Clubbing isn’t what it used to be: It’s not a matter of just knowing where to go, but knowing what day is right for each spot, where nights can have their own theme, music and even name. Nowhere is this more true than on Sunset Strip, which is experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks in no small part to its night-life scene. Herewith then is “Clubland Cliffs Notes” to make your travels more comfortable no matter what day it is:
Thursday, the Viper Room: Dean R. Miller, the host of the Viper’s Mr. Phat’s Royal Martini Club on Thursdays, likes to keep things interesting. So that means special appearances by the Pussycat Dolls, the ‘40s-style burlesque dance troupe he created that once featured Christina Applegate and Carmen Electra. And rather than offer just the standard martini, Mr. Phat’s has its own martini menu--you can choose from among eight selections of this cocktail classic. The weekly swing club, which has featured the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Kid Creole and the Coconuts, was created two years ago and intentionally harks back to the ‘40s. “Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, this club was called the Melody Grill,” says Miller, a purveyor of fine cigars by day. “Bugsy Siegel used to hang out here and it was the place to end your night.” Thanks to Miller, it still is.
* Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 358-1880. 21 and over, $10 cover.
Friday, Dublin’s Irish Whiskey Pub: Dublin’s is a new, low-key sports bar at the old location of Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s, and this joint gets mobbed as the evening wears on. People like this casual hangout because it keeps things simple: There’s no cover fee, cheap valet parking and a big beer selection. In addition, Dublin’s opens its doors at 11 a.m., serves food all day and offers such sports pub traditions as darts, big TVs and pool tables. Since its recent opening, it’s given the Strip a much-needed shot of unpretentiousness.
* Dublin’s Irish Whiskey Pub, 8240 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 656-0100. 21 and over, no cover.
Saturday, Billboard Live: Perhaps because of this newcomer’s commercial lineage, some critics seem to want Billboard to fail. Yes, it’s still finding its feet, but Saturday’s Reality always seems to land upright. Reality is a Euro-glam affair, with deejays from Amsterdam spinning house music, with a choreographed fashion show each week. Using the three-tiered club’s multimedia elements to full effect, this Reality doesn’t bite.
* Billboard Live, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 786-1712. 21 and over, $10 cover.
Sunday at Bar Marmont: No one guards the door to this gem of a club on Sundays, so it’s a good night to drop by the intimate bar for a cocktail. The same couldn’t be said for its November 1995 opening, which just happened to coincide with Leonardo DiCaprio’s birthday party. People were being turned away in droves. But you don’t build up a reputation in L.A. as a “place to be” for nothing. Owner Sean MacPherson claims many cool L.A. spots: Small’s K.O., Jones, Good Luck and Swinger’s. To be sure, Bar Marmont channels up the energy of the Olive (MacPherson’s and ex-partner Jon Sidel’s now-defunct Fairfax district eatery, which was miraculously filled to capacity every night), but with some contemporary Strip panache. After all, not every club has a bald glamour girl (Constance the hostess) working the room.
* Bar Marmont, 8171 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 650-0575. 21 and over, no cover.
Monday, Union: The Toledo Show has taken place every Monday for the last year and a half. L.A.-born Toledo is a choreographer and dancer-turned-vocalist whose midnight show at the Union continues to be one of L.A.'s hottest affairs. He takes listeners on a wild ride through this town’s low-life corridors, turning the Union into an erotic, modern-day speak-easy. It’s a smoky, steamy affair, not for the weak of heart.
* Union, 8210 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 654-1001. 21 and over, $5 cover.
Tuesday, Sky Bar: The lovely spot at the Mondrian will only heat up as the weather gets warmer. Set above the pool and spa area of the newly refurbished hotel, the Sky Bar has a stunning view of the lights of the city and an even more stunning view of L.A.'s most famous faces--who seem eager to populate the trendy new nightspot while at its trendiest. Tuesday is as good a night as any to angle your way in--the place is packed on the weekends, and the weeknights tend to be more fun. But here’s the drill: To get in, you must call the hotel in advance to arrange to be on the guest list (hotel guests get preference, as do celebs).
* Sky Bar at the Mondrian, 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 848-6025.
Wednesday, the Whisky: Ever since Johnny Rivers (“Secret Agent Man”) made his debut on the Whisky’s stage back in 1964, the L.A. music scene has never been the same. This seminal rock club has been the epicenter of the best and worst of musical times. Still offering everything from punk to death metal (which is on Wednesday night’s bill), the Whisky is promising to expand its lineup to include country and swing. “We don’t want to be locked into just the alternative/punk scene,” says Marsha Kerasidis, the club’s assistant booker. To prove it’s serious, the club recently added a new dance floor.
* Whisky, 8901 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 535-0579. All ages, $15 cover.