Imagine you receive an invitation in the mail stamped with a wax emblem in the shape of bare legs. The invitation screams mystique, as the return to sender simply reads, “Rhonda.”
Inside you find a poster — graphically bold in style and color, the poster lists performing talent, location, time and the declarative statement, “Stop the silence, increase the beats.”
There is a post-it note attached with the scribbled words, “This is a hand selected affair. To participate you must be willing to leave inhibition, gender and reality at the door.”
That next Saturday you arrive at the event wearing far too many animal prints and platform shoes akin to stilts. You enter the establishment and are taken back by the heart-pounding music. The host approaches you and you ask, “Where is Rhonda?” He responds, “Oh Rhonda couldn't make it. She can never make it. But we are here.” He points to a crowd of euphoric dancers, each one in their own unique garb, each one transfixed by the sensational rhythms. Welcome to A Club Called Rhonda.
On March 3, PoptART Gallery in Los Angeles debuted “Archival Jello: A Club Called Rhonda Retrospective” showcasing five years of posters and photographs from the Rhonda archives. During A Club Called Rhonda's illustrious five-year reign, it has become an archetype for the glamor, vice and freedom that defines Los Angeles nightlife.
PoptART owner and Rhonda doorwoman, Phyllis Navidad, conceived of the show when she noticed the excessive amounts of posters being ripped straight from the club's walls. In a concerted effort to archive the work, she approached Gregory Alexander (Rhonda's promoter), Alexis Rivera (owner of Echo Park Records who signed Rhonda), Loren Kierkegaard (aka Goddollars, Rhonda's resident DJ), and Trevor Tarczynski (Rhonda's graphic designer).
Typically a retrospective occurs postmortem — when a club and its followers are dead, retired or less than relevant. Rhonda is clearly none of the above. The intent of the retrospective is to showcase a world that Rhonda created, a graphic journey that includes many bottles of poppers, countless tits and X-rated evidence of some of the world's most deviant hookups.
Or, as Goddollars describes, “It's a fossil record of the bat shit crazy last five years of party utopia that has been gifted to me by friend, lover and inspiration who some know as Rhonda.”
Rhonda's inception took place at the Mexican salsa club Guatelinda on Hollywood Boulevard. Gregory Alexander, Rhonda's promoter and Paper Magazine's L.A. man to watch, tapped into a scene where race, sexuality and age were inconsequential. Now a monthly party at 333 Boylston under the moniker of “Rhondavous,” the soiree continues to book exclusive L.A. performances with the most subversive dance acts, each session accompanied by a poster that emulates that night's style.
Though the Rhonda name has become synonymous with L.A. nightlife, their influence extends far beyond Southern California. Last year Rhonda went on the road, showcasing their androgynous brand to Miami, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The desert also hosted the Rhonda family for a Coachella showcase at The Ace Hotel. The rich kids might have been at Coachella, but the cool kids were at the pool with Rhonda.
“Archival Jello” is on display until April 3 and is sponsored by DJ Club Network — a 24/7 online EDM music channel launching later this year.
As Phyllis Navidad describes:
“With over 500 devoted Rhonda revelers, the retrospective was a huge success. We sold most of the first editions of the archival version of prints that will probably never be seen the same way again. It has been a labor of love to get the Jell-o shots ready and now mopping them off the gallery floor! All and all it was a good and sticky opening party. We are already planning the coolest closing party ever, naked sushi has been suggested!”
Despite having to move venues on multiple occasions, Rhonda has maintained a solid group of loyal followers who can all attest that Rhonda's dance floor is reminiscent of iconic underground scenes: Paradise Garage, Limelight, even Studio 54.
Other clubs may rely on promoters names or celebrity clientele to promote their brand, yet Rhonda has always been just about the music — producing a “polysexual” atmosphere that is ostentatious without being judgmental, secretive without being exclusive.
PoptART Gallery is located at 3023 West 6th St. in Los Angeles.
For more information on the opening and future exhibits, please visit the PoptART Gallery website.
And for your viewing/sweating/dancing pleasure, some photos from the latest event: