Saloons and Such

Watering holes, bars, dance halls, houses of ill repute, whiskey, wine, tequila, whiskey, whiskey, beer, whiskey, whiskey & also whiskey

Best 24-Hour Lockout
Gemini Studios
(714) 545-2289
Let's just say—and why not?—that as younger person, you were in a seven-piece rock band: two guitars, bass, drums, vocals and a horn line, all amplified, all played at high volume. After being kicked out of every member's garage by either an angry mother, or a cop at the behest of an angry neighbor, you ended up finding a home in the garage of your drummer, where the seven of you, gear included, packed into a cluttered, cold, wet space that you shared with a washer and dryer, as well as a broken-down, rusted-out 1973 Buick. Oh, how you pined for a decent practice space.

Too bad you didn't know about Gemini Studios. It's a 24-hour lockout—musician lingo for a building where you can practice whenever the hell you want to—owned and operated by Cal State Fullerton grad Luke Allen. Musicians will need to jump through the usual rental hoops—contract, security deposit, basic rules and regs—but once the business stuff is out of the way, it's time to get down to the business of rockin' out! Three studio sizes are available: 200 square feet will cost you $595 per month (just 85 bucks apiece, if there's seven of you!), 150 square feet is $525, and 100 will cost you $445—all with AC, the freedom to decorate, insurance, free DSL and, most important, 24-hour access. Look, practicing in a leaky garage sucks, especially when it smells like laundry and motor oil. Get some money together and go legit.

Best Gay Bar
Executive Suite
3428 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach
(562) 597-3884
This place really and truly offers something for everyone, no matter the preferred lifestyle. Originally overrun by lesbians, the boys eventually took over Friday nights, now named Boy's Room. Thursdays are Latin Night, which attracts both guys and girls, but Saturdays still belong to the ladies. Downstairs is relaxed, with darts and pool tables, but upstairs is where the party's at, with DJs and dancing. With its carefree atmosphere and casual dress code, Executive Suite prompts patrons to be themselves; there's no attitude here, just a bunch of party people looking to mingle. Eager to get everyone drunk and frisky, this club is famous for its super-strong, super-cheap cocktails.

Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.
Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.
Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.
Illustration by Kyle T. Webster.

Reader's Choice: Tiajuana's

Best Biker Bar
Cook's Corner
19152 Santiago Canyon Rd., Trabuco Canyon
(949) 858-0266
If you arrive just as the sun is setting, the backcountry feel of Cook's Corner provides much-needed respite from the suburban OC sprawl that creeps dangerously close to Cleveland National Forest blossoming just beyond Cook's. As the sun drops, Harleys roar up to the low-slung yellow building at the fork in the road, and regulars pile into its sawdust-strewn interior. Many sit outside on the dozen or so picnic tables for a pint, a smoke or a snack from the menu. The mix of majestic mountains, glittering Hogs and a true biker jukebox can't be beat. Cook's reduces the biker-bar experience to its barest, purest essentials: beer, burgers and mountains—and no strip malls or highways to speak of for miles around.

Best Strip Joint
California Girls
1109 N. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana
(714) 554-0491
Strip joints (or gentlemen's clubs, for you euphemism-lovers) fall into two general categories. One is the ritzy emporium of fantasy in which 99 percent of the "exotic" dancers look like airbrushed, silicone- and collagen-enhanced Victoria's Secret models; where the cover charge is steep, the drinks are overpriced and security guards stand poised to pounce should you touch the merchandise. The other is the down-market, funkier hotbox of writhing female flesh at which the talent is not as pulchritudinous, but the dancers work harder for el dinero than their more attractive (and usually more blasé) counterparts. California Girls in Santa Ana represents the second category.

With a minimal cover charge, California Girls allows its horny male patrons to stuff more bills inside the thongs of the young, flexible women contorting erotically for their pleasure. The room is bathed in blood-red lighting that casts an aptly sleazy glow to the proceedings. (The VIP room—where lap dances go for $20 a pop, so to speak—is even darker, for obvious reasons.) The DJs spin a generally rambunctious series of mainstream hip-hop tracks, glazed with misogynistic lyrics—plenty of "bitch," "ho," "ass" and other carnal references (this is the only context in which this music sounds good)—while repeatedly cajoling you to "give it up" for Cassandra, Essence or Mandy. "If you came here with no money, you came to the wrong place, gentlemen," the DJ hectors. Such honesty is refreshing: You, dude, are basically a wallet with a hard-on. Now start peeling off those dead presidents.

The California Girls girls are mostly 6s and 7s as opposed to the 8s and 9s you might see at Fritz That's Too, but they have serious moves and can work a pole with panache. Most of 'em can't afford boob jobs yet, and believe it or not, that's a plus. These women are real (or less fake), and their sense of entitlement to your wad of cash is less obvious than it is among the near-nude staff in the swankier palaces. At California Girls, the dancers' skin is smoother than butter and they smell like lilac and the slightest hint of musk. Although the small talk will be kind of painful and awkward (face it, you're no Jon Stewart, either), the dancing is athletic, informed by a desperation to better their stations in life.

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