Sunset after Sunset
A Hollywood Odyssey
|FADE IN:A pair of eyes fill the screen, bulging and bloodshot with rage. Or is it abject terror? Muffled yelling can be heard. We PULL BACK to reveal the face of one of our heroes, HOWIE. Veins protrude from his temples. Spittle flies from his cursing lips as he rants at someone off camera. We CONTINUE TO PULL BACK, revealing our other hero, TOMMY, desperately trying to hold Howie back. As the picture gets clearer, so does the sound.|
Eight dollars for valet parking? Are you crazy? You son of a bitch. I’ll kill you. Let me go, you bastard!
Calm down, Howie! We have to do this. It’s for the people. We must go through this hell so they’ll know how to survive! Damn it, man! It’s our mission!
I don’t care! I’ll kill…
It’s a write-off!
I’ll… Really? Oh.
|THURSDAY, 7:30 PMThere it is. Songs have been sung about it. Movies written about it. Sunset Boulevard. The Strip! That ribbon of asphalt that ties Tinsel Town into a neat little package. Where glitz means glam, where… Aw who the hell are we trying to impress. It’s party central baby! If it ain’t here, it hasn’t been invented yet.|
BAR MARMONT. Next to the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel, where many a celebrity has stayed and partied. Some making it their last stand. BAR MARMONT is more subdued and obscure than many places on Sunset, but it’s one of “the” places to be.
Our heroes enter and are immediately greeted by a LANKY MAN with a shaved head, wearing an exquisite evening gown, a lovely necklace and four inch heals. Constance, The Host(ess). Our boys are definitely not in Kansas anymore. They meet BRIAN, the manager, who passes them off to JULIA, a slender, attractive bartenderess exhibiting a few tasteful tattoos.
Be gentle, please. We’re journalists.
I’ll have a vodka martini.
(to Tommy) For you?
|An evil grin creeps across her face. Julia goes to work. Using every bar tool known to man (and perhaps some that aren’t) she produces what looks like salad in a glass with soda water and ice. It’s called a Mojito, a concoction of rum, mint and “the surprise.” Tommy takes a sip; realizes it’s going to be a long weekend. Howie’s thrilled that his martini fills the glass nicely and that there’s extra in a mini pitcher sitting on ice. Yep. It’s going to be a long, happy weekend.Our boys sit back. Take in the room. Classic forties. Hollywood meets the Pacific Rim. There’s a definite feel to this room. Dimly lit, with an emphasis on red. Some might call it romantic. Some mysterious. Others don’t care, they just keep ordering Mojitos. There’s a back section that’s even darker and redder, with plush couches and chairs that cry out for cognac and cigars. Of course, this is California. And it’s illegal to smoke inside. But don’t worry, BAR MARMONT has a patio for just that purpose.|
Our boys check out the wine list. Small but nice. The menu? You can eat a full dinner or just nibble at the bar. Considering their WINE X expense account, the boys go with the fries and pot stickers. Not bad. If these nibbles any indication, all the food here’s excellent.
Julia offers another drink.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen
in the time you’ve worked here?
Hmm… I’ll get back to you on that.
With that, our boys move on.
|THURSDAY, 9:30 PM.DUBLIN’S is an unscheduled stop. A sports bar in the true sense of the word. And then some. TVs everywhere. The place is filled with huge vats of peanuts, pool tables, drunk frat boys, hot women, lots of beer and no attitude. You can’t get by the bar without JIM calling out “Need a drink?” And St. Patty’s? Sunday football? Forget it! This is the place to be.|
Our boys discover there’s also an upstairs. But to get there they’d have to give up their coveted corner barstools. Ah, well. If downstairs is the consummate sports bar, upstairs is the happening dance club. That’s the thing about DUBLIN’S: No cover, no list, reasonable prices, sports and dancing. It’s got it all, baby. Back to Jim. The question:
Do guys get lucky here every night?
Our work here is done.
|FRIDAY, EARLY EVENINGFENIX at the Argyle Hotel. There are three ways to get into the club on Fridays if you’re not having dinner. Get on the list. Or you could try to get on the list. Or, the secret way, get on the list. Are we clear? Any club located in a building that has a ghost on the 12th floor and once let John Wayne keep a cow on the 15th for fresh milk is a place Tommy and Howie have to see. This is where hip meets the strip. (Sorry.) But make no mistake: The Argyle’s all class. This place has history. And you can feel it as soon as you walk in. FENIX is old Hollywood meets new. But it’s the comfort that impresses our boys the most. In the bar, dark, inviting couches that’re very conducive to making out line the room. Two steps down is the restaurant — elegant and intimate, with an Art Deco feel. Step through a door at the far end and you’re in the patio/pool area, where you can fire up a Cuban and catch a great view of the city. It’s hard to believe that in a few hours this quiet oasis will turn into a pulsating throng of people. But our boys are getting ahead of themselves. First, the eating! Followed by the drinking! Hence our boys head to the bar.|
The menu’s streamlined but choice. BRENDAN BOUDET makes sure of that. He’s the head chef and looks like a rock star. In fact, people have told Adam Durwitz (Counting Crows) that they love what he does with the food at the Argyle. After perusing the menu and considering the WINE X expense account, the choice for our boys is clear — club sandwiches all around!
They turn out to be the best damn club sandwiches ever! Imagine what the rest of the menu’s like. Thank you, Adam, er, Brendan. They check out the wine list over dinner. Whoa! BING! BING! BING! We have a winner. International and complete, right through port and dessert wine. Hell! They’ve even got a cigar menu. From their vantage point, Tommy and Howie can see the frenzied preparation for “club night.” This is a military operation.
An hour later they’ve found out why. From their stools our boys realize the throng has arrived and it’s surging through the three different levels. Time for a martini, or two, to gather the courage to plunge forth into the fury! While lesser men would weep openly, our heroes, undaunted, realize they must fulfill their mission. The club is huge and rockin’. Memories are blurring at this point. (Apparently there was much dancing and revelry and the occasional abuse of journalistic power. At least that’s what the detective said.)
Consciousness is achieved. Followed by a hot cup of coffee. Then the cold realization that they have to do it all over again tonight.
Howie, make it stop. Please?
Get a hold of yourself, man! You can do this. It’s what we’ve trained for.
I’m an actor. (pause) Oh, right.
|CUT TO:BAR FLY. High on the “A” list, calls itself a supper club. And although a lot of people know it for the club, the|
supper is pretty damn good! Besides, making dinner reservations is the only way to get in unless you’re on (say it with us now) “the list.” Trust the boys — you want to eat here.
Upon arrival, Howie and Tommy are greeted by the manager, FRANK FORTET, who’s in charge of public relations. He takes them to the bar, immediately relating:
Rebecca, get these guys a drink.
BAR FLY has the most extensive menu our boys have seen this weekend. Pretty much covers it all. Whether it’s sushi (UKI slings some of the best in town), steak, pizza or wienerschnitzel with arugula and tomato. Put that together with a nice wine list and hey, you’re there. The $25 per person minimum for a table is nothing. ‘Cause kids, if you’re on Sunset and you’re spending less for dinner and drinks, you’re probably at Denny’s. It’s best to shoot for early reservations before 9:30pm, to take in the atmosphere before it gets too crowded.
It seems like our boys should be doing an article for Vodka X. But it’s a martini town, so vodka it is. They’re not there 15 minutes when a bachelorette party wanders in, followed by an ever-increasing flow of the hip and the beautiful.
REBECCA, as it turns out, is a transplant from the original BAR FLY in Paris. JIM, DEBBIE and CHAD round out tonight’s bartending team. Our boys ask each “what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while you’ve worked here?” They get a lot of sly smiles but no real information, which is understandable. BAR FLY’s a celebrity hangout, and you don’t want to say the wrong thing about the wrong person, especially to two guys with a magazine and a pen. Ah well.
Across the bar another button is undone. A little more cleavage is exposed. And a little more distance is put between our boys and Kansas. The place is packed. It’s a great vibe! Our boys, well into a “two martini charm,” are surrounded by four lovely young ladies from New York. It’s amazing what a bunch of drinks and the phrase “I’m writing an article” can do.
It’s now 12:30 a.m. Howie and Tommy, now well into a “four martini charm,” are alone. Well, except for a 300-pound hog farmer. But she’s interesting. The bar’s closing. But the night’s not necessarily over. For there’s still “the valet,” where hundreds will be waiting for their cars, and everyone will be looking for something. Sex? Food? An after-hours party? Anything can happen on Sunset. Our boys, however, will never know because their Hollywood Odyssey has come to a screeching halt! After three nights of sacrifice for WINE X readers, they only have one thing to say:
It’s okay officer. He’s with me.