By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It's like a speakeasy. You don't need a password, but Ruby's is an invitation-only gymnasium hidden in the basement of a synagogue. I cross the threshold with mosaic tile and notice the black-and-white photos of "Slapsie" Maxie Rosenbloom and Barney Ross, two great Jewish boxing champions from the 1930s. But it is another Jewish fighter of the era from whom I have taken my nickname, the Fighting Newsboy. Mushy Callahan (born Vincent Morris Schneer) earned his Newsboy moniker by defending his Boyle Heights turf as a youngster when he hawked papers on street corners.
Double D and I, squaring off in the opening attraction of today's series of matches before an audience of 100, enter the ring to our respective fight songs -- his "Dangerous," mine the Stones' "Street Fighting Man." He is wearing a black tank top, displaying his lean but toned muscles. But what really interests me is the contraption on his head; rather than the traditional headgear, Double D sports a black mask with a thick horizontal guard that covers his famed nose. Maybe Double D thinks he can intimidate me with this Ã¢ daunting look, which makes him resemble Jason in Friday the 13th. Maybe Double D's agent remembers how his client was kicked in the face during the shooting of Evolution. The problem with the horizontal shield is that the depth and speed of the punches thrown below it are hard to gauge. This will be a fight with no head shots, which means all of my punches will fall under his radar.
The bell sounds and we touch gloves. He is quick, quicker than me, with fancy footwork. He darts around, occasionally switching to a southpaw stance, while I stalk him in the ring. I hear no voices in the crowd, no catcalls, no cheers. It's just Double D and me.
As the fight progresses, it turns into a wrestling match, the two of us clinching, me shoving him into the ropes, him spinning me around. We seem to be about the same strength, although at 5-foot-10 I have the lower center of gravity. I keep pursuing him in the ring, landing right crosses to his upper chest. At one point, I hear cornerman Brian Phelan tell me to throw the jab, so I do.
The last round blurs with all the others -- plenty of clinches and shoves, Double D dancing, me chasing him, and a final explosion of punches.
The fight is over. Now I hear the cheers. Trainer Dave Paul, who has refereed the fight, hands us both a commemorative poster with photos of all the day's fighters pictured. Double D drapes a towel around his shoulder, and we await word from the judges.
Then it comes: "And the winner from the red corner." Dave Paul raises my hand. I am shocked. It has been a very close fight and could have gone either way. Double D seems upset. I try to embrace him, but he storms away. It cannot be easy for a celebrity to step into the ring in a hidden but nonetheless public place and fight in front of a crowd.
Now, he comes over, and I see his handsome but prominent nose, the nose that was concealed during the fight. The man with the beautiful mind hugs me in this fight temple. I must be hallucinating.
Nightlife: All in the Cat Club Family
IT'S THURSDAY, JUST BEFORE MIDnight, and the dimly lit Cat Club on the Sunset Strip is packed.
"There's Eric Dover," whispers my sister.
"I don't know who that is," I whisper back.
My sister rolls her eyes as Dover, the former lead singer of Snakepit, passes by. She and everyone else in the room know that Snakepit is the band formed by the guitarist Slash after his split with Guns N' Roses. I've come to the right place to relieve my ignorance. The Cat Club provides a crash course in the history of Los Angeles' music scene in the '80s, when the L.A. hard-rock sound reigned from Paris to San Diego.
In front of the plush velvet couch where my sister and I grab a couple of seats is John Miller, the British impresario who discovered Billy Idol and later became the tour manager for The Cult. And coming out from behind the bar is the club's proprietor, Slim Jim Phantom, formerly of the Stray Cats -- the rockabilly revivalists who played their first gig at Miller's London nightclub Vortex. Phantom opened the Cat Club in 1999, two years after closing the much-loved Diamond Club on Hollywood Boulevard.
Phantom walks through the crowd to the small stage in the center of the room and takes his place behind his drum set. He's been taking the stage most Thursday nights since the Cat Club opened, with a changing assortment of L.A. hard-rock musicians. Of late, Phantom, Muddy Stardust, and two former Guns N' Roses members, guitarist Gilby Clarke (who replaced Izzy Stradlin) and keyboard player Teddy "ZigZag" Andreadis, have organized more formally under the band name Col. Parker. The group recently released its first CD together called Rock 'n' Roll Musicon the V2 label and plan to tour this year. Still, when various group members go on the road, Ryan Roxie or Eric Singer (who's played with KISS and Alice Cooper) pinch-hits. Roxie's in tonight.
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