The Orange County Register's nightlife dude, Barry Koltnow, leaves his deep-set footprints in a lot of haunts. Just a week or two ago, he discovered not only Costa Mesa's Detroit but alsothe Kitsch Bar. Look, Ma! He's Columbus! That leaves little old me to swim sadly in the wake of his Nia, Pintaand Santa Mara.
Now, I don't spend a lot of time in Detroit—formerly the punk bar Club Mesa, since taken over and tarted up by the boys from Memphis. The last time I was there, the guests at Costa Mesa designer Paul Frank's Christmas party were shockingly rude—if "shockingly" can be used to adverbize the behavior of such innately dull people. Paul Frank is nice. His staff is nice. But apparently his dull, too-sexy-for-their-manners guests thought they were soap stars or Courtney Love. (Paul Frank swag man Austin Brown later explained that the door guys hadn't been working from the list of invitees; surely the rude people in question were crashers!)
But since Koltnow discovered the popular Detroit a mere five months after its opening, I figured I'd better get my ass back over there, too. There's nothing worse than being beaten in the nightlife wars by a guy who's eleventy.
Luckily, when I hit the club Saturday to check out DJ Papa Byrd (he also spins at the hepcat La Cave on the other side of Newport Boulevard), people were keeping their bad manners—if not their hands—to themselves. It was crowded, but not so much so that drinks were being recklessly spilled onto unsuspecting passersby—but perhaps that's because the drinks were too dear to be treated cavalierly. The women were uniformly hot: one, older than most (in her 30s! Ewww!), looked like Bo Derekbefore the pills and beatings and lizardlike eye jobs finally made her the freak she is today. Another, who spent about four hours primping unsmilingly in the women's room, had really good highlights and looked like a slightly down-market J.Lo. There was also a seven-foot-tall, very polite German lady to add that spicy dash of Eurotrash. In the room from which the screeches of hell used to emanate, folks like rockabetty Cassandra were dancing happily to some songs from the day, like Sugar Hill. At the entrance to the dance floor, a trio of 23-year-olds led by their bleached-blond hairdresser buddy were giggling and grabbing ass. It was kind of heartwarming, actually.
The new Costa Mesa Mafia, comprising likeminded impresarios like Dan and Andy from Memphis and Detroit, Wing Lam of Wahoo's, and their LA type of chic-ery, wouldn't be complete without the newest kid on the block, Jack Flynn of Kitsch Bar. They're trying to style up the heretofore knuckleheaded Costa Mesa image of fat guys with tats pounding beers while their stripper arm candy stands about unsmiling. But it's a tough road to ho: how to money it up without becoming yet another playground for entitled, self-satisfied boors from Newport.
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They're not entirely successful. Sitting quietly at the mirrored bar of Kitsch—a mirror is always the best scenery, no?—I was able to eavesdrop on the most wonderful conversations. Many young blondelets were in the house for the first time. (Perhaps pointed there by the indispensable Koltnow!) "This place is so great! I've never been here before!" said one young woman dressed, naturally, in black. "Yes, isn't it cool?" responded her friend, an Asian guy with a high-pitched, liltingly cadenced voice and a French accent. "As long as the wannabes don't ruin it." He was showing her his ad in Coast magazine—which he then left on the bar, folded over to the appropriate page, for anyone who might wish to peruse it. Like me! The ad showed bulging-muscled, shirtless men in tight pants, like the gay-fantasy-Army scenes in the extra-brilliant Kids in the Hall flick Brain Candy. "It looks like something out of Tom of Finland!" a friend whispered to me. But the young French-type guy luckily didn't hear him and continued extolling his store to his enraptured listener: "Neiman Marcus was in yesterday," he said, "going crazy!" The name of his shop? Snob.
Lame File: I had tickets to the LA Philharmonic for the guest appearance of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic doing Shostakovich, but the day before their scheduled show, 100 of them got thrown off their flight from Amsterdam for getting Boris Yeltsin-style (or Bush fils in his prime) loaded. After sitting in a corner and thinking about what they'd done for a day, they were permitted to fly on to LA, arriving in time for their performance. And I didn't go because I didn't have a date.
The good news? Right here in OC just a week later, we had Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky's three-hour operatic tragedy! Since I know how much you all thirst for news of Russian opera, I availed myself of two tickets from Opera Pacific. Thanks, Opera Pacific! (Red alert! Coming in April, they've got the feel-good opera of the year, Dead Man Walking!) The opera was lovely; the sets and costuming were ambitiously grand, and charming folk dances abounded. The voices were first-rate as well. Unfortunately, the pacing was geologic. Had I ever actually read The Brothers KaramazovorWar and Peace, I would definitely compare it to them. So what's the story? This naive country girl (Tatiana) falls deep for this smoothie (Eugene Onegin) and stays up all night writing this cringe-making love letter. Does he seduce her and skip town? Nah. He just tells her he wouldn't make a good husband and she should hide her feelings better in future. So then he travels the world, all smooth and alone, and goes off to the capital, where he sees Tatiana, who's all glamorous and grown-up. So now he wants her, but she's married to somebody else (somebody really rich and important) and tells him to fuck off. Then he's sad. The moral of the story: when you find someone pure and good and loving, don't be a dick.
Rschoenkopf@ocweekly.com. Thank you!