View more photos in Lina Lecaro's "Year in Nightranger 2009" slideshow.
Less moolah didn’t equal less ooh-L.A. after dark in 2009. In fact, looking back, it might have been our busiest year ever. But what was the most noteworthy and ultimately defining stuff and what was forgettable fluff? It’s that time again, folks, when Nightranger combs through the bold names, hot (and not) clubs, comings and goings, breakups and bonds forged in nightlife for a look back. Read on to the relive the magic and the mayhem.
FLESH FOR FANTASY
Maybe he hasn’t lived up to the hype as a prez (yet), but Obama’s Inauguration definitely didn’t disappoint on the party circuit, and you didn’t even have to go to D.C. Here in L.A., a multitude of mixers started the year on a hopeful, even hedonistic note, but Mutaytor’s Art of Change Ball at the Mayan in January not only had the highest spirits, but it also set a bar for celebratory spectacle that only one other crew (not surprisingly, featuring Mutaytor members) could come close to: Lucent Dossier. The fantastical vaudeville performance art troupe was entrancing all over the city last year: an engagement at Mystic at Electric Lodge in Venice, and snakelike lines for residencies at The Edison in the beginning of the year and H-Wood the end, not to mention dramatic and drenching shows in the middle of Coachella, which rivaled the big stage headliners.
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SEASON OF THE BITCH
H-Wood (formerly the Stork) was the site of our favorite dance party this year, the glam-rock orgy called Diamond Dogs, which marked the return of events maven Bryan Rabin to the clubs. Like (his ’90s) club Cherry, all grown up, this raunchy yet sophisticated rager not only brought rock back to the dance floor, but it also attracted a potpourri of pretty things young and old, gay and straight, famous and simply fabulous. Well, at least until a creative-differences scrap between Rabin and the co-promoters saw DD lose its bite, and led to its ultimate demise. It may have had a short reign, but Dogs — which we co-hosted along with several other familiar creatures of the night — was a rare gem of a gathering that won’t soon be forgotten.
Behind-the-scenes contention and fallouts are the norm in nightlife (big personalities = big disagreements). Victor Rodriguez and Rusty Updegraff dissolved the legendary gay grind Beige at Falcon over divergence about music, but both ended up doing just fine on their own last year, Updegraff co-hosting Mr. Black at Bardot and Rodriguez offering biggie DJ appearances (lots of DFA-ers) and drag queen performances with Shits & Giggles at 740, currently at the Monte Cristo. A similarly flamboyant crowd flocked to Drrrama!! at the Standard in Hollywood, but as we reported recently, a beef between its hosts led to a drrramatic climax, at least for the partnership. Maybe the most significant breakup of the year, at least in terms of nightlife, involved some major power players: events impresario Brent Bolthouse and SBE’s Sam Nazarian. The pair split in September, and while the reasons behind were kept hush-hush, both have kept busy, Bolthouse with bashes for its corporate clients (and more surprisingly, taking on role of publisher for 944 Magazine) and SBE opening up new velvet-roped havens such as MI-6 on Santa Monica Boulevard, and readying other conspicuous caverns: Hyde at Staples Center, and revamped Hollywood hubs Halo and Nacional.
Hollywood will always need a new hot thing, even if it’s really just an old thing with a fancy face-lift. Last year the boulevard saw two notable nightclub additions, both striving to be a home away from home for celebs, (the few) clubsters who could still afford bottle service, and the bridge-and-tunnelesque diehards willing to wait in line for an hour to party with them. MyHouse turned The Gate into a bachelor pad–style domicile, complete with bed, living room–style main room, hot tub, and waitresses dressed only in a morning after–evoking white man’s shirt, while Playhouse, which transformed the former Fox Theatre, went a circusy route, overloading the senses with a crazy lightshow, décor and cirque performers doubling as tenders and waiters — more Vegas vacation than nesting ground. We’re up for scaling swanky dens of the moment (before they lose that new-club smell, anyway), but more eccentric events spaces took the cake — and ate it, too — for us last year. Hollywood Forever Cemetery continued to provide no rest for the wicked with music and film on the grounds and dance parties in the Masonic Lodge, while Space 15 Twenty defied its Urban Outfitters ties and odd locale to host some doozies. HM 157 in Angeleno Heights boasted some brilliant art and music mashes, as did the Montalban Theatre and the Eagle Rock Center for the arts. But it was the Alvarado Party House in Echo Park (which is all we’ll spill about its location here) that ruled L.A. after dark and especially after hours. For those in the know, this one was dancing-till-daylight dynamite, especially when the Solid Gold crew or Hang the DJs’ Scarlett Casanova threw it down there. Need a disco nap just thinking about it.
POPPED OUR CORK
Just about out of space, but so many scenesters and spots made ’09 in L.A. shine, Nightranger’s decided to leave you with something new this year, a roll call of those who made our ranging so rocking this past year (for full scoop on most of ’em, read our past ’09 columns online at laweekly.com/columns/view/27366). Thanks to Bardot, The Roxy, The Echo/Plex, Ghetto Gloss, Jer Ber Jones, Ryan Heffington, Squeaky & Fade-dra, Barbie-Q, Phyliss Navidad, Jean Natalia, Lance Rock, Nacho Biz, Mario Diaz, Jason Lavitt, Apollo Staar, Rich Royal, Daisy O’Dell, Adam 12, Keith Wilson, Guns n’ Bombs, Peanut Butter Wolf, The Droog Collective, Dublab, Dancism, ECTwins, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Chelsea Girls, Love Grenades, Shiny Toy Guns, The Start, Nico Stai, Henry Clay People, Street Drum Corps, Kate Crash, Silversun Pickups. And fond farewells for World of Wonder Gallery, The Rootdown, Firecracker, Society, The Key Club, Tiny’s, The Blacklite, Echo Park block parties (Show Pony and Han Cholo), Banana Split Sundaes & DJ AM, Lux Interior, John Leech and Brendan Mullen.