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Most Fabulous Dance Club Masquerading as a Tough-Guy Dive

It’s Sunday night outside a bar called The Study, and a large man with a teardrop tattoo is eyeing me suspiciously. Sunk 20 yards off Western in the middle of a bleak parking lot, The Study has all the makings of a great dive bar: dilapidated front; worn-down, ’70s-style sign; and, as I’m quickly discovering from taking in the characters milling around outside, surly-looking clientele. It looks like the kind of place where you’re wise to avoid eye contact at all costs and talk to your beer when you get lonely.

As I walk past Teardrop and reach the front entrance, a scrappy-looking guy with braids and a black do-rag informs me in a not-so-subtle “get the fuck out of here” tone, “It’s not open yet.” Behind him, two men, big enough to be 50 Cent’s bodyguards, study me with poker faces.

Maybe I’ll come back a little later.

I turn around to head out when I notice Teardrop has been joined by a tough-looking 20-something in a Scarface jacket — and they’re talking rather closely. Very closely, in fact. Behind them, in the distance, I spot a DVD case lying abandoned on the ground in the back corner of the tile. I walk over to take a look. Shemale Sluts II. Something curious is going on here, and I vow to return to investigate. I’m not disappointed when I do — surprised, but not disappointed.

Cozy and sensual, with a general purplish hue and a DJ spinning Top 40 hip-hop, The Study isn’t a dive at all — it’s . . . fabulous. Plush padded benches line the back wall, Madonna rests next to Notorious B.I.G. on the jukebox, and a dozen or so men are crowded together on a dark dance floor. As Hurricane Chris’ “A Bay Bay” begins to bump from the speakers, Scarface, drink in hand at the bar in the center of the cavernous room, suddenly breaks out into the most flamboyant crip-walk I’ve ever seen, before heading off to join his boys on the dance floor. Do-rag is already there, dancing closely with one of the men who was staring me down only minutes before. Everyone I now see is smiling, free of the posturing that saturated the parking lot.

I stroll up to the spot just vacated by Scarface to order a drink and chat up the bartender for info. She indulges me in about two minutes of conversation before asking: “You know this is a gay club, right?”

“I guess I do,” I reply, settling into my spot at the bar.

1723 N. Western Ave., Hlywd., (323) 464-9551.