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.

It’s 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 (I’d check with the fire department on that). In any case, it’s 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.

There’s “a complicated, word-of-mouth system for getting into nightclubs.” Really? It’s 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 didn’t 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 Denny’s 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 Cage–frequents–K-Town rumor is the biggest urban myth in the area. Although I’ve 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 Cage’s alleged K-Town appearances. (It’s 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, it’s all about education. From the time [the kids] pick up a pen it’s books, studying, PSATs, SATs . . . they don’t know how to approach a girl. The whole booking thing, it’s 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, I’m 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, I’m told, consumes more whiskey than any other area in Southern California.” More whiskey than San Diego’s 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, I’m better looking than Nicolas Cage, I’m told.

—Dennis Romero


Vankin responds: I guess
I should feel flattered by Dennis Romero’s 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 didn’t read this article all that carefully.

What Romero cites as proliferating stereotypes are direct quotes from Korean kids exasperated over the media’s 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, there’s 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 Romero’s 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 I’ve had going to these clubs, they don’t 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. It’s a great way to get free drinks and meet good-looking men. I’ve even gone to the female version of host bars.

—Tatiana Wilcox
Los Angeles


I had so looked forward to reading Alan Rich’s review
of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
[A Lot of Night Music: “If This Be Madness,” February 6–12]
. 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 it’s possible,
an insult to L.A. concert-goers who can’t 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 Salonen’s 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 Berlioz’s genius. For shame!

—Angela C. Mankiewicz
Los Angeles


Your headline
[“Who Will Beat Bush?,” January 23–29]
is presumptive. Are you openly biased
or unwittingly biased or mostly just pandering to readership?

—T.P. McCabe
North Hollywood

Yes, we are openly biased. Thanks for asking.


A story on John Kerry last week [“The
Campaign Doctor,” February 13–19]
misidentified the campaign affiliation
of Elizabeth Birch. She works for Howard Dean’s campaign.

Due to a production error, a credit was omitted on the photograph of George Bush that appeared on Page 14 of last week’s issue. The image was shot by Joeff Davis.

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