Saturday, February 17, 2007

Downtown Dive Makes New York Times!

Well, despite its current name - Bordello - this former 'dive' is a long ways from its Little Pedro's pre-gentrification days, much less its descent into ever increasingly respectability, long before its recent name/ownership change:

February 18, 2007
Louche Life

NOWADAYS in Hollywood, a whiff of scandal is more likely to boost a career than torpedo it. This phenomenon applies to nightclubs as well as starlets, if Bordello is any indication.

For over eight decades, the Little Tokyo haunt was a Mexican restaurant and bar called Little Pedro’s. But before that, according to neighborhood lore, it was a brothel. Little Pedro’s new owners, Tony Gower, Dana Hollister, Elizabeth Peterson and Jim Venetos, all nightlife veterans, have taken the legend to heart, appropriating it as inspiration for the club’s reinvention.

With its lacquered lipstick-red walls, black crystal chandeliers, loveseats covered with Chinese silk brocade, huge Venetian mirrors and vintage paintings of nudes, Bordello casts a Carnival-meets-Deadwood spell.

“It feels kind of lawless,” said Cole Wilson, a 28-year-old music publicist who was ensconced in the bar’s interior parlor on a recent Saturday night. “With all these curtains around, people think no one can see them, so they’re more willing to cut loose.”

Over by the bar, a scruffy young man in Buddy Holly glasses wore a mildly stunned expression. “What happened to the polar bear?” he asked the bartender, referring to the enormous stuffed beast that had been the mascot of the previous incarnation. The bear was nowhere in sight but there was plenty of eye candy, like the risqué photo gallery of burlesque dancers.

Bordello’s epicenter is its rococo stage, which features part of an elaborate altar from a 19th-century Catholic church in India framed by custom-made crimson satin curtains.

“The curtains have a very complicated mechanism system,” explained Ms. Hollister, who designed the interior. “It took three years to make, and there’s only one other like it in the world, so we can’t let any drunk musicians get anywhere near it.”

Most nights, the stage is occupied by a house band led by Joey Altruda, the club’s entertainment director, playing jazz, ska, Afro-Cuban or saucy accompaniment for striptease artists.

Following the band’s Saturday- night set, fops in narrow-cut suits and girls with bobbed hair in Op Art minidresses and go-go boots streamed onto the dance floor for Satisfaction, the ’60s-theme monthly dance party.

“See how people are dressing up?” Ms. Hollister asked. “If you want to capture a certain niche you really have to transport people with a beautiful atmosphere.”

So where does that leave the polar bear?

“At my house.

My one quibble is that while the Little Pedro's started out in Little Tokyo (and it is still directly across the street from the major temple in the area), for some decades now, that side of Vignes Street has been more a part of the Arts District both physically and socially.

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