Handkerchief-hemmed halter tops and baggy khakis replaced circle skirts and zoot suits at swing-dance central, a.k.a. THE DERBY, when the popular weekly Manhattan club KARAOKE NIGHTS debuted and took the place by storm. The club’s founder, AUDREY ROSE BERNSTEIN, and her MC, RUSSELL “SING-ALONG” STEINBERG, presided over an itchin’-to-warble crowd that — shocker! — packed the place wall-to-wall. The guest list of the DIESEL-sponsored bash was, like, 500 pages long. Apparently, the New York version of the club is a celebrity magnet, with folks like MICHAEL STIPE and CLAIRE DANES taking the mike, but most of the singers in L.A. were just dressed-to-kill plebians, plowing through engagingly awful versions of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Mack the Knife,” prompting RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (pictured) to sigh, with a self-deprecatory, cosmopolitan-induced giggle, “I’m probably the most famous person here!” He and TEDDY THOMAS (whose debut album will be released on Virgin this summer) were planning on doing an EVERLY BROTHERS duet, but the wait was 45 minutes. Spotted among the velvet-draped booths were CHINA CHOW, IONE SKYE and Beastie Boy MIKE D., but then, that’s just normal for L.A. However later, we spotted Reese Witherspoon, Sara Gilbert, Dianne and Tatiana von Furstenberg and David Faustino. By far the most popular guy in the room was the distinguished GILBERT NELSON of Class Act Karaoke, who didn’t lose his cool once as he took the multitudinous requests and operated the sing-along machine.
FOR RICHER, FOR POUR-ER
“Is there,” we wondered rhetorically, “a lush who’s seen more linoleum at THE FORMOSA CAFÉ than us?” No, sez we as we went off to cover a little hub and a smidgen of bub at our fave saloon in Hollywood recently. We showed up, and there was something going on about opening gangster Bugsy Siegel’s “newly discovered and unopened safe,” buried underneath tables 1 and 2, after 53 years, and we kept our skepticism in check as we are an official Friend of the Formosa, having agitated back in ’91 to prevent the corporate weasels at Warner Bros. from paving over the dimly lit, red-hued, womblike sarcophagus for souses. We were halfway through our first Heinie, and someone said LUKE PERRY couldn’t make it, which was fine cuz we don’t know who he is (heard he showed up later), and UNCLE MILTIE was sick so he couldn’t make it, and the next day they were going to open the safe on KTLA (it turned out to be empty), and tonight was a party for the Tony Awards and TYNE DALY and AIDS and the Actors’ Fund and Keith & Margo’s Murder Mystery Weekend. Being profoundly disinterested in all things “industry,” we looked for our friends and found owners VINCENT and BILL JUNG, bartenders WILLIAM WAGNER and TRUDY BLAIR, manager MICHAEL HOANG, busman RAUL HERNANDEZ, waitresses JILL-ANN ONTONG, LISA MARIE ROSS, JULIE SINCLAIR, ANNE-MICHELLE SEILER and — our favorite — CASS MARPLE, who’s been sweetly slingin’ Singapores for 26 years. Our Rule of the Road No. 8: Always remember the names of those who serve you drinks.
YOU SHOULDA SEEN HIM SASHIMI ACROSS THE FLOOR
After getting a thorough rundown on how to dread our hair from door hostesses ALEXIS and TRACY, we hustled into SKY SUSHI, where, every other Sunday night, the West Hollywood sushi bar is transformed into a laid-back and luscious soul, funk and booty-shakin’ affair called the LYRICAL LOUNGE. While chatty cliques of Silver Tab–decked club kiddies huddled over cocktails ’n’ cigs on the patio, we headed for the dance floor, where hip-hop preacha’ woman MC LADY COPPER kept the crowd humpin’ ’n’ stompin’ by chanting “Work this mothafucka!” into a mike as spinmaster DJ DUSK kicked some backup ass on the vinyl. Rolling up our sleeves, we decided to heed Lady Copper’s words and get our butts shakin’. But no sooner had we worked up our first lather of sweat when soul poetess SONJA MARIE hit the dance floor with a set of bongos and turned it tribal. On that cue, KCRW’s GARTH “Chocolate City” TRINIDAD, who’d been quietly sitting crossed-legged on the floor between the speakers, rose and started working a little voodoo of his own on the turntables. Hipster scribe and black-literati professor KIM CRENSHAW darn near knocked us down while getting her own fearsome groove on. But no prob — we fell into the arms of a waitress who was announcing last call from the kitchen. We danced the rest of night away with our California roll.
In its heyday, the RACQUET CLUB of PALM SPRINGS was the seasonal sandbox of Hollywood’s A-list, including MARILYN MONROE, who, some say, was poked by a certain president there. Today the not-so-exclusive club is lucky to attract a bunch of local blue hairs for lunch. But VICTOR RODRIGUEZ and BILLY ERB, the boys behind BEIGE on Tuesdays at 360°, are giving the place a much-needed monthly make-over. BEIGE PALM SPRINGS kicked off Memorial Day weekend with a poolside performance by impish female impersonator JIMMY JAMES, who channeled a few of the legendary club visitors, such as BETTE DAVIS, JUDY GARLAND and MAE WEST, while a computerized, white-lacquered faux baby grand piano channeled the ghost of LIBERACE in the BAMBOO LOUNGE. But the ghastliest sight of the night was MISS SEAN DE LEAR offering up a most sloppy WHITNEY HOUSTON as she bullied up to the burger bar for a spoonful of onions and asked for a side of salt and pepper. Yum, yum! Those who stormed the desert included photog MAXIMILIAN VON MOLL; 360° restaurateur RUSTY UPDEGRAFF; Otto, door whore galore; Odyssey mag’s MICHAEL EBERARD; superstar ALEXIS ARQUETTE; Men’s Room impresario APRIL LA RUE; interior designers VINCENT JACQUARD and RON MEYERS; aspiring producer MARK VELEZ; celeb stylist CHARLIE ALTUNA; and hair-hopper-to-the-stars DANILO. But each and every one of them was upstaged by the oldest living male hustler, who had to be told over and over again that TYRONE POWER was dead. Long live the queens of the desert!
—J.V. McAuleyEdited by Kateri Butler & Libby Molyneaux