Club Blue Gives Empire Chance to Strike Back

Rose Apodaca Jones and Blanqui A. La Bounty are free-lance writers who regularly contribute to The Times Orange County Edition.

Longtime readers of this column, which debuted nearly three years ago in OC Live!, may have noticed a few changes in recent months. That's because Rose Apodaca Jones, who originated the column, took a break and was temporarily replaced by her sister, Blanqui A. La Bounty. Now Rose is back, but Blanqui is staying on too--the pair will write the column together, just as they have clubbed together for more than a decade.

This way, we get double the insider dish, while they each get a reliable date.


Costa Mesa's Empire Ballroom tries its hand again as a contender in the county's super-duper club circuit with its latest Friday-night-only installation of Club Blue.

Promising an eclectic evening of art, music and fashion presentations, promoter Elite Group Entertainment (which includes Robert Frias, formerly of Roxbury and Suede) actually rolls out a night that varies drastically in mood, quality and patronage from week to week. Club Blue can rage electric one night, then peter out to a dull shade the next.

Its brighter moments since its December debut have depended on the entertainment scheduled: fashion shows by local boutiques, traveling one-hit-wonder pop divas, performance art acts. Two recent runway shows (including one sponsored by the trendy new rag, UHF), drew a creatively fashionable crowd of designers, clothing industry types and groupies from the neighborhood and Los Angeles.

One dreadlocked out-of-towner remarked that he never realized there was such a scene here in O.C.; but a scene should happen with some frequency, and a good night doesn't qualify when it's so sporadic.

It's difficult to pinpoint the problem. Deejays Roly, Mark Moreno and Danny Love have tossed vinyl at several highly popular nightclubs and although their diet of old and new school, pop and house music begs for freshness sometimes, the beat never wanes. But even new sounds can't guarantee an audience: The fabulous Northern soul funking up the smaller Cheetah lounge side room doesn't always endear itself to patrons who apparently find it too daring.

The fashion shows, though never on time and usually fraught with organizational problems, tend to go over well and infuse the crowd with a much-needed energy. What works are themes like this Friday's Pimps, Players and Hustlers Ball, billed as the year's "glossiest" party. The night will feature a fashion show by some of the area's wildest underground designers; patrons are asked to dress in their trashiest lounge attire. (The fashion shows might end up as Club Blue's forte, since the county's spirited apparel industry lacks a true watering hole.)

So what gives? This is, after all, a Friday--which is traditionally a shoe-in night for clubs, even when there is considerable competition nearby. But Thursdays remain Empire's best night--and one of the hottest in the county--with Disco 2000 (deejay Roly spins that night as well).

For starters, there's the obstinate dress code: no hats or athletic shoes. Presumably the policy is aimed at grubby clothes and gang-wear, but stylish twentysomethings these days wear crisp retro sneakers, driver's caps and cowboy and porkpie hats. Ironically, a recent fashion show featured models clad in dresses and sneakers. Why patronize this place when so many other big and small clubs in the area welcome your fashion sense?

The steep $10 cover (most Fridays) coupled with high-end bar prices is another issue. Regulars can get around the entry fee by picking up a flyer inside the club and paying half-price. Or there are occasions like this Friday's ball, when dressing in the night's theme gets two in for the price of one. But for the cool crowd that Club Blue wants and needs to attract, there has to be a lower cover and drink specials such as those offered at D2000. Just like stuffy dress codes, exorbitant covers and drink prices went out in the '80s.

Club Blue can be a wildly fun night when it comes through with everything it promotes. Now if it could just deliver those things more often, its competitors would be green with envy.


* At Empire Ballroom, 640 W. 17th St., Costa Mesa.

* Club Blue hot line, (714) 967-0282; Empire Ballroom, (714) 722-6100.

* Fridays only, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

* Cover: varies, $5 to $10.

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