The devils and divas are out, and it's not even Halloween.
It's just a typical Sunday night at Coven 13, a weekly club with a black-clad congregation that assembles at various Hollywood venues to worship all things Gothic. While the typical Hollywood club-crawler throws on a T-shirt and is out the door, the Gothic crowd turns the evening into a ritual of theatrical proportions.
At Coven, an 18-and-over club that currently floats from week to week, the women and men decorate their faces with a death-becomes-you pallor--the skin becomes whiter than white, the eyes are circled in smeared black makeup, the lips come in two shades--blood red or matte black. Some wear long black robes, others dress like dominatrixes, while a handful aim for the full-on dervish look.
At a recent Coven 13 held at Checca in Hollywood, we asked devilish customer Jason Hughes, whose earlobes were undergoing the ritual known as "stretching," just how exactly he attached two little devil horns to his shiny shaved scalp. "Super glue," he whispered. Perhaps the devil made him do it, but whatever the cause, Coven 13 celebrates the darker side of Hollywood night life.
Its promoter, Joseph Brooks, is credited with starting L.A.'s first Gothic club in the early '80s at the old Club Lingerie, and he recently completed a successful seven-year run with Sin-A-Matic, a Saturday night fetish club that was held at the 7969 club in West Hollywood until last September.
Brooks, an L.A.-based artist and teacher, opened Coven with the intent of celebrating the new Gothic-industrial music. Traditionally, the scene's been associated with such artists as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM. These artists can still be heard at Coven when deejay Jason Lavitt is spinning records. But live bands also perform, with Brooks culling many from the growing crop of neo-Gothic bands. The popular Switchblade Symphony attracted 800 people to its last Coven 13 performance and is scheduled to perform Friday night at the First Annual Halloween Masquerade Ball, an event sponsored by Coven 13 at the Park Plaza Hotel near downtown L.A.
In addition, two upcoming Coven performances offer a chance for the new school of followers to check out two of the genre's pioneering bands. With both events scheduled for the El Rey Theatre in L.A.'s Mid-Wilshire district, Coven presents Holland's Clan of Xymox on Nov. 9, and on Nov. 16 Coven is featuring England's Death in June, which released its first record back in 1981. Each event has local bands opening.
As with such clubs as Stigmata, which was held at the Probe in Hollywood every Friday until last week (it's now searching for a new location), the followers of the scene show an enormous amount of loyalty. Stigmata averaged 500 people each Friday for more than five years and Coven keeps growing in size itself. It's pretty remarkable when you consider that despite what new trends come and go, the Gothic scene hasn't gone away. "Each week, they get dressed up to come here," Brooks says. "They turn it into an event."
Whether it's fetish or fancy, passion or pageantry, you can decide if this movement's up your alley by experiencing the scene's ultimate thrill night, Halloween. The Park Plaza Hotel, an ornate and aged live-in hotel across from MacArthur Park, should offer the perfect setting to this four-room extravaganza for children of the night. Along with vendors selling erotic, exotic Gothic ware, there will be a fashion show and six deejays, and opening for Switchblade Symphony is Spahn Ranch and Sabrina Belladonna.
Perhaps the event's flyer says it all: Images range from '40s S&M; photos to Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, key horror movie heroes and superheroes. Whatever your tastes, this trick should offer a few treats.
Coven 13 at the El Rey Theatre on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. 18 and over. $15 cover Nov. 9, $20 cover Nov. 16. (213) 936-4790.
Halloween Masquerade Ball at the Park Plaza Hotel, Friday, 607 S. Parkview St., Los Angeles. 21 and over, $25 cover. (213) 644-1811.