The fourth installment of Robert Vargas' Red Zebra party last Thursday was a slush of local tribes and vibes that not only brought the creative zest of Downtown Artwalk (where Vargas' street portraiture has become one of the most popular attractions) into a swanky speakeasy-style club environment, but it also tweaked and twisted it all together like only an organically grown artistic endeavor can. A futuristic pop art fashion show, comedy, live art, acrobatic contortionists and a hoppin' house band were all showcased inside a refurbished bank vault.
The fashion came courtesy of outrageous clubber/designer Ernie Omega, whom we've come to know and love on the dance scene for his and his BF Walki Talki's wild ensembles and entourage (the Omega Collektiv). Not surprisingly the show was a vampy visual feast, with models walking the runway (straight out of a circular vault door) in disco ball–mirrored jumpsuits, han-printed unitards and other bod-acious frocks. Vargas added his signature touch for a few pieces: live painting of the models' portraits as they reached the end of the runway, as well as paint applied directly to the catwalk crawlers' clothes.
Zebra is held at the Crocker Club, a subterranean bar located below an old bank building that opened last year on Spring and 6th streets. Though partying amidst shiny steel vaults sounded pretty snazzy, we'd never been, mainly because we'd heard the dress code and door 'tude made for a "wacks and $lacks"–only type crowd. Apparently that's changed recently, and it's likely to see a full metamorphosis now that Vargas — a longtime downtown resident who used to be the talent buyer for the Conga Room — has been named the venue's new booking director. He utilizes the sexy space to full effect on his monthly Thursdays, with comedy warming up the backroom — called Ghost Bar — early, peep show–like model displays in the old cubicles later and jazzy-soul jam band the Makers (known for their Tuesday residency at 7 Grand) rocking the small stage and dance floor all night.
Like the area's loft parties of yore, Zebra has a spontaneous zoo feel, but there is always a method behind the extra-sensory madness. Vargas' intentional juxtaposition of atmosphere and artistic expression is just one of the things that makes this party unique. The free admission is another. And it's just the beginning: Next month, Omega will host the back room, along with a new set of creatives filling in the night's usual components (runway show, live art, music). Seen last Thursday: the House of Extravaganza vogueing crew (opening up the show), DJ Juicy Jay (Fetish Nation), "L.A. Beastly" boy Jim Marquez (filming a new web-TV show about L.A.'s underground) and smoldering drag performer Miss Barbie Q.
Barbie and some of our favorite Eastside tranimals are helping to introduce another DTLA venue to new crowds: Jalisco Bar on Main Street. The Latino gay grotto is host to a couple wild gatherings that will soon enough see a sprinkling of (queer friendly) gringos and real gals mixin' in: Gay Ranchero night, featuring drag shows (this Thursday, with BBQ), and Juke Joint Circle Jerk, every Friday.
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JJCJ is the brainchild of Alice Cunt! and Leopold Nunan (formerly Club Drrrama!!) and they're calling it "a horny hullabaloo of hysterical hedonism." With these two at the helm (and turning in live performances) we'd expect nothing less. The sound-track setup seems intriguing too: Each week "non-DJs" (from queens and go-go dancers to local personalities) spin whatever strikes their fancy for one hour each. This Friday they've got Nacho Nava (Mustache Mondays), Fade-Dra Phey and Dustin Anderson on the "nondecks." Circle it.
GONNA MAKE YOU SWEAT
West Hollywood might seem a world away from downtown, but an equally lively and loose shindig brought us there last Friday. Promoter extraordinaire (Bang!, Beat It, Dance, Tigerheat) — and longtime Nightranger pal — Jason Lavitt celebrated his b-day like only he could: two cakes, endless bubbly and a dance floor full of pretty thangs doing the Macarena (led by superstar drag diva Ingenue) in his honor. The bash was at his '90s-themed club As If (formerly at Boardners), which now takes over the front bar and small dance floor at The Factory, where the club PopStarz has been been holding fort forever. Hard to think of that decade's music as "retro" for some of us, but for millennials, it is. And while there's some fun fluff to dance to (Dee-Lite, No Doubt and C&C Music Factory) be prepared for a hefty helping of boy bands (Backstreet Boys, Marky Mark) and one-hit R&B babe wonders (anybody remember SWV or Dream?).
The hap should be insane this week, what with GLBT Pride Weekend upon us. In that spirit, we conclude this column with some recommended gay-friendly raging, much of it brand new. Thursday, Rusty Updegraff (Beige) and Billy Burgess (Society) kick off their sure to be stylish — but not stuffy — "bourgeois discothèque," Coquette at Coco Deville/STK. Sat., DJ Paul V's dance party at the Echoplex known as Spunk offers the G-80s, "hot homo dudes playing '80s new wave." Bring on the guyliner. On Saturday, Lavitt and his Tigerheat pack debut another weekly, called Monster at Eleven Nightclub. It's not goth, it's pop, and Ray Rhodes and Howie T will spin the biggest "monster hits" from all eras. And finally, the trashy flashback of Solid Gold (the latest in Jer Ber Jones' Telekinesis series at the Cavern Club) is not to be missed on Friday through Sunday, with the requisite SG dancers, Josie Cotton singing live, Jones as a draggy Dionne Warwick, and Wayland Flowers and Madame (melted?!). Let the countdown begin. ...