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Nightlife

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR BAND’S NAME

Akbar. Open only since New Year’s Eve 1996, this friendly enclave with Moorish décor and a jukebox full of local faves (Extra Fancy, Kristian Hoffman, Glue — plus cool "oldies" like Bowie, Siouxsie, Blondie, etc.) has fast become a Silver Lake institution. The bartenders are friendly and pour mean libations — check out their blue margaritas. The place is always packed with cute young folks — from club trash to Eurotrash, alternative rockers, drag queens, entertainment-industry types, babeliscious boys and girls with shaved heads and tattoos. Happy hour is from 6 to 8 p.m. every night, with dollar-off drinks, but every hour in here seems to be happy. Akbar has a "drink of the month" and also sponsors events, such as its Day at the Races (a bus to Santa Anita). Although it seems to be the hot bar of the moment in the Silver Lake scene (on one night, we spotted El Vez, Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright, Hole’s Melissa Auf Der Mauer, Jay Johnston, David Cross and members of the cast of Heliotrope Lane 90026 ), this place is cool enough to weather any trendiness, because there’s no "hipper-than-thou" attitude or bogus door policy. You probably really could spend 1,001 nights here — there’s never a dull moment! 4356 Sunset Blvd.; (213) 665-6810 . (Pleasant Gehman)

THE VELVETEEN TOUCH OF A DANDY GOTHIC TONE

Opium Den. Nothing like a good ol’ gritty, dingy Hollywood club, a place you can wander into, order yourself a bottle of American swill and check out a little-known band playing its collective heart out. Like the Opium Den. Now there’s a place to hang your skull cap. In the space once filled by Hollywood’s late, great Gaslight, the 2-year-old Opium Den doesn’t just retain its predecessor’s muy casual, cavelike vibe — it builds on it. There’s now velvety color and gothic tones spread warmly throughout; plus someone got smart and did a bit of demo work on a wall and expanded the stage — finally, you can see the band! But the highlight, for me, is the Far Eastern–statue thingy on the back counter of the bar. You know the kind — busty, shiny and curvaceous, with enough arms to handle a 12-pack? (Hindu? Buddhist? Moonie?) The totem watches over the room, looking out for folks who have come in from the mean streets in search of the next saving grace of rock & roll. 1605½ N. Ivar Ave., Hollywood; (213) 466-7800. (Neal Weiss)

BEST ORGAN BAR ON A PAR-3 GOLF COURSE

Billingsley’s. Owner Drew Billingsley’s mother, Barbara, may have played June Cleaver on television, but there are better reasons than a brush with "The Beav" to visit Billingsley’s restaurant and lounge. Reminiscent of a ’60s-era ski chalet with its wood paneling and cathedral ceiling, Billingsley’s also sports glass walls overlooking the Van Nuys golf course. It doesn’t get much better than feasting on meat and martinis while watching some poor duffer fight his way out of a sand trap. But the crowning jewel of the place is organist Graydon Wayne, who actually did some time with the legendary music group Three Suns before becoming the house lounge act some 17 years ago. 6550 Odessa Ave., Van Nuys; (818) 785-7457. (Joe Sehee)

BEST LATE-NIGHT CHESS

Chess at 5th Street Dick’s. It isn’t easy being a chess junkie, especially when you’re suddenly smitten with insomnia and need a late-night fix. Of course, there’s always that well-known doughnut shop in the Silver Lake area, but for variety and atmosphere, you can’t beat this jazz club that’s right in the heart of Leimert Park. Tables and chairs are set up outside, and there are always players hanging around ready to match wits over the board. Java and pastries are available at the counter, and there’s music to soothe the pain of that humiliating defeat. 3347½ W. 43rd Place, Leimert Park; (213) 296-3970. (Lovell Estell III)

BEST STRIP BAR

Argyle Patio Bar. I don’t know about you, but standing ass-to-ass with a bunch of self-involved beautiful people at an overglorified, guest-list-only-policy Sunset Strip bar (see "The Big White Ride") is not my idea of cool. I mean, with your designer martinis and bootlegged Cuban cigars, thinking that because you’re in the same room as some pretty-boy actors you’re somehow more important — get over yourself. Walk away from the Sky Bar (I know, it takes some free thinking and a little self-esteem — maybe your therapist can help) and head on down the street to the Argyle. Have a seat on the back patio, overlooking the pool and the twinkling lights of the L.A. basin. You’ll be surrounded by the hotel’s Deco beauty, illuminated by the most happening metal-palm-tree lamps around. You’ll have room to stretch out, feel cosmopolitan, drink Cosmopolitans, and actually be in a position to have meaningful conversations with your friends — maybe your therapist can help. 8358 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; (213) 654-7100 . (Neal Weiss)

 

PEPPIEST COMBO WEST OF ENCINO

Barbata’s. First opened in 1957, Barbata’s is one of a handful of nightspots still remaining from the days when Ventura Boulevard was considered the "Vegas of the Valley." Seventy-two-year-old owner Chuck Barbata not only runs a great place for dining and drinking, he also fronts the peppiest combo west of Encino, featuring Lawrence Welk’s former accordionist Kenny Kotswicz every weekend night. You gotta love a lounge that hasn’t taken down its Christmas lights since the ’70s and features a stage with Mouseketeer-inspired mobiles of the band members hovering over their appropriate heads. 20001 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; (818) 340-5914. (Joe Sehee)

BEST NEW CLUB FOR YOU TO RUIN NOW

CIA (California Institute of Abnorm al arts). This clever club in NoHo, with a secret entrance (well, a slip-in-through-the-side entrance) is probably the most interesting performance space since Brendan Mullen’s original Masque. Proprietor Carl Crew has collected a shitload of wacky props from his years as a moviemaker and an actor (best remembered for his sensitive portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer). Dedicated to freaky performance art, theater, voodoo, leftover prop art, exotica and erotica, Crew and his partner, Robert Ferguson, have created a performance space that is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride on a warm San Francisco night with a hippie-blue Hale-Bopp comet motif. There are passageways leading nowhere and weird human heads coming out of the walls — like haunted mansions at cheap carnivals, but with disco lights. There is an outdoor patio with overhanging trees decorated with pleasant blue lights, which serves as a screening and performance area for independent films and bands such as the Kinman brothers’ Cowboy Nation and R. Marshall, the kooky house musician who plays the theremin. Terry Dorn of ShooFly and Tequila Mockingbird take turns booking the club with a definitely eclectic, arty policy. Beer, wine and a surprisingly good selection of champagnes are served. 11334 Burbank Blvd., N. Hollywood; (818) 313-0479 . (Mitch Handsone)

VOMITS AT THE ONRAMP?

Guzzles at the Detour. The brainchild of party-boys-about-town John Padgett and Extra Fancy’s D.A. Foster, Guzzles (whose motto is "Cheap drinks and cheap people") is fun and unpredictable — what else could you say about a club that features live alternative music in a bar normally patronized by aging leather queens? DJ-hosts Foster and Padgett play the cream of the crop of bad pop music from the ’70s and ’80s (beyond Abba and Culture Club — think Runaways, T. Rex or even "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner) and also have nonstop scandalous videos running: the infamous Go-Go’s après-show tape, where the band is torturing a Quaalude-overwhelmed roadie; Suzi Quatro on Happy Days ; Iggy on The Dinah Shore Show . . . get the picture? The drinks are low-priced, potently mixed and served in oversize beer steins. Frighteningly good, not-so-clean fun. Every other Tues. (usually), 1087 Manzanita St., Silver Lake; (213) 661-9956 . (Pleasant Gehman)

BEST PLACE TO MEET A REGULAR GUY IN THE VALLEY

Iceoplex. I had a debate with someone over what "regular guy" means. He said a regular guy is someone who is masculine and has a full-time job. I said it’s someone able to hang out at a bar and have a good conversation with any obliging sort without seeming like a psychopath. Whatever your definition of a regular guy is, Iceoplex has ’em. Loads of ’em. They either play hockey or love hockey or both. Some may have mullets, but many, if a little lacking in fashion sense, are cute and sweet. Iceoplex is an entertainment complex that offers recreational skating, as well as hockey and figure-skating programs. The L.A. Kings practice here. And so do regular guys. 8345 Hayvenhurst Place, North Hills; (818) 893-1784. (Renée Simone)

BEST COFFEEHOUSE IN THE GUITAR DISTRICT

Grounds Zero. The irresistible thing about this place is its laid-back, casbahlike atmosphere. Walk in, early or late, stretch out on one of two old sofas, and enjoy coffee, tea, sandwiches or pastries, none of which is pricy. Creaky wooden tables, along with some stunning wood-and-steel chairs, make it comfortable for a sit-down with your choice of reading materials, chess, backgammon or cards. There’s a state-of-the-art jukebox, a computer and a killer sound-system for the live bands that gig there regularly. And parking’s no hassle, because of a back lot. 7554 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (213) 874-2261. (Lovell Estell III)

BEST LESBURBIAN NEIGHBORHOOD BAR

Rumors. This is the most no-bullshit bar in the San Fernando Valley. It has a primarily lesbian clientele, but what the regulars all have in common is an attitude that’s long on soul and short on pretense. Now in its 14th year, Rumors has all the usual neighborhood-bar accouterments (cold beer, pool tables, weekends DJs), plus Thursday-night jam sessions — bring your ax, sticks or pipes. A splendid time is guaranteed for all (unless you’re an uptight redneck jack-off). Gay, straight or still trying to figure it out, you’ll find this neighborhood joint a welcome change from the uptight bars on the other side of the hill. 10622 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood; (818) 506-9651. (Renée Simone)

 

BEST DANCE CLUB FOR UNIT SWINGERS

Magic Wednesdays. When I first discovered the rave scene back in the early ’90s, it was like entering a secret, supersonic, hedonistic society where the pounding music took me to another realm, and the people I met were my whistle-blowing, Dr.-Seuss-hat-wearing brothers and sisters. Well, the heyday of the true underground dance party may be over, but for more than two years now, one weekly dance club has maintained the whimsical, Wonder land-like, youthful energy of those early days: Magic Wednesdays. With a consistently packed, laser-charged main room (including a black-light-tinted vendor area with candy, toys and homemade tapes), plus a more laid-back, experimental drum-’n’-bass back room (complete with old Atari video games), Magic Wednesdays is one of the city’s definitive spots to see new live acts on the dance-music scene. Record-buying kids and music-company execs alike frequent the club in packs. Recognizing the possibilities of this contradiction, club creators Eli Star and Kay and Jason Jay have managed to snag some of our favorite acts from the electronic genre, including Electric Skychurch, Rabbit in the Moon, Crystal Method and Loop Guru, as well as amazing turntable talent. And while it’s a predominantly young crowd, that’s what makes the place a refreshing escape from the pretentious, meat-market-ish, cooler-than-thou vibe we tend to encounter at many L.A. nightspots these days. Wednesdays at the World, 7070 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (310) 358-5975. (Lina Lecaro)

DRINK OR SWIM

King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant and Nautical Museum. Finally, a museum where you can drink! On your first entrance, you simply have to gawk at this jaw-dropping sprawl of old firearms, dive-bombing model planes, boats, bells and uniformed mannequins. Neptune’s owner and 72-year-old veteran of the WWII Pacific Theater, Dick Harrison, has been accumulating memorabilia since he opened the place 28 years ago, claiming that his wife "made me do it because she didn’t want it in the house." Of the large stuffed rodent gracing the bar, Harrison wryly observes, "It’s a beaver. Every bar should have a beaver, don’t you think?" Salty wit is omnipresent and unabashed, with the house motto emblazoned on Harrison’s business card: "Better to be lost on a ship at sea than locked in the house with an angry wife," which he insists is just "a nice hint to take the missus out to dinner." Dinners are cheap and tasty, with buccaneer-size slabs of steak around $10. Big-band videos supply a dining ambiance and entice drinkers to buy one more round for Victory at Sea. Wednesday through Saturday there is live music of another kind: "The kind the young people listen to," Harrison says, "whatever you want to call that." 17115 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach; (562) 592-4878 . (Reverend Al Cacophony)

BEST HAUNTED COFFEEHOUSE

All Star Theater Café and Speakeasy. This dark and cozy cafe is part of the historic Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel, home to a slew of Hollywood luminaries —- some of whom just won’t leave. Just ask owner and proprietor David "Max" Fisher, who witnessed the wing of a ceiling fan fly across the room when an apparition of Valentino appeared before the cash register. Formerly the hotel bar, the All Star is lavished with antique couches, armchairs and two genuine Liberace chandeliers. Challenge a friend to a game of chess, checkers or poker; sip a cappuccino and nibble on a slice of cheesecake; play pool. Or check out the dazzling merchandise: costume jewelry, evening gowns, coats, hats and gloves. Be sure to join Max for his annual Houdini séance on Oct. 30. 1714 N. Ivar Ave., Hollywood; (213) 962-8898 . (Mary Anne Modina)

BEST CELL PHONE– FREE SCREENINGS

Hollywood Underground Film Night. While it may be difficult for those Weekly readers who toil in the Tinseltown dream factory to believe this, there are actually people who live in Los Angeles who make motion pictures because they think of them as art and don’t give a flying Eisner if they make money . Now that you Geffens, gaffers and gofers have gotten over the initial shock of this heresy, I’ll tell ya that the ringleaders of this movement are the Hollywood SubCinema Conspiracy, a cabal of edgy subversives led by animator Eric Brummer, who’ve been holding monthly screenings of underground films at revolving locations. The flicks range from documentaries (Jeff Krulik’s Heavy Metal Parking Lot , featuring live-action Beavises outside a Judas Priest concert) to animation (Tony Nittoli’s Junky , in which a parrot joneses for crackers) to feminist slasher (Sarah Jacobson’s I Was a Teenage Serial Killer ) to TV movie-of-the-week as directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini (Douglas Buck’s Cutting Moments ). While these films generously depict genitals and entrails, they more importantly ignore the mainstream’s addiction to slick, preferring to present low-tech as a valid aesthetic and political statement. Or as I once cogently reacted when some tree stump babbled on about Steven Spielberg’s cinematic prowess: "FUCK HOLLYWOOD!" Revolving locations; (213) 882-4991 . (Michael Simmons)


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