What Happens in Vegas . . .

Falling in love with the club you love to hate

Photo by Matt OttoReminding us a little of the dashing-but-dim high school quarterback who risks everything—reputation, eternal salvation, unrestricted access to the pep squad's panties—to befriend his nerdy pipsqueak of a geometry tutor, Vegas opened its doors last Thursday to the bespectacled and non-surgically altered among us, slashing its standard $20 cover in half for the debut of the curiously named Club 1984. Never mind that in 1984, Johnny Rotten—whose mug features prominently on the fliers and at the club's entrance—was six years departed from the Sex Pistols and charting with Public Image Ltd., or that the night's DJ sets included such oft-forgotten '80s chart-toppers as Sir Mix-a-Lot's 1992 single "Baby Got Back" and Steely Dan's 1972 smash "Do It Again": Vegas isn't selling authenticity with '84. It doesn't have to. Rather, for the nightclub that prides itself on elegant, high-priced exclusivity—but has rid itself of capacity crowds in the process—it's about granting access to the masses.

"We were packed solid for the first month or so," explained Michael, the smoking patio bartender, grinning as he added a splash of Coke to a brim-filled glass of Jack Daniel's. "Saturdays are still pretty full, but I think it's good we're lowering our prices."

As must a lot of folks: whereas Vegas' opening night saw Orange Countians queued along Newport Boulevard to pay upward of $500 for a VIP table, such willingness sharply declined—overdraw fees are a bummer, you know—and the club has since dropped its VIP table price to just $40 per person, albeit with mandatory bottle service.

"Orange County's nightlife isn't the same as it was five or 10 years ago. There was a lot of money floating around then. Ecstasy, too," Michael continued, adding that "everyone wanted to hear trance," a difference that might explain the nightclub's recent programming shift, including the debut of its revamped Friday-night hip-hop-friendly club, Epiphany.

But while Vegas' new approach—dare we call it bourgeois? Not quite. Fliers for Epiphany feature the club's name set simply in Times New Roman against a baby-blue background á la the Tiffany's logo—may be a blow to the egos of the five or so men who regularly shelled out for VIP status, it's fantastic news for everyone else who ever wanted to check out the club but couldn't quite reconcile spending $60 (factoring in a few $9 Jack-and-Cokes) to go dancing inside a basement in Costa Mesa.

Because Vegas really is exactly what it boasts itself to be: something different. If only for the fact that few other nightclubs have $4 million to kick around before they open, Vegas looks better (aside from the tacky, metallic, purple streamers hanging from the entrance) and feels better (more than two stalls in the women's restroom! Heaven!) than the majority of Orange County's other nightlife destinations.

It's also, well, fun. Despite our best efforts to remain jaded and dour during '84—trashing Vegas was once a much-beloved pastime—we simply could not. The bouncers and bartenders were charming, and the DJs (Orange County staples Beej and Danny Love) proved both brilliantly cocksure—Steely Dan is normally grounds for a drink in the face—and crowd-pleasing. Even the crowd itself—a fine mix of real-estate agents, lawyers and a gal-about-town in heels that would light up when she moved—was surprisingly friendly and refreshingly unhip.

Our dismal days in the audio-visual club well behind us, it was now we who had crossed over, befriended the dashing-but-dim quarterback and likedit. Walking through the parking lot afterward, we nodded hello to the only person who had dared to don '80s apparel, a Robert Smith-abee outcast with heavy eyeliner and an even heavier this-night-was-torture smirk. He couldn't fool us, though—we'd caught him smiling and laughing minutes before as he downed his drink—and we saw right past it because let's face it: social climbing had never felt so good.

Club 1984, featuring DJs Beej and Danny Love, at Vegas, 1901 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 548-9500; www.clubvegas.us. Every Thurs., 9 p.m. Free before 10 p.m.; $10 after. 21+. Call or check website for dress code.
 
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