Burbank is where classic L.A. lives: where the old lady next door was an old Hollywood beauty, where there are quirky secondhand shops on every corner, and studio memorabilia seems to be handed out like Halloween candy. But after this month, it will be home to one less L.A. icon: the surreal, Lynch-like Dimples karaoke bar.
For years, Dimples was a dimly lit space crammed with more memorabilia than the T.G.I. Friday’s mothership and an ancient sound system that left much to be desired. It felt like your hoarder aunt’s home and always seemed dirty, though it was too dark to really know for sure — that is, until it was featured on Bar Rescue and the extent of the filth was put on full display.
I’d never even been inside a karaoke bar until my first visit to Dimples in 2006. My neighbor at the time, an L.A. native, had arranged a girls’ night out for my first karaoke experience.
I was just beginning to understand the whole karaoke thing when an old man seemed to appear out of thin air, grabbed my arm and pushed me past the plastic mastodon tusks that framed the stage area. He handed me some elf ears and left. I stood bewildered for a few moments, then attempted to walk back to my seat, but the mysterious man again appeared and shooed me back to the stage.
Music I didn’t recognize started playing. Two of the women on stage were dancing, but the rest of us just stood there like corralled livestock. Turns out the mysterious old man was Dimples owner Sal Ferraro and this was his tradition of having all the women get up onstage and sing “My Humps.”
That was my first experience with karaoke.
As trashy as it could be, part of Dimples' appeal was that it regularly attracted genuinely talented singers — including the occasional famous one.
About a year later I found myself at Dimples again, this time for a buddy’s birthday. I arrived just as they called “Lizzy” to the stage. My friend Scott insisted I watch her; she was a friend of his and an incredible singer, he said. My friend was, and still is, a picky son of a bitch, so I was intrigued.
The waif-like girl walked to the stage area, smiled and looked almost bashfully to her group of friends as Janis Joplin's “Piece of My Heart” started to play. From the very first, “Oh, come on,” my mind melted. Who was this friend of Scott’s? What was she doing in a karaoke bar? How was it physically possible for that voice to come out of such a petite frame?
It turned out “Lizzy” was Lzzy Hale of the hard rock band Halestorm. If you haven’t already heard her monster vocals, here she is doing a Dio cover.
The last time I found myself in the bewildering atmosphere of Dimples, I was the only girl at a co-worker's birthday party. At one point, Ferraro came to our table with some whipped cream atrocity in a shot glass. He set the glass in the birthday boy's lap and demanded I take the shot without using my hands.
I’ll leave my response to your imagination, but that was the last time I found myself at Dimples.
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Goodbye, Dimples. I'll miss you. Sort of.