I've always been a fan of the Hollywood Standard Hotel. Andre Balazs' 2-year-old marvel with the famous upside-down sign and mod charm came along at the right time, as sort of a Mondrian lite--lighter on price and on hassles. Anyone can walk into the Sunset Strip hotel and hang out in its fabulous lobby cocktail area or its 24-hour diner, which is reminiscent of Swinger's in its prime--hot waitresses serving hot meals in a hot setting. Or, folks can ogle the human fish tank behind the check-in counter, a nonaquatic aquarium featuring models in various states of undress and/or slumber.
There's also the pretty starlight, star bright pool and such radical interior design features as shag-carpeted ceilings and wallpaper depicting desert scenes so vibrant, you look for rattlesnakes underfoot.
In essence, the Standard's white-hot interior and electric Barbarella 'tude spoke to America's young rock jet set, looking for a good time in a groovy environment without having to sacrifice their Fred Segal lunch money. That's why the eagerly anticipated and just-opened Standard Lounge is such a disappointment. We've been waiting for it to make its debut for more than a year, and although it's attracting all the right scenesters and scene makers, its look is dated. (Sorry, no photos; the hotel denied us camera access.)
It has its own entrance to the left of the lobby's main doors, and once you get past the velvet rope, the Lounge is a smallish room with a bar area, cushy seating arrangements, a couple of hipster swings and a low egg-carton ceiling.
The walls are covered with lighted purple plastic cylinders that drape the walls, creating a sort of postmodern hula skirt. The very, very dark bar is shaded with chromes and grays and has a distinct New York sense. It feels like an airport cocktail lounge, except with really attractive travelers. But the whole concept's been done before and, frankly, it's been done better. In the mid-'90s, both Beverly Hills' Milk Bar and LAX's Encounter restaurant took on the '60s super-spy lounge idea with unerring vigor.
Somehow, the Standard Lounge falls flat. With its private parties and hipster clusters, the Lounge will certainly do well enough, just as the Standard Hotel has already made a captivating impact on L.A.'s fickle youth. But I'm sure I wasn't the only one who couldn't wait to get back to the hotel, where you can sip cocktails poolside among the superb juxtaposition of desert cactuses--both real and imagined--and futuristic furnishings.
That said, there's a lot of competition out there these days, from such hot spots as the newly revamped Hollywood Canteen and Beverly Hills' Joya nightclub, which are packed with pretties nightly, to such easy-access bars as Belly and Beauty Bar. It'll be interesting to see how the Standard Lounge plays out over time. Because ultimately, for the first time, the Standard--which really is anything but --actually lives up to its name.
* The Standard Lounge, 8300 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 21 and older. Reservations required. (323) 822-3111.