One of the first jobs I had in Los Angeles was as a producer for a makeover show. For an episode featuring a local bar, I had to interview the owner – he said, – “I want this to look like an East Coast bar. People come here because this isn’t an LA bar.” I realized then how often I’d heard the phrase “LA bar” used in a negative tone. I had never heard anyone say “Aw man! Lets go to this killer Los Angeles style bar!” And, come to think of it, I had no idea what an LA bar was like because I’d never been to one. I’d seen girls wearing their half-dresses and guys sporting their waxed up hair-dos while standing in line outside of them, but I’d never been in one.

While the thought of waiting in line for forty minutes and paying $20 to walk in wasn’t exactly my style, I had convinced myself that maybe, just maybe, whatever is inside might be worth it. Luckily, my buddy was going to a party at some swanky club and was able to get me on the list. (did you hear that? “on the list.” How cool is that?!) So I went.

Wearing what I thought were perfectly adequate clothes, I drove my friends and me to the club. And, in a manner of blatant and cruel foreshadowing, I looked like a schmucky outsider before I even entered the club. How’s that?

At 9:45PM, if you looked out to the valet line, this is what you saw:

A yellow Mazarati, a silver Jaguar, a Lotus (I don’t even know what that is – my friend told me), and a dinged up 2001 Mazda SUV. Guess what I was driving. I might as well have shown up operating my own rickshaw. At least then I could’ve claimed to be cultured.

Then came the only other part of the evening I was ready for. Waiting in line. Turns out that being “on the list” doesn’t mean you can jump to the front, it just means you don’t have to pay.

We stood there, occasionally moving forward a few steps. We’d chat amongst ourselves. People watch. It was kind of like being in a bar. Except you don’t have a drink. And you can’t go to the bathroom. Or move. At all….

Before too long, I was standing in front of the bouncer. I felt like I was outside the most anticipated roller coaster of my life and I wasn’t sure if I was tall enough to ride it. I’d been eyeing the measuring stick this whole time but there was no way to tell.

He said: “Name?”  I told him. He looked at me. I tried not to sweat. He said, “go on in.” I turned back to the line and tried to look cool. I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

Here it was, the moment of truth. The door was right in front of me and behind it all of the secrets of LA bars were being stored. I was now going to be able to have an intelligent conversation when someone asks if I like clubs as opposed to just saying “No. They’re stupid. I hate lines.” I reached for the obnoxiously large door and pushed it open. The thing must have weighed four-hundred pounds. Why the fuck do you need such a heavy door? Is the bouncer not enough security? I hope there’s not a fire because this thing could cause some serious trouble.

After splitting the gates of Mordor, I stepped inside. I was ready to be blown away. Like a kid walking into Willy Wonka’s factory for the first and potentially last time – I wanted to remember everything. I took my first step in, looked around and…

I couldn’t see shit. Not a damn thing. There were probably three lights on in the whole place and they were all red. What the hell good is that gonna do?

After a game of Marco Polo, I was able to reunite with my friends. The only thing that I’d be able to discern about this place was that everything was black or red. And I must have missed the sign that read “Enjoy hearing now. That privilege is lost inside” because outside of ‘bump’ ‘thump’ and ‘crash’ I couldn’t hear much else.

The only decoration that was visible without industrial sized floodlights were the TVs above the bar. When I noticed them, part of me felt relieved. As in any bar, the TV serves as the one place that you can look and find mild entertainment if you’re bored or completely disinterested in your surroundings. Not a sports fan? Well if you’re bored in a bar, I’m sure you’ll become one pretty quick. My hopes for entertainment were dashed once I got close enough to witness the atrocity that was playing on these screens.

Each television was showcasing the exact same thing. It was a video loop. What did the loop consist of? It was close up clips of women eating fruit. Fucking weird. Were they at least attractive women? I don’t know. Why not? Because the video was only a shot of their mouth. And the fruit. That’s it. Where the hell was I?!

In an attempt to make lemonade out of this scenario, I thought about trying to bond with my fellow club goers. I turned to a young guy who may or may not have been wearing makeup and said “Man, what is with this video thing? How weird.”

He then carried all my hopes for an enjoyable evening and shot put them out the gigantic front doors. He said “Yeah, they seriously couldn’t find any models with better skin?’

What? Are you serious? That is your complaint?! It’s a video of women eating and your only concern is their skin? Unless you’re a dermatologist, which your ironically douchey t-shirt tells me you’re probably not, that is the single dumbest thing you could’ve said. You could’ve grunted or sneezed on me and I would’ve thought slightly better of you.

Then it hit me. My thought process was completely different than every other person in this bar. Everyone else was thinking: “How can I look cooler?” “Can I score with that chick?” “Does my hair still look messy?” “Can I score with that chick?” “I look like Sean Penn”  “Can I score with that chick?”

Meanwhile, huddled in my corner – I was thinking:  “Can they tell this shirt’s from Target?”   “How much do I tip the valet guy?”   “What’s the cheapest cocktail I can think of?”  “Do I have to tip the valet guy?”

My mind wandered away from the barely visible leather booths and metal bar stools to the cozy hardwood bar, friendly bartender and overused dartboard of my neighborhood bar. A bar down the street from my house that reminded me of home. They served drinks for the purpose of being drank not price tags in a glass to be flaunted like a status symbol. The girls wore clothes, not whatever this shit was. And the guys were too drunk to care what their hair looked like. A memory in the form of a smile stole my face for a brief second before –

“Hey man! Come here!” Ryan, the man behind this expedition, was about to introduce me to the most Los Angeles experience that this night had to offer. More LA than over priced drinks, more LA than cars so nice I don’t even know the names, and more LA than long lines. “I want you to meet an executive friend of mine.”

Oooffff course. What would a trip to an LA club be without some good old-fashioned Hollywood networking? At first, I was excited. “This is gonna be my break! This is how people make connections. In clubs. That’s why the lines are so long!” Much like a half-priced firework, it was all pop and no sizzle.

A thirty-something guy came stumbling over to me with his tie hanging loose and his eyes practically rolling out of the back of his head. His drink remained steady in his hand – probably the only thing I respected about him – but he had no clue where he was. If you asked, he’d probably say “Columbia.”

“Hank, this is my buddy Drew. He’s a writer too. You guys should chat!” I extended my hand for a shake and opened my mouth to speak but Hank beat me to it. He grunted something at me. I’m pretty sure it was 20% words and 80% top-shelf gin. He patted me on the shoulder in a surprisingly gentle way and then turned back to whence he came.

Ryan and I shared a glance that said “Welp, so much for that.” And I turned back into our corner thinking; at least he didn’t say anything stupid about the video loop.

I gave one last scan of the bar and judging by my two and a half feet of visibility, I decided that I’d seen all there was to see. I left. I made a bad joke to the valet about bringing me the Lotus. He didn’t bring me the Lotus. I tipped him anyway. And I drove to my local bar. And I drank a dark beer and played darts. And I realized something. This was what LA bars are really all about. Getting away from the hub-ub and hair product of Hollywood and relaxing with a pint. The “traditional” LA bar may be an epic fail, but we’ve got plenty of neighborhood pubs to gather in and laugh about it. Or at least sit quietly and stare at sports that we don’t care about. Cheers to that.


PS: It’s worth noting that I actually wound up working with Hank a few months later. He had no recollection of the encounter. He claims he was in Columbia…

- dc


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