Saturday night, several of us went to the ultra-chic Hollywood club LAX for a friend's birthday party. According to those who know such things, LAX is the club in LA right now, partly due to its recent popularity among celebrity socialites, including a scene that occurred there a couple weeks ago involving Paris Hilton getting thrown out in response to her growing feud with Nicole Ritchie, a regular there.
Now I'm not really much of a Hollywood clubber - those who know me will attest that I would much rather drink a forty of Colt 45 Double-Malt while watching Army of Darkness in somebody's basement - but it was a friend's birthday, and I was oddly curious to see what it was like to be at the "coolest" club in Hollywood.
People afterwards have asked me (with an tinge of awe that I actually went there, mind you) what it was like, and my response has been the same each time: Terrible. Absolutely terrible. Two thumbs down.
Does this mean I didn't have a good time? Not at all. And I'm going to try not to turn into a rant about LAX, or about Hollywood clubs in general. I'm just going to lay out the events of the night, and a couple observations, and perhaps we'll all learn something together.
First, popular logic has it that if you're a non-celebrity hoping to get in to a trendy club (in LA or anywhere), you need to do one of three things:
1) Get there really early
2) Have a reservation
3) Have a high "hot-girl to guy ratio" in your group
You may still have to wait in line for a little while, but you've followed one of these rules, you generally should have no trouble eventually getting in.
Well on Saturday night at LAX, apparently you needed to follow all three of these rules. When we arrived at about 10pm (early, but Hwood club standards), there were five cute girls accompanying three guys, with three more girls following shortly. The girl whose party it was had made reservations in January for 20 people - guys and girls, and everyone's name was on a guest list. And voila - the eleven of us were able to get in, without having to wait very long at all. Once we were inside, the door people tried to reneg on the cheaper cover than had been negotiated six weeks ago (it was still going to be $20 for guys, $10 for girls), but after we argued with the bouncer and waited 10 minutes for the promoter to come straighten things out, we were cleared. But things did not go so well for our friends, which I'll get to in a minute.
One thing I noticed straight-away - although there were about 200 people in line outside, there were only maybe 30 people in the club when we first got inside. A classic strategy, of course - make people wait outside for a while, so once they get in they won't want to leave - but couldn't they have let like 50 of those people in and let them start buying ridiculously expensive drinks? There'd still be a big line outside to impress everybody. I bought my first drink - a $12 Jaeger-blaster (which is like 2 ounces of Jaeger in about 5 ounces of Red Bull) - and shrugged it off, deciding to walk around the club while it was still empty and see what all the fuss was about.
The club was OK-looking. Not any more impressive than any of the other clubs I've been to, but not terrible. There were a couple of unfinished parts, and I didn't understand what any of it had to do with the name LAX (also the name of LA's main airport), but there were a few interesting features. One strange thing is that the DJ, apparently one of the "hottest" DJs in LA at the moment, refused to play any song for longer than a minute; he'd play like the first verse or two, and then switch abruptly to something else, just when you were starting to get into it. It was kind of weird to dance for like 10 minutes and have listened to 12 different songs, but at least you got to be impressed with yourself that you'd danced through a dozen different artists and hadn't broken a sweat.
It occurred to me that what makes a club has nothing to do with decor, or even the music. It's all about the people, just like everything else in life. It's what celebrities might show up, or how many hot girls are there, or how much money the guys have that make a club "cool". The long lines and longer bar tabs are just frosting on this glamorous cake.
Sadly, quality of people is what LAX was lacking Saturday night. Not rich guys or beautiful women - there were plenty of both of those - but quality of anything remotely related to the people working there. Things quickly started going down hill when the other 9 people in our group (there were 20 on the guest list) were forced to wait outside for an hour when the promoter "forgot" about them. Eventually, THEY WERE NEVER LET IN AT ALL. Noah, who talked me into going in the first place, had to wait in line for over an hour and then go someplace else, despite his name having been on the guest list for six weeks. Management and the owner were too busy dealing with trying to get stars to come over to deal with petty folks like us, and the poor birthday girl spent nearly the entire night arguing with bouncers about trying to get her friends in.
Compared to this unfortunate situation, everything else was just details. Sure I spent $106 on cover plus three drinks for myself and four drinks for other people, but you have to expect that at a Hollywood Club. Plus the $3.55 gas station muffin and tallboy of Mickey's I polished off in my car before I went in tided me over pretty well. Another sad service aspect was having to wait at the bar for 20 minute before the bartender would pay attention to me - finally I just threw $100 on the counter and yelled that I was ready to order whenever she was. Finally she came over and responded to my request for Jaeger bombs by first rolling her eyes and asking what they were, and then responding that she couldn't make them because "they didn't have any glasses". Then after I compromised to something else (which still totalled $46 for four drinks), she just let my money sit there for another 15 minutes, without any effort to bring change. Tempted just to take my money back and walk off, I eventually just rooted around until I found ones, and left exactly $46 on the counter. Where I was raised, that isn't the kind of service you tip for.
And yet, I still had a really good time on the evening. I got to talk to all my friends, danced, drank some (albeit expensive) drinks. And amused myself making fun of the "coolest" club in Hollywood. Oh, and the 3:30am Del Taco stop on the way home with friends Adrienne and Lissa was one of the funniest on record.
Which made me realize, my earlier observation had been correct all along. It IS all about the people. Decor, lines, money don't matter. It's the people who provide the service (or lack thereof) at the club, but more importantly, it's the people you bring with you, that determine how much fun you have.
And where was raised, we bring our own fun.