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A Real Gas

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

O2, the new oxygen bar Woody Harrelson and wife Laurie Louie opened on the Sunset Strip, couldn’t have come along at a more crucial time. Hollywood debauchery runs in cycles, and the last time anyone checked his head was just after River Phoenix’s death. His 1993 overdose, which occurred down the street from O2, happened just long enough ago that many seem to have forgotten about the perils of illicit drug cocktails. That might explain why sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are so “in” again.

For those who want to live until daylight--or those who, at the very least, actually see daylight on occasion--this popular bar and restaurant is an ethereal sanctuary. Designed with an airy intergalactic feel, O2--the brainchild of holistic physician Dr. D DeAndrea--offers unavoidable lessons in healthful living.

The all-veggie menu features food in the raw. If you look closely, you can see the vitamins snap, crackle and pop. . . . Well, maybe that’s just the heady effect of the oxygen-enriched air streaming into your nostrils. The hook at O2 is the oxygen, plain ($13) or flavored ($15) per 20-minute hit. Just strap yourself onto a tank as if it were a modern-day life-support system.

Oxygen is the only high offered at O2, which doesn’t serve caffeine or alcohol. Surprisingly, this little factoid doesn’t keep the masses away. In fact, in a mere three months, O2 has become one of the hottest night spots on the Strip. Maybe it’s the comfy hemp-covered booths or the tutti-frutti cocktails designed to pry open those senses rather than dull them. Gotta say, it’s a nice change from the smoky dens of inequity we usually cozy up to.

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But all the lessons in health-conscious living do take some getting used to. Depending on whom you chat with at the bar, you might be too ridden with guilt to eat sushi again after a lesson on the ills of farming the ocean (O2 offers fish-free sushi).

The club is relatively small, but once you pass through the main dining area, there’s a dance room with a big mirror that makes the space appear larger than it actually is. There’s also an opium-type den, which is where the majority of folks are catching air. It looks like something out of a ‘60s flick, except the well-heeled kids are wearing hemp rather than Nehru.

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Like the neighboring House of Blues, O2 comes with its own motto: Eat--Drink--Breathe--Love. It’s not a bad ethos when you think about it, and judging by the looks of things, an O2 love connection isn’t farfetched. Even on a Monday night, when promoters Green Galactic and Public Space host Green Space, the place is packed with neo-hippies grooving in unison to DJ-driven abstract electronica.

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Other weekly events include Strangefruit, a Friday night electric funkfest paying homage to “frugivores,” or fruit lovers; Wednesday, Poetry Slam; Sunday, Gay Love Lounge. Saturday after-hours there’s a party hosted by the Bud Brothers. Remember, one of the perks of not getting your guests loaded is that you can stay open later.

Still, something about all those lessons in cleaner can make you want to high-tail it out of there and into the raunchiest rock ‘n’ roll joint you can find. You can lead a horse to water, but he still may want a drink.

BE THERE

O2, 8788 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-9002. All ages, cover varies.

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