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NIGHTCLUB : Fans Keep Jammin’ Glam Slam : Potent Mix of Music Styles Help the Club Defy the Odds Against Longevity

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Prince opened his Glam Slam club downtown in January, he and his cohorts had one goal in mind: to become a permanent fixture in a town where even the flashiest nightclubs often don’t make it past the six-month mark. Glam Slam, now in its 10th month, has defied the odds. With the continuing appeal of its heady mix of live and recorded hip-hop, rock, jazz and techno, this 28,000-square-foot facility on Boylston and 3rd streets can reasonably claim the title of L.A.’s hottest club.

The secret, according to the club’s Steve Edelson, is variety.

“We will do everything from the Joffrey Ballet’s opening night party to an Ice-T & Body Count show in the same week,” says Edelson, 30, a partner in the venture. “It takes more than a mirrored ball and a bunch of smoke to make people happy in the ‘90s.”

The eclectic strategy goes against traditional thinking, which decrees that the best way for a club to build loyal patrons is to offer a single style of music. But it does makes sense in a time when hard-core rappers share a spot in the Top 10 pop charts with Nirvana, Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey.

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Glam Slam’s patrons are frequently just as diverse. On a typical Saturday evening, the crowd reflects the cultural hodgepodge that defines L.A. On the dance floor, supermodel types strut in platform shoes and bell-bottoms beside the urban-clad B-boys, while go-go dancers show the latest steps on stage.

“You come here and you pay $15 and you may expect to dance, but you might also see a rapper that night, or SWV or Robin S.,” Edelson says of the 1,250-capacity complex, which includes an adjacent restaurant. Funk founder George Clinton, who records for Prince’s Paisley Park label, is scheduled to perform Saturday.

“When you go to the Gate or the Palace, you go to a dance party and that’s it. You know exactly what to expect. The element of surprise isn’t there ‘cause they don’t have the (financial) backers that we have.”

Although “backers” largely means Prince, the P-word is avoided by staffers, who were required to sign confidentiality agreements before embarking on the venture.

“We’ve mentioned it before, and we were reprimanded for it,” says Glyn Samuel, the club’s general manager.

“No, that’s not true,” quickly counters Edelson, who with Samuel had a role in starting Club Vertigo, which preceded Glam Slam at the Boylston location. “Let’s go backward here. What we can say really is that Prince is the creative force behind the club.”

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It’s easy to spot the influence of the guy who calls himself once you step inside the two-tiered club. From the inlaid brass male/female symbol on the purple dance floor to the neon version above the club’s door, Prince’s aura is definitely in the house.

Two pillars featuring naked groping men and women anchor the club’s main room, and Egyptian-style faces peer down from the multicolored walls. The heavy gold mesh fabric hung throughout the club and the jewel-strewn bed cradled in a sculpted hand upstairs come directly from Prince’s “Erotic City” concert tour.

Prince fans from around the country have stopped by the L.A. club, just as they have for years at the sister club in the pop star’s hometown of Minneapolis. They can even be spotted sometimes during the day taking photos of the sign outside.

On dance nights, the deejays’ philosophy appears to be simple: If you play the funky beats, they will come. Mixing a generous dose of Prince’s music with a trendy blend of ‘70s soul and ‘90s hip-hop, the roster of deejays keeps regulars such as Derryal Ewing, 27, moving on the dance floor.

“I made it here New Year’s Eve,” before the club was officially open, “ ‘cause I knew it was a fantastic beginning of something exciting. And the club’s still slamming,” Ewing says.

Not everyone would agree. Langford Johnson, a 24-year-old hip-hop devotee who checked out the club recently, says he prefers rap’s more traditional underground scene to the glam of Glam Slam. “It’s too bourgie,” he says flatly, using current slang for bourgeois .

But David Wollock, the marketing director of Rap Sheet magazine in Santa Monica, praises Glam Slam as the only upscale club that regularly books hip-hop acts.

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“It has kind of a glitzy, bourgie vibe, rather than that gritty underground basement feel, which is different because some hip-hop heads might feel uncomfortable there,” he says. “But the sound system is amazing, and the security is great.”

Samuel and Edelson are also involved in running the private Friars Club in Beverly Hills. Edelson also co-owns two of the city’s other main rooms, the Dragonfly on Santa Monica Boulevard in L.A. and the Maxx Club on Yucca Street in Hollywood. He is now preparing to open the Sunset Social Club on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

“We really work hard to make everybody feel like they’re a part of these clubs,” Edelson says.

“We don’t have the Roxbury attitude,” he adds, referring to that club’s snobby reputation. “And it’s paying off. I don’t have an open night at Glam Slam for seven weeks.”

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