In the early nineties, a sub form of alternative music known as grunge that grew from the Seattle area, dominated the national music scene. Idealistic music expressing anger with distorted guitar riffs and loud vocals was addressing the angst, isolation, and despair for the future. This was felt at the time by young people, a cohort termed Generation X. The over the top, self indulgent, glam rock star of the earlier decade was replaced by the more conscience, real, and substantial front men of bands that looked like they could be your friends. Arena rock was ousted by “unplugged”.
This angst was especially felt in Los Angeles. The decade before, in the eighties, LA was experiencing a booming decade that has been referred to as the Big Eighties. In the mecca of entertainment, not only were most films made in LA but most films and songs were written about LA (ie. all the movies centered on the San Fernando Valley and, of course, Randy Newman’s “I Love LA”). The cultural melting pot was thriving. Real estate was at an all time high and businesses were expanding. Major sports teams brought many championships. The four major sports teams won a collective total of nine championships. The hip city with two NFL teams also hosted the 1984 Olympics and was even able to pull in the biggest star in a sport that normally took a backseat in LA sports when the LA Kings acquired Wayne Gretzy in 1988.
But as the nineties rolled in, all this changed. The early nineties brought a short recession nationally, but it hit LA hard, especially the retail sector. Packed malls became empty. The real estate bubble burst. And socially, LA became the focal point of racial and civil unrest with the Rodney King beating and eventual LA riots in the spring of 1992. Even our sports teams never won a championship in all the 90’s. There were floods, fires, major earthquakes, and celebrity car chases. The early nineties could be thought of as the dark period in LA history. But even at times when you CAN see the forest from the trees, you can still relinquish in its hidden beauties. In an ironic medley, the dark times in this cosmopolitan city at that time provided me with the glory days of my youth.
The spring and summer of 1992 was a transition culturally on the Sunset Strip. In essence it was the last summer where you would find the long haired rockers or rock fans huddling around outside the nightclubs of the Sunset Strip. Interspersed between those rocker men were pretty dolled up ladies with their own long hairs, wearing short clothes. In retrospect, after the summer of 1992, the LA nightlife became less glam. One can think of a dark, less extravagant scene. The one related to River Phoenix’s overdose at the Viper room in 1993. But to a newcomer to the scene, that was all I knew and it was fun and exciting. LA lost some of its glam from the decade before, but Sunset was still Sunset. Let’s get started at the beginning of the strip going east.
In the early nineties in urban Los Angeles, with a fake ID you could into a club called Bar One, half the time, if the power freak bouncer would let you in. But if you got in, it was a ticket to heaven. Bar One became the first staple of an adult, mature club for myself and my friends. Within its doors, you would be lost to the outside world. The DJ played Captain Hollywood and Ace Of Base along with disco (yes 70’s disco had a revival in the early nineties). And women were at your disposal for a dance, if you had the courage to ask them. One night, I spotted a beautiful boxom blond at a table with a bunch of her friends. I was later told that she was the new hot chick of Baywatch, Pamela Anderson. Another night Mr. Brian Austin Green celebrated his 21st birthday there. Since then, Bar One has transformed to many other club destinations such as The Room and Trousdale. Now it is home to a 60’s art deco inspired nightclub called Bootsy Bellows.
A couple of blocks away, in the heart of Sunset, there was Roxbury. Here you could see a view of Sunset boulevard from its window view seating. This was a bar/restaurant/dance club before it turned into the once popular Sushi joint, Miyagees, and now there stands Pink Tacos. Further east, on La Cienega boulevard, there was the ultra exclusive Gate. The only way you could get into this club was if you were a celebrity or if you forked over at least a hundred bucks for dinner.
But Sunset was not the only outlet for night clubs. In Century City, the club Trips featured not one, not two, but three dance floors and even an outside patio area. It soon would transform to The Century Club, which was popular for most of the 90s. Now the building is demolished and the land is sitting idle. On the third street promenade in Santa Monica there was the short lasting Renaissance. It featured high ceilings, a spacey dance floor, and free drinks before 10pm on Tuesdays. In Beverly Hills on Canon Dr, there was Tatou. A stair trip downstairs would provide a perfect escape from the outside level world. I once spotted the late Wilt Chamberlain there. For retro fans, there was Club 70’s and the Palladium on Friday nights, which featured flashback KROQ hits. But one of my favorites was a Hawaiian style tropical club joint in Santa Monica on Pico called Kelbos. You could drink tropical drinks from a big bowl with your friends in their eatery before you went dancing on its club floor. But soon Kelbos transformed to a strip club called Fantasy Island.
And so these were the spots of exploits of my youth in the early nineties, living in urban Los Angeles. Soon full adulthood and responsibilities would become paramount. The novelties of youthful club life would become less sweet and less memorable as we grew older. But that is not surprising. The world becomes much colder when you released into it, rather than looking at it from an edge of a slightly open pot hole cap. At nineteen, your allowed to run through it for a short time, without being still to realize the freeze.