Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
If you're young, broke and fabulous, there's no better place to be than in the cozy depths of the Basement Lounge on a Wednesday night. With its dramatic lighting, sleek interior and strong encouragement of cocktail attire (2 bucks off if you come lookin' sharp), it's one of the few places on Earth where you can sip from a $5 can (yes, can) of certified champagne through a bendy straw and still manage to feel chic. When the clock strikes 8 on this particular night, producer/host of the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour Derrick Brown emerges onstage to kick the show off with its very own theme song. Perpetuating the classic format of the live-radio variety show, the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour begins with an open-mic poetry slam, and then welcomes one author, musician and informationist to the stage to imbue the minds of an enthusiastic audience with new ideas and brilliant sounds. With an ever-evolving roster of nationally best-selling authors, university professors, media personalities and the average Joe, every show possesses its own unique chemistry, ensuring that, on any given night, you can expect nothing and learn anything from "how to kiss" to "how to be a successful war correspondent."
Tin Lizzie considers itself "a gay oasis in conservative OC's urban sprawl"—and it's not just being presumptuous. Decorated in red-velvet drapes and wallpaper, gold sconces, brass footrails, and patent-leather seats, the suburban-fabulous, open-daily saloon definitely feels like a haven for the gay community, as it's packed no matter what time of day you visit. The drinks are also hella cheap (signature martinis run $4 to $7). And the music selection? Let's just say there's enough "untz untz untz" to satisfy the hardiest clubgoer.
It's Thursday night; where all the ladies at? Since Long Beach is definitely the hot spot for gay nightlife in the Orange County area, chances are they're at Doll House, the weekly lesbian night at Hamburger Mary's—an ample-sized club complete with a spacious dance floor and smoking patio. Presented by Club Lucky (of LGBT nights Lucky Sundays and the notorious Boy Bar), Doll House has everything a girl who likes girls could want: drink specials (did someone say $1 Jell-O shots?!), deals on cover charges, awesome DJs and go-go dolls! Plus, the whole thing is 18-and-over, so the little lezzies can go out, too.
Despite what The Simpsons may lead you to believe, it takes a hell of a lot more than a curly wig and a boom box to impersonate Cher. The ladies of the Dreamgirls Revue know this, and after nearly 20 years in the business of lipstick and lip-syncing, they strive to not only imitate, but also emulate all our favorite divas. From ABBA to Renée Zellweger, this versatile group can conjure up just about any act and execute their performances with a unique flair that will keep you signing, "Halleluja"—even after the 100th time you've heard "It's Raining Men." The longest-running drag show in Southern California, the Dreamgirls sprinkle their sweet loving all over the area, but they settle every Thursday night at the LGBT-friendly Club Ripples on the Long Beach coast. Featuring a talented ensemble, each show ignites with a dazzling tribute to the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, then progresses into a veritable grab bag of song-and-dance routines. In a single night, you can catch performances by anyone from Diana Ross to Marilyn Manson, and if you're lucky enough to catch a themed show, you might even get to meet Cruella DeVil and a few Disney princesses, to boot.
Toeing the line between upscale dance hall and bubbling cauldron of underground talent, Commonwealth Lounge is one of the few bars that bends the parameters of rock & roll in as many ways as the law allows. A fervent harvest of psychedelic '60s revivals, guitar-tapping prog artists and Latin-flavored jam bands is a blessed, regular occurrence. Not to mention that such talent balances well with the club's cavalcade of notable funk and hip-hop acts. Commonwealth's loud, eclectic palette is especially pleasing considering the bar's recent evolution. In the past year, it has gone from a well-decorated Top 40 zone to a respected cove of indie culture. (It's still well-decorated, too.) Tucked into a red-brick plaza at the southern tip of downtown Fullerton, its sleek, neon-lit lounge vibes collide with old-fashioned East Coast swagger and flowering chandeliers. Add a couple of stiff drinks and a dance floor packed with Fullerton's most attractive clientele, and you won't find a classier, more adventurous place to bang your head.
With the skull and crossbones hanging precariously above the bar to hosting Swingin' Utters shows to the vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz décor, Alex's Bar is clearly above every other joint for general punk-rockery. It is, after all, a way cooler, more-dangerous version of your neighborhood dive bar (an edge that only comes with being located in a seedy part of town)—and that's totally punk. As with your friendly neighborhood dive, Alex's always serves cheap drinks. There's a handy ATM in the bar, a great selection in the juke box, velvet paintings, graffiti on the walls, pool tables and plenty of locals in all their just-rolled-out-of-bed glory. But there's also a photo booth; the could-be-great, could-be-foul bands playing regularly; a cast of punk/rockabilly/hipster misfits; Beatles karaoke nights; and a leave-your-upper-lip-at-home-or-don't-come-in-at-all ambiance that makes Alex's Bar an instant win. Oh, and lest we forget: Alex's Bar is also popularly known as Fangtasia from HBO's True Blood. Remember: Don't park at the Autozone next door–you will get towed!