L.A. Feature_Nightlife

65 On The Town After Dark

LOS ANGELES _ If Clark Gable and Carole Lombard or

their equally glamorous cohorts from Hollywood's golden era returned to L.A. today ready to party, they'd have a serious adjustment to make.

Those grand old nightclubs_the Cocoanut Grove and the Moulin Rouge, where the legendary stars cavorted in tuxedos and furs_are gone. And in their place has come a new breed of nightspot: still high on style and the fashions of the moment but decidedly more diverse.

L.A.'s nightlife_long fabled and well-documented_has evolved into an exceedingly eclectic scene. What's the hot nightclub these days? No one answer will do. The real question becomes: Hot for what: Rock? Blues? Jazz? Salsa? Comedy? Karaoke? Now we're grooving.

On weekends, the Strip, that section of Sunset Boulevard that winds its way through West Hollywood, is the place for a happening good time for the young and breathless. Every third car is a limo. The sidewalks are lined with cafe-goers and club-going revelers willing to wait_however long it takes. Youthful crowds, all in black, swarm the off-Sunset entrance to Johnny Depp's Viper Room.

A much more mixed group_and even some pastel

clothing!_crowds the sidewalk outside the Laugh Factory. When a limo pulls up at either place everyone turns, while feigning disinterest, to see who emerges. Most likely its just plain folks who popped for a big evening, but you can never be too sure. You wouldn't want to miss Brad Pitt just because you were too proud to angle yourself properly.

The night begins with a slow cruise down the Strip,

Fairfax to Doheny, and back again. Check out where the longest lines are: who's playing at the Whisky or the Roxy. Between buildings, the view to the south reveals a sweeping scene featuring L.A.'s lights.

There's public parking for anyone willing to ante up $8. Take heart, the night is young and that's less than the price of a martini at Bar Marmont. If that's your first stop, get ready for the chest-to-chest crush and folks angling for a good view of Cassandra, the bald, transvestite maitre d'.

Nearby, at the House of Blues, co-owned by actor Dan Aykroyd, the accent and the atmosphere offer up a bit more Southern comfort, running the gamut from Cajun to gospel to, oh yes, blues. It's as much a Disney-esque Pirates of the Caribbean as it is a nightclub/restaurant_faux folksy decor and blue lights outline the building. Celebs and some of L.A.'s most devoted music fans can be found inside.

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