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CLUB REVIEWS : Gem Adds Luster to Melrose

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Gem may be a diamond in the rough.

The swank nightclub, located on an unlikely block of Melrose, took quite a gamble when it opened its elaborately designed door two weeks ago. Declining a la Hollywood Boulevard, this shopping district becomes increasingly less glamorous each year. But if the beautifully executed, ‘40s-style cocktail lounge succeeds, this stretch of Melrose finally will have a decent and long overdue nightspot.

Call it nouveau retro: The intimate, two-room club is a dreamy haze of midnight blues and deep burgundies, with an ample supply of cushy couches and padded chairs--even the bar stools are covered with comfy velvet cushions. Details include a copper bar, glass tables lit from below and a skylight in the main room. Separating the rooms is two-way mirror, through which guests in the back room can view the front-room antics.

And there’s much to view. On a recent Saturday, one male guest chatted loudly on a cellular phone while sprawled, feet up, on a silver couch right out of “Alice in Wonderland.” And yes, the requisite Men in Black Suits With Slick Ponytails are on hand. Their counterparts, a legion of well-endowed ladies, danced seductively to the deejay’s blend of lounge and soul. Tom Jones, the Isley Brothers and selections from the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack got the party started early--with the dance floor already filled by 11 p.m.

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On weekends the club institutes a guest list policy, so the uninitiated should prepare to wait. Oh, and dress decently. A Huntington Beach resident made the mistake of wearing shorts and had to loiter outside while his friends toasted to his patience.

* The Gem, 7302 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. 21 and over, cover varies. (213) 932-8344.

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Club Buzz: A big lounge music to-do at the Century Club tonight: “A Musical Tribute to Les Baxter.” The ‘50s pioneer of orchestral lounge music recently allowed L.A. musician Joey Altruda access to his original sheet music, and Altruda has gathered 20 musicians to re-create Baxter’s music. The tribute will be the first time the ailing composer’s music will be performed live in 15 years. Among the musicians is Plas Johnson, the original saxophonist for Henry Mancini’s orchestra and the ‘Pink Panther” theme song. Performances at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.

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* Century Club, (310) 553-6000.


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