By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
"DON'T THINK, JUST DRINK," reads one of the cheaply photocopied posters hanging on the wall. Another advises that "PAIN IS TEMPORARY, GLORY IS ETERNAL," while a third, plastered to the door of the men's room, reads, "FUCK FOR FUN, FUCK FOR MONEY."
4212 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Silver Lake
The messages are meant in jest — more or less — serving to reinforce the scene here at El Cid, the self-described "Flamenco Dinner Theater" smack in the middle of Silver Lake's trendy Sunset Junction, where, tonight and on countless Saturdays over the past year, A Club Called Rhonda has been pushing the envelope for gay partying in Los Angeles.
There's just one thing, though. The night's promoters prefer the term "polysexual" — as in, incorporating all sexual orientations — which actually makes more sense. Sure, there are boys kissing in the corner and cross-dressers vamping on the patio. But Rhonda claims more than geographic distance from the muscle-mary scene in West Hollywood.
For starters, shirts are staying on despite a profuse pooling of sweat stains. Second, there's a gaggle of straight hipsters up in here, thanks in no small part to headlining DJ Juan MacLean, the DFA Records artist whose recent DJ-KiCKS mix disc is currently making waves around the polysexual-cum-lately dance world.
MacLean's latest release carries more weight than one might assume of a compilation. It puts on display the former indie rocker's obsession with 30-plus years of dance history, from '70s disco classics to '90s house gems, on to the modern blog bait produced by his DFA brethren — acts like LCD Soundsystem, Hercules & Love Affair and Hot Chip.
That panoply of four-on-the-floor music is quickly becoming the preferred sound track to L.A.'s gay-oriented parties — Mustache Mondays, Bears in Space and Cub Scout, to name a few. But what's fascinating is the unusually large influx of heterosexual patrons coming through the doors.
Unlike so many club scenes driven by mating more than music, it's the tunes that have fans fired up. The movement offers an out from the ruts currently pocking the clubbing landscape, whether the jackboot stomp of all-ages electro parties, or the pop-chart oppression of mainstream gay venues.
A quick survey of Rhonda's stage reveals just how in MacLean's sound has become, with local scenester DJs — Acid Girls, Dirty Dave, James Rockwell (87 Stick Up Kids), Turbotito (Ima Robot) — flanking the New York producer, competing for space with costumed voguers who throw shapes for the crowd when they're not bumping into the turntables.
It's a DJ's nightmare, but it's heaven for MacLean, who — bearded, with a tight yellow tee and clean-shaven dome — would make for a fantastic bear fantasy were it not for the fact that he prefers the fairer sex.
"L.A. has become my favorite city to play in the States," MacLean says a few weeks later, calling from the Dallas airport between tour stops. "Last night, for example, I had to work to get my set going, starting with something easy for everyone. When you play clubs like Rhonda, you just walk in the door and do what you want."
Says Henry Self, co-founder and resident DJ at Full Frontal Disco: "The idea was to try to pull together a couple of disparate communities within the club scene, all of which were unified by disco, but sorta separated by their demographics."
Another breeder behind the decks, Self started his monthly at Chinatown's Grand Star Jazz Club after spinning at the long-running goth-fetish night Miss Kitty's Parlour. Full Frontal began in June 2008 at downtown bar La Cita with the DJs pushing their own music-geek agenda: obscure disco sides, nu-Balearic tracks coming from Europe (Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm) and a bit of the glammy, sexy stuff brought over from Miss Kitty's.
Initial turnout was so-so, but Full Frontal kicked into overdrive when Self hung up his promoter's hat, passing the baton to gay professional organizers Mario Diaz and Ryan Heffington, who "opened their Rolodex." Shortly after moving to Grand Star, the sexually integrated crowd hit critical mass. The party even brushed up against the mainstream when Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears visited on the same night, much to the delight of celebrity bloggers and Rolling Stone, who had a field day with the club's moniker.
Self says the TMZ touch didn't hurt attendance, but that he's kept the music policy tight, knowing it's the alternative sounds that the regular customers crave, orientation aside. Plus, what DJ would give up the opportunity to spin his rare disco LPs — collected from Kansas City thrift stores when Self was a teen — to a packed house of appreciative fans?
"I love pop music, all that crappy Top 40 club stuff," Self admits. "But a lot of people are now seeking out disco, and have zero interest in hearing Lady Gaga and P. Diddy remixes. If you want to hear that, you go to the West Hollywood establishments."
The genesis of this city's polysexual disco is hard to pinpoint, but a few things are agreed upon. First, the scene is decidedly the product of the Eastside and downtown, where all of the aforementioned nights take place.
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