I guess I should be flattered that, after my feature story about Koreatown nightlife in the Los Angeles Times in 2002, and a subsequent story about policing K-Town nightlife in L.A. CityBeat last year, the Weekly has finally discovered the area.
Its just that Cracking the Clubbing Code [February 6-12], by Deborah Vankin, was filled with stereotypes, innuendo, urban myth and straight-up factual errors. It was as if the Weekly parachuted into an exotic, foreign land and found that the natives liked to party too.
The article says Le Privé, which actually underwent a name change, is the largest nightclub not just in Koreatown but in all of Los Angeles and goes on to quote a dubious 1,500 capacity (Id check with the fire department on that). In any case, its not even close to being the largest nightclub in Koreatown or L.A. Just a block away is the Wiltern Theater capacity 2,200. Circus Disco in Hollywood has a fire department-verified capacity of 1,800.
The article quotes the old but long-ago debunked standby that
K-Town is the largest Korean community in the world outside of Seoul. Wrong. Look into a place called Pyongyang, for starters.
Theres a complicated, word-of-mouth system for getting into nightclubs. Really? Its all so mysto. In my years of hanging out in Koreatown, I have yet to encounter this exotic system. Is there a secret handshake?
In some places the unfiltered rice wine, soju, flows until 5 a.m. Name them.
When the Sunset Strip quiets down and West Hollywood and Silver Lake partiers slog back to their bungalows and Chi Dynasty leftovers, Koreatown is just heating up. At 2 a.m. Koreatown is definitely cooling down, just like every place in California.
A teaspoon of Manhattan west of downtown. Hmm. I made the Manhattan comparison in my Times piece. Hmm.
Perhaps the last territory in the city where the party goes on 24/7. I didnt read about any 24-hour parties in the piece. There was some eating after 2 a.m. but, as exotic as that might seem, have you ever seen a Hollywood Dennys at 2 a.m.? People. Eating.
Le Privé would be a good place to start Nicolas Cage, who frequents the club, apparently thinks so. As far as I can tell the Nicolas CagefrequentsK-Town rumor is the biggest urban myth in the area. Although Ive heard it many times, and although I have substantial and knowledgeable Koreatown friends and sources, I could not find anyone with first-hand accounts of Cages alleged K-Town appearances. (Its always, oh yeah, my friend saw him there last week. Always last week.) So in writing about the area, I did what they teach you to do in j-school and only included actual verifiable facts.
[With] Korean parents, its all about education. From the time [the kids] pick up a pen its books, studying, PSATs, SATs . . . they dont know how to approach a girl. The whole booking thing, its all just a tool to break down inhibitions. I thought this piece was about Koreatown after dark. Even if to air them out, this article covers every stereotype of Asian-Americans, except the one about the men having small penises.
. . . having small penises. Oops. I was wrong. Forgive me.
Romeo and his fellow waiters, Im told, can make into the six figures at Le Privé. Who said? The IRS wants to know.
Blink is easy to miss from the street. It opened six months ago and is now the hottest bar in K-Town. Blink was the hottest bar in K-Town back before anyone knew who Howard Dean was. Ever heard of a place called Orchid?
K-Town, Im told, consumes more whiskey than any other area in Southern California. More whiskey than San Diegos Gaslamp Quarter? More than Old Town Pasadena?
She giggles self-consciously, covers her mouth with her hand, pushes her hair behind her ear. Aw, how cute. Does she speakie Engrish too?
An exclusive underground host bar where they make like $10,000 a month. Give me a break.
Jeez, this writer gets told a lot of things, but hardly produces anyone with a name to back up her claims. By the way, Im better looking than Nicolas Cage, Im told.
Vankin responds: I guess I should feel flattered by Dennis Romeros eagerness to lump his 13-month-old extended Los Angeles Times Calendar blurb with my recent 7,000-word feature on Koreatown nightlife. Kidding aside, his diatribe is filled with statements that suggest he didnt read this article all that carefully.
What Romero cites as proliferating stereotypes are direct quotes from Korean kids exasperated over the medias misrepresentation of Asian people included specifically to give the kids space to debunk those stereotypes. Romero fails to see why the social and political concerns of clubbers were included in the article. Sorry, Dennis, theres more to Koreatown nightlife than Crown Royal and Eminem. The background static of heated public debate is an integral part of nightlife in K-Town and anywhere else.
Romero is correct in pointing out that Circus Disco Nightclub is in fact larger than Le Privé; but according to the Los Angles Fire Department, Le Privé is indeed the largest nightclub in Koreatown second largest in the city of Los Angeles. My exploration of the area included weeks of immersion and interviews with close to 50 people; nearly all of Romeros quibbles are with my own first-hand observational reports. But for harder information such as whiskey consumption, I had three sources, including a representative from a top national liquor importer.
As an African-American female who has been going to Korean and other Asian nightclubs for over 10 years, it was good to finally see in black and white what actually goes on in
K-Town. Whenever I tell my non-Asian friends about the experiences Ive had going to these clubs, they dont believe me. Now I can show them this article.
I actually liked being booked; it takes some of the pressure off being hounded like one would in the normal club scene. Its a great way to get free drinks and meet good-looking men. Ive even gone to the female version of host bars.
I had so looked forward to reading Alan Richs review of Berliozs Symphonie Fantastique [A Lot of Night Music: If This Be Madness, February 612]. I thought I had finally found a superb music critic for L.A. and instead he too has fallen under the sticky spell of Hollywood. The performance of this masterwork by the Philharmonic was an abomination an insult to Berlioz and, if its possible, an insult to L.A. concert-goers who cant abide serious music without flying flutes, sky-gazing mock-musicians and fluttering images on bedsheets to keep them awake.
And Esa-Pekka? Mr. Rich must be kidding when he says the surging, marvelously colored Fantastique that has now become one of Salonens great properties. The colors were blurred, the surging commonplace. Grand bells and glorious volume do not make Berlioz. Salonen has no sense of French music, let alone any understanding of Berliozs genius. For shame!
Angela C. Mankiewicz
Your headline [Who Will Beat Bush?, January 2329] is presumptive. Are you openly biased or unwittingly biased or mostly just pandering to readership?
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A story on John Kerry last week [The Campaign Doctor, February 1319] misidentified the campaign affiliation of Elizabeth Birch. She works for Howard Deans campaign.
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