Hey Look, Ma, No Wagon Wheels


Yeehaw. A new country dance spot in Fountain Valley could fill a void created by the closure of two nearby sites.

Richard Jones Pit BBQ (a.k.a. RJ's) can't match the superb sound system or dance floor that Denim & Diamonds in Huntington Beach had before it became the Rhino Room a couple of years ago.

But the floor is far springier, smoother and better shaped for circular two-stepping than the floor at Duke's in the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach. That was converted into a sports bar earlier this year.

RJ's opened as a restaurant about five years ago, but owner Will Mynar remodeled the place and added a dance floor more recently, after escalating rents forced him to close RJ's outlets in Fullerton and Anaheim Hills, he says.

Remodeling wasn't extensive. Beyond bland upholstered booths, a mirrored ball, a couple western landscapes and a bunch of TVs suspended from the ceiling, there isn't much to look at. Not a wagon wheel in sight.

But doesn't all of country culture seem to be mainstreaming lately? Hair isn't half as big; even cowboy hats aren't regulation anymore. So if you can do without those wagon wheels, check RJ's out, especially if you like line dancing.

Nightly lessons (7 and 8 p.m.; 7 and 8:15 p.m. on Sundays) include an amazing array of new steps, such as the no news dance, "a lot more action" and the politically correct Native American (so there, Tim McGraw). So-called "couples line dances," where side-by-side partners repeat short patterns, include the queen's waltz, the blue rose and the well-known desperado wrap and riding double.

On Tuesdays, the 8 p.m. lesson is two-step, with beginning and intermediate instruction alternating weekly. Both lessons on Sunday are devoted to West Coast swing, and DJ Vince Allen plays mostly swing for the rest of the night, spinning jazz, pop and country tunes with the fitting shuffle beat.

Vince (late of Lake Forest's Country Rock Cafe) says that he plays a lot of swing on Mondays too, because students from Costa Mesa's Danscene studio have been going over after their evening swing lessons.

Maybe the best thing about RJ's is that it's too new to get overcrowded, which naturally isn't good news for management. But Vince recently organized a reunion of D&D; regulars, who packed the place. The plan is to make every Thursday a D&D; reunion.

If you do come, come hungry. Dancers may order full meals through midnight. In addition to slow-cooked barbecue (chicken, ribs and brisket, which is smoked over oak logs for 16 hours), there are burgers, a chicken Caesar and a chef salad and the usual high-fat, fried appetizers. Trying to avoid a bypass? Get the sides: baked potato ($1.50), cole slaw, rice pilaf or corn on the cob (95 cents).

BALLROOM DANCERS TAKE NOTE: Knott's Berry Farm will continue its intermittent Saturday night ballroom and swing dance in 1997, although as usual, Cloud 9 Ballroom is booked with other events during the summer and most of the fall-winter season, beginning with Halloween. Here are next year's dates, courtesy of DJ Patricia Straight: Jan. 11, Feb. 22, March 8, April 12, May 10, June 14, Nov. 8 and Nov. 22. The dance runs from 7 to 11 p.m. Call (714) 968-5816 for discount passes, which reduce each admission to $12. Knott's is at 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.


* 10830 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley.

* (714) 963-9664.

* Dancing every evening, 6:30 p.m. to midnight.

* No cover.

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