[dropcap]L[/dropcap]os Angeles does not lack for edgy or creative entertainment, but for the most part, envelope-pushing performance is found inside the city’s art galleries or at underground gatherings downtown. Hollywood’s velvet-roped hotspots and West Hollywood gay clubs are all about the party, not being arty. Sexy sights and sounds are a big part of WeHo nightlife, but it rarely goes beyond Speedo-wearing beefcake or lipgloss-drenched drag queens.
The new nightclub called DBA is looking to flip this script in a provocative way. The owners have gone a conceptual route that includes curated, constantly evolving atmosphere, entertainment and music, all of which takes advantage of the space’s long-standing business license (nudity is allowed) as well as its Hollywood-WeHo adjacent locale. That positions it to attract a mix of gay and straight patrons, A-listers and weekend warriors, hip kids and big spenders.
A little nightlife history lesson: though most will recall its last guise, Voyeur (known as the scandalous spot where the Republican Party racked up a mega-bill on supporters dollars in 2010), the space, at 7969 Santa Monica Blvd. near Laurel, has an even more erotic past. As 7969 and Peanuts before that, the club played host to some of Los Angeles’ most daring dance clubs. Grandeville saw the fierce and uber-famous (we’re talking Depp, Reeves, Sheen, etc) get freaky with a weekly procession of half-naked dancers and the city’s best DJs, while Sin-a-matic brought the world of fetish to a new audience, showcasing bloody bondage and S&M shows in between spanking industrial and EDM beats. There was a drag and trans-gendered event, a lusty lesbian strip-fest (Michelle’s XXX), and a night of so-bad-it’s good sounds and boobie-baring babes (Velvet).
DBA (which was named to reflect the planned re-vamps by a different nightlife impresario “doing business as” every several months) has a lot to live up to, to say the least. And its creators seem very eager to try.
“We founded DBA with the intention that it be so much more than a ‘nightclub.’ We’re very aware that in hospitality, and especially so with nightlife, people want to constantly be surprised and stimulated,” said owner Beau Laughlin (whose company Cardiff Giant owns DBA as well as The Hudson, The Churchill and Clover juice bar). He added that he and partners Todd Palmerton and Michael Jay hope to attract patrons “comfortable in the presence of the unfamiliar, be it art, culture, music and lifestyle, and open to anything, even, dare I say, a little discomfort!”
To evoke after-dark debauchery in a dynamic and yes, even deviant or disconcerting way, the owners chose a perfect inaugural guest curator in New York’s Simon Hammerstein, the lauded visionary behind The Box in Manhattan and London. Known for his freaky cabaret spectacles and VIP clientele, Hammerstein’s vision for his DBA takeover, slated to run through March, seeks to evoke an “Eyes Wide Shut” vibe with eye-popping interactive performances, giant props and unexpected amusements.
Choreographed dances in the center of the dance floor, topless go-go grinding on pillars throughout the club, an ornately garbed gal serving patrons libations out of her (literally) spiked heels and the luring, teasing and pleasing of unexpecting men on the tiny back-wall stage are just a few of the visual delights we’ve seen on two separate DBA visits. There was much, much more, but the owners want to maintain some mystery about what goes on inside, so we’ll leave it at that. We will reveal that what they do at the end of the night involves cloaking and enclosing the center dance floor, providing a bit of privacy for those who really like to get freaky.
“It’s great to see a new space that not only celebrates but also cultivates and protects art and extravagant expression,” noted Andres Rigal, who, along with business partner Luke Nero, brought us the legendary “Mr. Black” at Bardot (now closed), the Robertson’s raging Saturday night “Rasputin” and “Evita” Tuesdays at Blok in Hollywood. The successful promoters of gay and mixed happenings were so impressed, they’re getting involved. And Rigal gave us exclusive scoop about it: “We’re thrilled to announce that we will be moving our weekly Tuesday “Evita” to DBA (this month),” he said. “This will be the perfect marriage of like minds and glittering debauchery.”
Not many clubs have been able to successfully meld art-minded hedonism with upscale, bottle service-driven clubbing, but DBA is doing everything to make it work. Also of note, the clientele thus far has been a mix of fashionably cool and super-famous (Leo DiCaprio, Ceelo, Rumer Willis) thanks to a team of well-connected, taste-maker party people. Nightlife veteran Pamela Francesca, for example, helps with branding and outreach for Thursdays, when the night is called “Esque.” DBA also is open on Fridays.
“It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed something even remotely different in LA nightlife,” Francesca said. ‘I love the interaction between the audience and the show… You get the feel like you’re somewhere really different, like out of town without leaving town.”
The brilliance of the business model at DBA is that it will always feel that way. Just when something stops working or the regulars get bored, it’s on to a new idea and fresh theme.
“The club will be constantly evolving, with new components being added, even within the span of each curation,” Laughlin said. “No two weeks will be exactly alike… Change itself is the constant theme.”