By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Photo by Jessica CalkinsWhile reclining on the rents' living room couch last Wednesday, idly watching The O.C.'s Thanksgiving episode—Dear Seth, please stop making out with Summer. She's totally trouble times 10. Thanks!—and indulging in some eggplant hummus on toast, I began to panic about my plans for later that night. It wasn't, as you might assume, that I feared my snack would leave me foul-breathed and friendless on the dance floor. Rather, I was feeling a little uneasy—and more than a bit queasy—about the fact that the opening night of Club Thriller at Quan's in Orange was going down mere hours after the po-pos had issued a warrant to put Mr. Thriller himself in the pokey. Given the circumstances, could the moonwalking, crotch-grabbing, high-pitched-hooooooo!ing debauchery still go on? Would a few minor indiscretions—so he liked to get the kid drunk! It's not like you never gave your little brother a few sips from your Heine!—on the part of the King of Pop keep Orange County's leg warmers shelved and hair uncrimped? And, most pressing, what the hell was I going to wear?
Fortunately, after reflecting on the past few months of my never-ending quest for an '80s experience rivaling the pre-scenester-invasion nights of yore at Beat It in Hollywood, I sighed, relieved. This was, after all, an '80s club in Orange County that I was fretting about. And in my experience, a night out at an '80s club in Orange County meant sticking out like an arm-warmered freak in a sea of smokin' Bon Jovi-singing babes. So instead of heading to my room and straightening my hair, applying far too much blush and painstakingly assembling a new-wavish outfit, I stayed on the couch. The O.C.ended, Summer ditched Seth (again. Stupid!) and I left the house in a wool J. Crew sweater. It was time to party. For Michael's sake.
Upon our arrival, my friend Sarah and I couldn't help but notice the two girls standing in line in front of us. While the one on the left was sporting the exact same asymmetrical mullet I had two months ago—before I lazily let mine grow out—and had heavily lined her eyes in a bright jungle-green shadow, her friend on the right was wearing a shirt ripped in a dozen places and looked not a day over 15, smoking, as she was, like a badass truant sophomore—from the class of 1986. Poor things, I thought. Evidently, they'd taken a wrong turn on their way up the 405 and mistaken Quan's Rockin' Sushi for The Ruby in LA.
Once inside, however, we watched in awe as the girls cut through the crowd, dishing out gloved high-fives and hugs to their numerous, equally decked-out pals. First, to the mohawked girl in a frilly Madonna skirt sipping whiskey at the bar; then the mod-haired, too-skinny boy with at least four different studded belts; and finally, the bleached-blond chick wearing a pink knock-'em-dead prom dress and knee-high go-go boots. I looked over at Sarah, who at least had freshened up before going out, and then peered down at my lame Gap Long and Leans.Shit. Welcome to Square City. Population: me.
It didn't help matters, of course, that every single person—from the group of side-ponytailed, off-the-shoulder-sweatshirt-wearing, 18-year-old girls shrieking in the middle of the dance floor to the robot-dancing duo on the stage—knew one another, or at least pretended to. Determined to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, I moseyed over to the door girl, an adorable thing with hot pink lips and lace little-girl socks, who was conveniently joined by the pink prom dress. "Hi, guys, I'm Ellen," I began. Sizing up my outfit and detecting my awkwardness, they reciprocated with icy, bored "heys." I felt like I'd aged 50 years inside of a minute. I felt like Barry Koltnow.
Undaunted, I pressed the girls about how they knew one another—and everyone else at the bar. Lauren, with the go-go boots, informed me that she used to live with Shandra, who, when asked about her outfit, in turn proclaimed that any excuse to dress '80s was motivation enough for her to go out. As for everyone else in the bar, it appeared that they were all connected in some way to one or the other of Club Thriller's two promoters, Level One Promotions' Chaz and Dave.
Politely leaving Lauren and Shandra after promising to dazzle them next week with a fabulous outfit, I saddled up to the faux-hawked Chaz at the bar and discovered that he had previously bartended at the now-closed Ibiza during their White Trash Disco '80s nights. To get the word out about Thriller—they only had one week—he and Dave distributed more than 10,000 fliers, promoted outside of '80s clubs in LA, invited their friends and hoped for the best. Gazing out over the packed dance floor—DJ Silver, formerly of LA's Club 82, had kept the crowd ecstatic, spinning everything from The Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make" to obscure cuts from The Cure and, of course, Jackson's own "Thriller"—I remarked about the tangle of fishnets, lace skirts, gloves, legwarmers and stonewashed jeans. "I never expected this many people to dress up," Chaz admitted, before glancing at my sweater.
"Tell me about it."
My stint as a walking fashion faux pas left me feeling a little less than energized, but, regardless, on Thursday I decided to skip over to Macy's in South Coast Plaza for On Impulse!, a fund-raising fashion-show benefit for the Newport Beach Film Festival. Now, after a night spent feeling like a Midwestern schoolmarm, you'd think that I'd be primed to learn a few lessons about haute couture. And I was! Except that I simply couldn't resist the lure of drinking free Bacardi Vanilla pineappletinis while surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in killer clothing. (Macy's? Killer? Believe it, sister.) So Sarah and I ditched the model-watching—even they looked a bit bored—and headed for the hosted bar to get sauced. But you know what I like more than drinking for free? Drinking for free while getting a free makeover! As Sarah and I sat rosy-cheeked and with our eyes closed, Steph from Paula Dorf cosmetics transformed us into fresh-faced—albeit still sauced—beauties and tried to sell us on Transformer, a special goop that turns any eye shadow into liquid eyeliner. I didn't purchase any, but I might just have to for next week's Thriller. You know. Just so I can show Lauren and Shandra who's bad.
This week, if you're not staying in on Thursday evening, watching football, eating turkey and pretending to enjoy Grandma Bessy's candied yams, then have a blast trying to find a bar that's open—with people inside. Then, keep the gluttony alive on Friday and head over to Club Uniquefor a set by DJ Mark. Bow Wow Wow, originators of that Apache glam look you've been trying to perfect, roll into the House of Blues on Saturday, followed by a nu jazz/bossanova set from Kristina Band Daniel Brenner at Kitsch Bar on Sunday. And since nobody e-mailed me with suggestions on how to spend a Monday night in Orange County, I'll tell you how I'm going to spend mine: at the Stephen Malkmus show up at the El Rey. But since everyone knows that LA is, like, so over, on Tuesday you should check out Club Dancehall at Hogue Barmichael's before toasting to Mr. Jackson with me at Club Thriller on Wednesday. You can bet your ass that I'll look better than you this time.