By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Owen’s narrative moves beyond being just another squalid regional-scene piece when he explores the larger questions of what fuels club life. Can you have a fabulous edgy club without cop raids? Can a really raucous, rockin’ club exist within the limits of the law? How liable, ultimately, should a club owner/promoter be for the goings-on? How liable should a club owner be for people on drugs in the establishment? But Owen doesn’t really answer any of these questions, especially pertinent today with the advent of the new anti-rave legislation that threatens promoters with liability.
The middle part of Clubland is a barrel of laughs — a hilarious hootenanny of guidos, goombahs, and goofball narcos as thick as the hoods they’re chasing down. Although most readers will struggle to care about these people amid the relentless beat-downs and the pork-belly undercover narcs in drag attempting to pass themselves off as swish club kids, those amused by Homo sapiens at their lowest and dumbest will revel.
But ultimately, the book is about Owen the diligent vigilante journalist snitching off a bunch of snitches in his Village Voice articles (goodbye, Paciello and Caruso), and even more comic relief is provided as each side — cops and stool pigeons alike — loses track of the incredibly complex labyrinth of lies and counterlies they spin to each other. The D.A.’s Office becomes so desperate to get the club kids to rat out Gatien that one attorney pulls an Andy Sipowitz: If the club kid doesn’t give it up, I’ll personally make sure his beloved Chanel outfits are confiscated!
In the end, after six years of following the seamy goings-on of Gatien and company, Owen concludes that doped-up, edgy nightlife “is not supposed to come with a body count.” Which raises yet another question: Why wouldn’t it? Why would there be no “collateral” fallout, if there really was an envelope-pushing edge of true danger?Brendan Mullen is the co-author ofWe Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk andLexicon Devil: The Life and Times of Darby Crash and the Germs.
CLUBLAND: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture| By FRANK OWEN | St. Martin’s Press | 313 pages | $17.47, hardcover