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.

At a recent party launching the House of Blues Music

Co. record label, guests included Mick Jagger, John Goodman and Chazz Palminteri.

L.A. can rightly claim pre-eminence when it comes to

comedy clubs, both stand up and improv. Every big name, stand up comedian, from Robin Williams to Billy Crystal, spent time in local clubs honing their routines. And they still come back, often unannounced, to keep their timing finely tuned before a live audience. Pauly Shore's mom, Mitzi, owns The Comedy Store where she has been giving upand-coming comics a boost into the big time for decades. Roseanne still returns to dish it out to the dazzled crowd.

Stand up clubs are only half the story. Improv (short for improvisation, but never use the complete word!) is just as hot and also a spawning ground for top talents. The Groundlings, a Melrose Avenue institution, puts on skitoriented revues featuring students and alums of their classes. Pee-wee Herman, Jon Lovitz and "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow all passed through the Groundlings school. Kudrow credits her burgeoning career largely to her acting coach who has since moved on to the break-away Acme Comedy Theater. Acme makes no bones about challenging The Groundlings' turf. Their revues are often most risque, more likely to draw attention.

Hypnotic as it is, Sunset doesn't have a lock on L.A.

nightlife. L.A.'s cabaret scene is somewhat slim but considerably enlivened when a chanteuse appears here to vamp an appreciative, cabaret-starved crowd. Cybill Shepherd attracts such a following but no one can approach the raw sensuality of Eartha Kitt. Both appear at the Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill along with Shirley Horn and Margaret Whiting.

L.A.'s jazz scene is probably the mellowest it's been in decades. Look for seasoned veterans like Joe Williams and Buddy Collette at classic clubs such as the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood. And many name-brand artists, musicians ranging from Benny Carter to Herbie Hancock, call Los Angeles home. One of the hottest piano bars, mostly jazz, is at the venerable Bob Burns restaurant in Santa Monica. With its supper club atmosphere, this 37-year-old hideaway has attracted Angelenos and Europeans for decades.

At 5th Street Dick's in Leimert Park, the coffeehouse

ambiance often leads to lengthy late-night jam sessions. Otherwise, the club, long a fixture in L.A.'s burgeoning jazz community, could feature the stylings of intrepid pianist Horace Tapscott or the sounds of saxman Dale Fielder.

For a spicier mix, there's L.A.'s Latin-Afro-Cuban beat. At La Fonda on Wilshire Boulevard., east of Vermont, Los Camperos_a world class mariachi band_performs Mexican tearjerkers and upon request will sing happy birthday in Japanese.

Grand Avenue, Downtown, delivers all types of Latin music from cumbia to merengue to salsa. Robert Duvall is a regular at the Cuban nightclub La Floridita in Hollywood, where he dances the night away. Sandra Bullock is keeping her favorite salsa club a secret so she can keep the media away.

And remember, the nightlife scene in L.A. cannot be

easily categorized. Sure, there's karaoke. But at places like Country Star in Universal City, the karaoke sounds have a decidedly country twang.

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