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On the outskirts of Silver Lake, on a desolate stretch of nothingness, sits Rudolpho’s Bar & Grill. From Riverside Drive, alongside the 5 freeway, Rudolpho’s looks like a blank cement façade. But its good side faces Fletcher Drive, and from there you can see an explosion of plants on the front patio and the parking lot. It gets better when you look inside, where there’s a big old wooden bar, and fancy cloth napkins and wine glasses set in anticipation on dining-room tables. The fireplace glows. A piano sits in a corner, right before what looks like a stage framed by a blue, sparkly, almost disco-era curtain; it’s really an empty room, adorned only with a chandelier and pictures on the wall — perfect for séances or pulling rabbits out of hats.
Most of the week, Rudolpho’s is quiet and empty. Different club promoters have used the space over the years, but recently, the place has acquired a new following. Every other Wednesday, the space fills up for the increasingly popular underground pub quiz called Booze Clues, conceived by David Jargowsky and his wife, Pauline O’Connor, as an alternative to game night at home. They chose Rudolpho’s as the venue because they fell in love with the place at first sight and couldn’t believe more people weren’t hanging out there. We went to the third-ever Booze Clues and found an attractive crowd of documentary filmmakers, writers, artists, general Silver Lake–ian bohemians, smarty-pants and know-it-alls mingling at the bar before the game began.
In certain parts of the country, pub quizzes are as popular as karaoke. Here in Los Angeles, there have been a few attempts at creating a quiz scene, but they mostly went the way of the disappearing book club. Booze Clues in its infancy, however, is really catching on. The second one brought in more than 150 people to battle for prizes. The guest hosts that night were two writers from The Simpsons. On the night we went, there were just under 50 competitors, and our guest host was theme-song composer, actor and writer Mark Rivers (his credits include Mr. Show and Moral Orel).
When the game started, people migrated from the bar to a table. Jargowsky and O’Connor provided the questions by way of the bar and grill’s sound system. We ordered some fried calamari and a round of pretty decent viognier by the glass and got down to business.
Here’s how it works: You form a team (up to six players) with your own friends or people you meet at the bar. There are five rounds: audio, visual, current events, general knowledge and a specialty round. Each category has eight questions. Our audio round consisted of eight songs that prominently featured cowbell (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was not one of them); we also listened to 60-second sound bites from different films and had to name the movie. For our visual portion, we had to identify the artists and titles of several paintings, from Matisse’s Dancers to Hockney’s A Bigger Splash. Prizes go to the team with the highest score, the team with the most creative wrong answers, and the best team name.
The competition is as fierce as it is fun, and the questions are no walk around the Trivial Pursuit board game. You have to read the newspaper, be somewhat literate, know about art and, of course, be a pop-culture junkie. It’s not uncommon for some teams to completely bomb and get zilch in an entire category.
“We don’t want it to be too hard — it’s no fun when you don’t get any right,” Jargowsky said. “But more importantly, we want people to be interested and happy to know what the answers are and, if nothing else, kind of come away from it like they learned something and had a good time.”
The next Booze Clues night takes place Wed., Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m., at Rudolpho’s Bar & Grill, 2500 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 669-1226. Check www.boozecluesla.com for more information and sample quizzes.