Biting Into a New Career : Brent Bolthouse has made his mark on the club and party scene. Now, all of 23, he’s ready to try something new--a restaurant.


With a mere few days left before he opens his restaurant, Brent Bolthouse is neither nervous nor fearful.

“I just want to do it,” he says, revealing a mild case of frustration.

Forgive the man his impatience.

Even though he’s only 23.

He’s already a five-year veteran of L. A.’s nightclub and party circuit. His clubography includes past clubs Papa Willy’s (with his partner Tef) and Le Hot Soul. Currently he’s on weekly rotation around town: Mondays at the Gaslight, Thursdays at Roxbury and Saturday Night Fever at the former Carlos & Charlie’s.

Bolthouse has also been involved with large-scale benefits for Rock the Vote, Greenpeace and last year’s AmFAR fashion show.


Opening a restaurant now, he says, “just seems like a natural progression. I’ve done clubs for five years. Can I do a better party? Can it be better than the AmFAR benefit? You can always keep doing parties, but how much better can they be?

“I wanted something a little more civilized,” he says. “Doing a restaurant’s so much more stable. Clubs only last, ideally, about a year, and then you get out. With a restaurant, you kind of know it’s going to be around for a little bit longer.”


“This restaurant is exactly what I wanted,” he says, surveying the Moroccan-themed Babylon in West Hollywood. He wears pin-striped pants, a loose, untucked shirt and two-tone wingtips. Black hair hangs in waves down his back.

Almost everything is in place the way he designed it: the elaborate marquetry chairs, the ornate tiered chandeliers, the gold-leafed bar, the VIP back room that smells of musky incense. All the place needs is food, music and a roomful of beautiful people.

Why Moroccan?

“I don’t know, it seemed right. I wanted something ethnic, and oddly enough, fashion has gone that way. Calvin Klein shows ads with tents in the desert.”

It could be Bolthouse’s desert roots that inspired him. He grew up in Joshua Tree. But back then, he says, “I had no idea I’d be doing this.”


As a teen-ager he felt the pull of the bright lights and big city and headed to L. A. often to go to concerts and clubs. He quit school and moved here at 17 in 1987 and got a job in a Valley gas station.

He started his first club two years later, giving in to the persuasions of a friend. They found a spot for Opus Lily at the Sunset Landmark (now the Hollywood Athletic Club), passed out invitations, and Bolthouse lied about his age. Later they started Papa Willy at the same location, his first hit club. Some of the same girls who used to snub him at the gas station wait and wait and wait outside his clubs.

“And they have no idea why,” he says, shaking his head.

Success seems to be the best revenge.


“The impressive thing in terms of Brent is that he’s really on it, he’s really committed to doing all these projects,” says Sean MacPherson, a club impresario who co-owns The Olive, the clubby restaurant favored by young Hollywood and other trendites.

“He’s got real enthusiasm for what he’s doing, which I think is really important in running a nightclub, because there’s got to be something in it outside of pure material gain and profile.”

About the time MacPherson and his peers were moving from large clubs into smaller bars and then restaurants, “I got the torch handed to me,” says Bolthouse.

“But it takes something to carry it off,” says J.V. McAuley, a club scene veteran. “The baton has been handed to other people and whoops--they dropped it. It takes some savvy to twirl that baton.”


Now Bolthouse has to prove he can carry off running a restaurant. He’s partners in this venture with Roxbury co-owner Eli Samaha and Samaha’s wife, actress Tia Carrere.

He’s been warned that this might not be the best economy in which to open a restaurant, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. He just wants to get the outside tables and chairs set up, wants to get the phone lines working, wants people to make this their hangout.

“I hate to waste time,” Bolthouse says. “You have to hope and know there’s something at the end of it all, or else why waste your time?

“And hopefully when I’m 30 I’ll have a family and babies and I can go trot around the world with them or stay home and watch them grow up and I won’t have to work so hard. That’d be really nice, not to have to work 20-hour days.”

So says the man who hasn’t had a vacation in six years, who says he feels like “I’m still a little guy from the desert sometimes,” who wants to produce movies and open a “really fun” hotel in L.A. like New York’s hip Paramount, who does small acting jobs here and there as a “hobby.”

“I always knew I’d do something,” he says, “that I’d make a mark somehow. Yeah, it does sort of find you. That’s always the best way. And you think, ‘So this is what it is. OK.’ ”