When it comes to Hollywood nightlife, the stars have it.
“All you need is one celebrity friend,” says Rick Calamaro, a veteran Hollywood promoter. “Simple as that — it’s the golden rule.”
He should know. Calamaro, a partner in such Hollywood hotspots as Nacional and Ivar, became a major player in the ’80s by virtue of the fact that he was pals with Charlie Sheen. He’s been working it ever since.
It’s about fame, femmes and notables. Brent Bolthouse has converted this formula into his mission statement. Arguably the most powerful weekly promoter in Hollywood, Bolthouse launched his first nightclub 15 years ago … with Drew Barrymore as his cashier.
“Everything grew from there,” says Bolthouse. “And over the years, we built a reputation for offering a safe environment for actors. We don’t allow cameras into our rooms and work hard to protect people’s privacy.”
Today, he and partner Jenifer Rosero own Hollywood on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — when their clubs become the stuff of tabloid dreams.
Mondays, it’s Joseph’s Cafe, a Greek restaurant on Ivar Avenue; Wednesdays, they migrate to the newly minted Concorde club on Cahuenga Boulevard; Thursdays, you’ll find the scene at the Lounge on Santa Monica Boulevard; Saturdays, they’re holding court at A.D. on Highland Avenue.
At every one of these clubs, you’ll see such stellar figures as J.Lo and Ben, Britney or Justin , Demi and Ashton, Colin Farrell and his companion du jour. But more than the names, it’s the mix that makes things interesting. At any Bolthouse night, you might find Rob Zombie dancing to a Jay-Z song, with Jay-Z in the house. Socialite Paris Hilton kicking it with professional skateboarder Chad Muska. Oscar De La Hoya hanging with members of ‘N Sync. It’s a stimulating mix, but creating it is no easy task.
Rosero, who works the door at each of these events, has one of the toughest jobs in Hollywood. “Celebrities are constantly badgered by the press and I’m not letting people in who are going to hurt them,” she says. “I can’t remember one time where someone’s asked for an autograph at any of our clubs. It just doesn’t happen.”
And club owners will go to great lengths to protect their clientele.
“Britney Spears was coming to the Lounge on Thursdays,” says Cheryl Davis, who along with husband Art Davis owns the Lounge, A.D. and the upcoming Kama Sutra. “She doesn’t want to be photographed smoking so we put up an enclosed awning outside so she could smoke in peace.”
Among the newest celebrity haunts is Dolce, an upscale Italian restaurant with an impressive TV pedigree. Co-owner Mike Malin, who worked his 15 minutes of fame on “Big Brother 2,” just happened to be pals with “That ’70s Show’s” Wilmer Valderrama, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, who just happened to invest.
“We couldn’t have hooked up with Ashton at a better time,” says Lonnie Moore, co-owner of Dolce and Belly, a tapas bar on Santa Monica. “That’s the kind of thing you can’t plan.”
And in a town that mulches trends like a weedeater on speed, it’s always about the nightclub with the freshest coat of paint. To wit, Concorde, which just opened in the Cahuenga Corridor, counts Tommy Hilfiger model Jason Shaw as a primary investor: that Shaw used to date lovely socialite Paris Hilton made the early buzz on Concorde feel more like a tremor. Just the mere chance there’d be Hilton sightings had the paparazzi lining up before the venue officially bowed.
“It’s like a combustible engine,” says Loyal Pennings, the owner of Concorde, Las Palmas and Deluxe. “They follow where the actors are going. If you’ve got the actors, you’ve got hot chicks. And people who are friends with actors can capitalize on that. If someone who’s friends with Leo DiCaprio or Tobey Maguire can get them to come down to a nightclub, they’ve got a career.”
And the Keanu factor never hurts.
One of the brightest new promoters on the scene, BoJesse Christopher, starred in the 1991 film “Point Break” with Reeves. Along the way he met a few other stars. But after toiling in the world of acting for 10 years, he decided to try his hand at club promotion.
Christopher, who hosts Tuesdays at the Cuban-themed nightclub Nacional with Rick Calamaro, Fridays at the new Sunset Strip venue the Falls and Saturdays at Ivar, uses his weekly events to lure corporate sponsors like Von Dutch and Dickie’s Girl.
Anything can happen at any given moment,” he says. “P. Diddy can roll into Nacional on a Tuesday and rather than head upstairs where celebs are hanging, he’ll hit the dance floor.”
White Lotus co-owner Eric James Virgets says he’s still mesmerized when he looks around the Asian-themed nightclub, a bright new spot on the young Hollywood map. “I’ll see Nicolas Cage sitting next to Vince Vaughn,” he says.
Navigating the velvet rope
While most of the weekly events are private — you either know the promoter, the doorman or Leo — the club scene couldn’t exist without fresh blood. The key to slipping past the velvet rope at many of these spots is a bit of planning. Dinner reservations are a good start. Another method is putting in work, getting to know the people out on the scene. At the end of the day, it’s a fairly small community.
“The hardest part of my job is saying no to people I’d really like to let in,” says Rosero. “We have capacity issues we deal with every night and we have to run a tight list. But make an effort to get to know us, let us see your face a few times and come to some of our bigger nights when we can let more people in.”
The bottom line, says Bolthouse, if you want to hang with the young and the fabulous in Hollywood, you have to pay your dues. “It’s like going to Disneyland. Some people will wait in line and some won’t. But if you really want to get in, you’ll find a way.”