing something interesting. So what I decided to do is create a theater of the absurd with impressionists doing Bram Stroker's 'Dracula' or a guy dressed as Tony Montana roaming the club in character."
On a recent Thursday evening at Premiere, which opened Sept. 9, the action was punctuated by spotlights randomly shining on an actor in character, who mingled, barked out a catchphrase or two, and occasionally danced with patrons.
It's a heady (some might say cheesy) concept but one that seems to work in Hollywood, right next door to the soon-to-launch Cirque du Soleil at the Kodak Theatre and just five minutes from the madness in front of Grauman's Chinese. Already, A-list names including Usher and Robert De Niro have popped by the Spanish-themed destination, which at the end of the day is really just a club, and not yet a true supper club (although they do serve food). Premiere opens after 10 most evenings.
Like Premiere, Supperclub Los Angeles at the Vogue (which opens this month) is part of a larger trend that has been growing for years in L.A. as dance troupes such as Lucent Dossier have held successful limited runs in venues like the Edison downtown and H.Wood in Hollywood. In these interactive shows, aerialists perform and women dressed up in 19th century-inspired duds flirt with customers. But these two new clubs represent perhaps the first nightspots dedicated to dazzling late-night drinkers with regular theater and dance elements in addition to bottle service and DJs.
"Where else in L.A. can you sit for three hours and see these types of performances while you eat and drink?" asked one of the owners of Supperclub Los Angeles, Jerry Garcia. He and partner Abdi Manavi will open their club as part of an international chain called Supperclub, which debuted in Holland almost two decades ago. They had previously visited the Amsterdam and San Francisco locations and were impressed.
"The Europeans have a different style of doing things," Garcia said inside the former Vogue Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which is now redone in white with eye-catching heavy red theatrical curtains.
"When you go to most clubs, it's boring," said Lucent Dossier co-founder Dream Rockwell via telephone this week. "People now want to have an experience…they want to be touched in some way … emotionally and sometimes even physically." She added that the Dossier experience creates a sense of community in the bar and is an ice-breaker for conversation. She said her troupe is set to perform at Supperclub Los Angeles at the Vogue Halloween weekend and is also in talks regarding an early 2011 residency there.
A financial industry veteran, Garcia is banking that a certain segment of Angelenos is ready to pay $75 for a four-course meal early in the evening, watch a show and then spend the rest of the night partying as the venue morphs into a proper nightclub.
"I went by myself to Amsterdam in 2004 [to Supperclub Amsterdam], and it was nothing like I'd ever seen before," Garcia said.
"They had a sculptor working on a piece live while I was eating on a bed with strangers," he recalled. And while there are no plans for that kind of entertainment to take place at Supperclub Los Angeles, owners do plan to feature aerialists, dancers doing a serious tango and "ambient performances" happening throughout the club all night long. Manavi described the ambient happenings as "things going on for no reason at all."
It may sound bizarre, but it's a playful twist that many are finding fresh in Los Angeles at venues from West Hollywood's still-hot Voyeur (where semi-nude women hang suspended from the ceiling in netting) to Vermont Avenue's Cuban experience, La Descarga.
To be sure, Supperclub Los Angeles at the Vogue will feel mostly like a traditional nightclub on weekends after 10 p.m., when the furniture is cleared and the DJs take center stage (already several big names have been booked for fall engagements). But Supperclub seems to be on the leading edge of a scene that might create an opportunity for new types of acts — the next iteration beyond Lucent Dossier, Cirque Berzerk and the like.
"We feel that people in L.A. want more edgy, creative options at night," said Garcia.
"Nobody likes suffering through theater," LaResca added, "we're making it fun to see a show."
Premiere Supper Club
Where: 1710 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood
When: 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
Price: Cover varies
Info: (323) 978-0730; http://www.premieresupperclub.com
Supperclub Los Angeles at the Vogue
Where: 6675 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Opening to public in late October
Price: $75 for four-course dinner/show, cover varies for nondiners/late arrivals
Info: (323) 466-1900; http://www.supperclub.com