Very Unscary

Halloween is OC's hardest-partying holiday: The Orange County Register's resident clubster ancien Barry Koltnow said so (and, yes, the lovable old Koltnow still uses "party" as a verb). And where were you? Re-enacting New Year'sat the millennium and hiding in the storm cellar. No, really. You suck. Let's put it this way: when the Orange County Museum of Art's Masquerade Ball is the most happening spot in town on the hardest-partying holiday of the year, you might as well give in and get a subscription to the new OC mag for the very, very rich, Riviera. You're going to need its myriad tips on how to order champagne and where to hire women to throw extravagant tea parties for your budding JonBenets.

There I was Saturday night with two handsome young physicists, Ben and Dmitri, who'd been shipped to me from New York City by a college chum (that's what you call people from college, particularly if you're Liz Smith), trying desperately to find something fun for them to do without having to resort to (Ben and Dmitri wouldn't like Massive or The Famous Red Lion Halloween Ball, I assured them. It would all just be girls in naughty nurse uniforms and tits on a plate, and who wants that? They were such a well-bred pair of physicists that they didn't even correct me, and I pretended not to notice when they craned their necks and looked longingly as we drove quickly past the site of the Red Lion party, which was being held at the Costa Mesa Hilton, which was once the Red Lion Hotel.)

We'd begun at the aforementioned OCMA, which was hosting its $60-per-ticket party. I had neglected to mention to my T-shirted pals that it was black tie, but I did give them the obligatory warning about not talking to anyone they didn't arrive with unless they were prepared to be lethally snubbed. The museum hosts such gorgeous parties; it's a shame their patrons don't know how to have fun at one. The crowd skewed surprisingly young; we arrived behind an entire squad's worth of pug-nosed former jocks going to fat and the unfriendly blondes, who with the most mesmerizing ennui, let them pay for things. And though nobody was talking to anybody—even with a couple of drinks in them—they were definitely taking advantage of the Chinese chicken salad, and the swing band made things at least sound merry. As we were leaving, though, help was on its way through the door: Victor the Russian was making his appearance, as he does wherever young money convenes, made up extravagantly as The Grinch of Beverly Hills. I hadn't realized there was only one.

From there, it was a fiasco: we stopped at Memphis, which had until lately been home to a slithering mass of in-the-know, good-looking bodies writhing over one another in the tiny, darkened restaurant. But there was no longer music there, the waitress told us; they'd moved the Bristol Sessions to their new club, Detroit, which stands in place of the former legendary punk venue Club Mesa, sans the legendary punk carpet into which I'd seen children and small animals disappear completely. At Detroit, there were five people, at least two of whom worked there. The mood was disconsolate, like the White Housebedroom is disconsolate, despite the clever use of sofa cushions for wall accents and sound control.

The kindly bouncer sent us to the Tiki Bar(with a warning: "It was dead earlier, and Motorsoule was playing"). There were at least 15 people in the place, which has been reminding me more and more of a Riverside metal club, but one where the Hessian girls are from Newport. What would their mothers say—assuming of course that their mothers noticed through their haze of Valium and crowds of pool boys? It seemed like Dmitri was beginning to enjoy himself, so it was time to leave.

We skidded around the corner to the always reliable Bamboo Terrace—a Chinese restaurant where the owners are Gen-Xers who book listenable, musical music like George Fryer and Dan Lo Fi Champion. From outside, the band Wayside(which I had thought was either called Red Tide or Riptide; the owners' friendly mother has a pretty Chinese accent, and the band was loud) was sounding a bit like Crowded House, melodic and poppy. But inside, the crowd was made up entirely of eight people who looked like the band's parents. Not young and hip parents, like you and me, but parents who are, like, Barry Koltnow's age, and people were neither drunk nor dressed in appropriate Halloween attire. It was time to go.

We were waved right through the sobriety checkpoint on Newport Boulevard, which was snarling traffic for no reason at all if they weren't even going to stop people (not to mention it's bad for our rep not to get pulled over), headed past the Hilton (where the one group of people we saw wasn't even in costume), and decided to cap our night at the Garden Grove Mexican restaurant and Elvis lounge, Azteca. JJ, the tanned and suave manager, would make everything all right.

The spooky lounge, its year-round Christmas decorations temporarily masked, was bursting with forks in brains, hands in jars, and fluttering bats just crying out for Ozzy Osbourne. And who was that inside? Why, it was people! And they were dancing between the tables to Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" (which I thought had been outlawed after Sept. 11, but I'm glad to see I was wrong)! And they were dressed up as scary werewolves and pretty angels and a guy in a milk carton, his face where the "missing" picture would be and his nutritional information promising 100 percent love and tenderness and real cream! Serving size? Look and see! And people were drinking! And talking to one another! Even after you didn't want them to anymore! And there was a fog machine! And people! And drinks!

Thank the good Lord—or Satan—but you can cancel that subscription to Riviera.

Next week: we party hard at the annual physicists convention!

Thank the Girl:

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