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A Club With Retro Appeal

When the black velvet ropes--there are lots of black velvet ropes here at Ava’s--part for Tony Curtis, who is wearing a (truth!) black velvet suit, you know you’re in for some kind of retro evening.

Retro what, however, isn’t exactly clear.

For the young, hip clientele the 2-month-old nightclub aspires to attract, a lone pool table straight out of Shooters in “Melrose Place” occupies one room.

But Ava’s, located in the Beverly Center, is also meant to be a comfort zone for people who felt at home in Playboy Clubs past and other dimly lit disco-dinner clubs of that generation.

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Gloria Steinem would probably not love it here. Let’s just say that the waitresses wear black catsuits and combat boots. You should also know that their new fake leopard collars and cuffs are on order. Cocktail waitresses wear less.

Owner Ava Fabian, who purrs to the pet sharks in one of her giant fish tanks, presides over it all in a doting manner. Fabian is an actress and a Playboy Playmate, circa 1986, and proud of it.

Although she says Ava’s is a private club (with entry for non-members by cover charge) with a select board of directors (including Quincy Jones, Richard Perry and Stan Herman), she allows some women in for free--especially Playmates. “I try to make it comfortable for any of the Playmates who’d like to come,” she says.

Besides Curtis, other celebs who have been spotted inside the windowless, mauve walls are Sean Penn, Prince, Don Henley and Hugh Hefner.

The word on the street is that it appears to be up to the doorman to determine who pays the $15 non-member cover and who doesn’t. It seems to depend on the flow. That might mean that on a slow night, women aren’t the only ones for whom the velvet ropes can part for nothing.

“If you’re presentable and they think you’re going to spend some money, they let you in,” says Nader Eskandari, a 30ish mortgage and financial service executive in Beverly Hills, who walked in free with his partner on a busy Friday night.

Well, whatever it takes to get in, once you’re there, you can roam. As Ava puts it, “There are no VIPs in here.” Translation: There are no private rooms.

There is a disco straight out of the ‘70s with flashing colored lights, two bars packed three or four people deep after 11, and a restaurant that serves dinner and, after midnight, breakfast.

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All the dinner booths have telephones for booth-to-booth calling, bar orders or outside calls. About half the booths have privacy curtains. Ava says people go through bottles of Cristal champagne at $195 with abandon--and beluga on the side.

Ava’s most unusual attraction is no doubt on Thursdays when Johnny Crawford, whom baby boomers will recall as the co-star of television’s “The Rifleman,” croons songs from the ‘20s and ‘30s in the dining room. He wears a tuxedo, slicks back his hair and makes people feel as if they’re somewhere else.

“I feel like I’m at Ciro’s,” confesses one of the beautiful women. “Or on a ‘30s cruise ship.”

Name: Ava’s

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Where: 8522 Beverly Blvd. (in the Beverly Center); (310) 652-5357

When: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Doorman: Brawny but nice.

Admission: Membership is $350, plus a $20 monthly fee. Unofficially, non-member women are allowed in for free most of the time. Some non-member males pay $15 cover, some don’t.

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Prices: $20 minimum dinner order per person. One ounce beluga caviar, $65. Bottle of Cristal, $195.


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