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Up in Smoke

Photo by Nancy Paterra

The velvet rope has been unhooked for the last time at the OPIUM DEN, which was at the forefront of the Tinseltown nightlife revival — trendy bars and clubs have been springing up like mushrooms in a rain-soaked cow pasture for the past few years. The back-alley locale (under various monikers) has been host to countless wild nights of delish debauchery since it started in 1948: Known as the Sewers of Paris in the ’60s, it was one of the first openly gay bars in town; Lenny Bruce once owned it; the Doors played there; and Iron Butterfly lived upstairs (in what later became the pool-table area) during the creation of that stoner classic, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” For the past 12 years — during which the spot was first known as the Gaslight, then Cosmo and finally the Opium Den — co-owners JOSH WELLS, BRUCE PERDEW, CHARLIE McINTOSH and, for a time, SOLOMON MONSOOR oversaw fashion shows, fag bashes and rock & roll revelry, with performances by bands such as Jane’s Addiction, 311, X and No Doubt shaking the battered brick walls. But now it will be a much younger crowd — even by H-wood standards — frequenting the space, which is being taken over by the California Youth Theater after the landlord, the next-door Ivar Theater, opted not to renew the lease. When it came time for the final curtain, the crowd was as thin as an aging trendoid’s hair. Perdew, McIntosh and Wells held court with a handful of loyal nightlifers, including stylist ELLIOTT SIEGEL, designer-to-the-stars MICHAEL SCHMIDT, production designer REGINA O’BRIEN, designer TAWNY FEATHERSTON, Club Cherry’s BRYAN RABIN and actor STEVEN PRICE. The absence of the rest of the Den’s formerly fabulous friends smelled slightly of rats fleeing a sinking ship. Beauty Bar beware!

—J.V. McAuley

How Green Was My Inland Empire, Dude

After a long summer of mega–music festivals, CYPRESS HILL’s fourth annual SMOKEOUT at BLOCKBUSTER PAVILION was somewhat of a burnout. Still, the gathering offered more varied performers and friendlier crowds than the rest, although the stereotype of potheads as peaceniks was dispeled by the abundance of “Kill Osama bin Laden” tees being worn. AFROMAN was a no-show (hmm, do ya think it’s “because he got too high?”), as were O.G. punkers SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, leading many to wonder if their notoriously capricious leader, MIKE MUIR, might have been a little bit unhappy with the group’s not-so-hot slot in the schedule. The highly anticipated “4:20 surprise guest” (420 is the police code for marijuana smoking in progress) was, perhaps not surprisingly, late, and turned out to be Cypress’ B-REAL jumping on the aggro rap-metal bandwagon with a new project that featured members of FEAR FACTORY and DEFTONES, both of which played later in the eve. The second stage offered raucous up-and-comers such as the KOTTONMOUTH KINGS and the rave-ish techno tent had biggie DJs RICHARD HUMPTY VISSION and ARMAND VAN HELDEN, but it was the main stage and VIP side area that attracted the most colorful crowds — including TOMMY LEE, EVERLAST and Linkin Park’s CHESTER BENNINGTON — not to mention pungent clouds, especially when the Hill brought a bong onstage. Needless to say, every fast-food drive-thru from San Berdoo to L.A. was mobbed after the show.

—Lina Lecaro

Motor City Madness

Scenesters who were disappointed when trash-blues phenomenon the White Stripes were bumped from an eagerly awaited appearance last week on David Letterman (Dave ran out of time when the program’s only other guest, news cheerleader Cokie Roberts, babbled on excessively about how she’d once written an essay in grade school about Afghanistan) packed SPACELAND for the L.A. debut of another rising Motor City combo, THE DETROIT COBRAS, on a bill with Sympathy for the Record Industry label mates THE LISA MARR EXPERIMENT and THE RAPTURE. Muffs bassist RONNIE BARNETT, the Humpers’ BILLY BURKS and SCOTT “Deluxe” DRAKE, EMA-3’s FRED MANCHENTO, Sympathy mogul LONG GONE JOHN, and “the Drew and Karie show” (i.e., the Dagons’ DREW KOWALSKI and KARIE JACOBSON) were among the madding crowd spotted grooving to the Cobras’ insidiously catchy renditions of R&B and soul-pop standards “I’ll Keep Holding On” and Otis Redding’s “Shout Bama Lama.” The band’s secret weapon is trailer-park diva RACHAEL NAGY, who, despite a rough sound mix and a sore throat, came off like an unholy cross between Dusty Springfield and Little Eva. Of course, Little Eva never said things like “You’re going to get your fucking spine ripped out through your fucking asshole if you don’t shut the fuck up,” as Nagy (pictured) warned a heckler, only half kidding. She added, “Like we need to be reminded that Detroit sucks!”

—Falling James


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