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DBA, a new nightclub/theater of shocks, to open in West Hollywood

October 29, 2013|By Jessica Gelt
  • Simon Hammerstein, left, with Beau Laughlin at Laughlin's new nightclub, DBA in West Hollywood.
Simon Hammerstein, left, with Beau Laughlin at Laughlin's new nightclub,… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom of details.

Nightlife iconoclast Simon Hammerstein has come to Los Angeles to act as the first artistic director of a new club in West Hollywood called DBA.

The club is located in the former Voyeur space and will be as much a performance space and art gallery as it will be a dance club and drinking den. For the project, Hammerstein collaborated with the club's owners, Beau Laughlin and Michael Jay of the L.A.-based hospitality group Cardiff Giant, which also operates the Hudson and the Churchill, among others.

The constant evolution of the club is why it's called DBA, which is short for "Doing Business As." Like a seasonal theater or an art gallery, the space will change radically every few months or so, as will the performances. Each new incarnation of the club will be curated by someone new.

"We had become so bored with nightlife in L.A.," Laughlin said. "In general, it seems so one-dimensional, so it's important to come up with a concept that's always evolving, always changing."

Hammerstein operates a popular and controversial chain of nightclubs cum super-risque cabarets in Dubai, London and New York City. The latter club is called the Box, and Laughlin still remembers his first visit when he caught an edgy performance by a transgender artist named Rosewood.

The experience never left him. There was as much beauty there for him as there was material that shocked. (Hammerstein's stated goal is to "delight and tickle.")

"It's theater of the absurd, theater of cruelty, theater of the sublime, theater of the surreal," said Hammerstein, who is the grandson of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame. "As nightlife operators, we're responsible for giving you a reason to put your iPhone down and to compete with the urge to tweet and text friends."

At this point in his career, Hammerstein is famous for competing with the urge to do anything but gape in amazement, astonishment and sometimes disgust. New York magazine wrote a lengthy feature on him and his New York City  nightclub the Box, "The Impresario of Smut," and much of what goes on theater-wise inside his clubs is not fit to print in a family newspaper.

But to reduce what he does to simple shock value is to underestimate him and his passion for the role of performance art in a social setting. His feeling is that people have a deep-seated need to be taken outside themselves every now and again -- to lose themselves and to bond with others who are doing the same.

That's why Laughlin and Jay wanted him to create the first vision for the club. This venture is decidedly outside the normal scope of the relaxed but tony restaurants and bars they are known for, but it is a gamble they are willing to take.

"The clubs always use location for inspiration," says Hammerstein. "So being in Hollywood -- the land of fairy tales -- we want to bring all the fairy tales that we love, and are haunted by, into the room and mix them together with some San Francisco LSD and see what happens."

DBA opens  Nov. 14.

DBA, 7969 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood;

[For the Record, 1:05 p.m. Oct. 29: An earlier version of this post said that Simon Hammerstein was co-owner of DBA. He is the club's first curator.]


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