Generating Its Own Heat

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In Hollywood, anyone can open a bar, hire a publicist and load the place up with beautiful people from cheesy modeling agencies. I see it all the time (and usually try to avoid it).

A week later, the over-hyped venue is a room with no soul and no patrons. Unless they're on the clock, the beautiful ones wanna be where it's happening, where they can maximize their fun and be seen by all the right people.

Right now, it's happening at the Hollywood Canteen.

Yes, the cozy restaurant is filled to the gills with models-slash-actors, but not because they have to be there, because they want to be there.

Occasionally, timing is everything, and the time was right for this old-school venue. Four weeks ago, current owner John Kim teamed up with Hollywood hottie Michael Sutton, and the rest isclubland history.

Although the Canteen's been around forever--Bette Davis owned it in the '40s and used it as a USO base--not much had been shaking there in the last decade. It was open only for lunch until Kim met Sutton, a Hollywood actor (three years on "General Hospital") turned promoter. Sutton took one look at the place and told Kim he could do something with it. He was so right.

It had all the necessary elements. An outdoor patio, a dining car, a roomy bar and a '40s Airstream trailer, which was being used as an office. But it was lacking flava, that intangible element required to create a scene.

Sutton got busy. He decked the outdoor patio out with Christmas lights and a chandelier and added white-hot lounge seating, so diners can kick back under the stars. The trailer, which they now refer to as an "underwater bordello," has been transformed into a VIP lounge, complete with fish tanks, leopard-print cushions and an exterior painting of a '40s pinup. The bar area also has been transformed into a sake lounge. At first glance, the carpeting looks like shag, but it's actually green grass, despite being indoors. The sexy bar staff and servers add just the right amount of titillation. After dinner, which includes everything from filet mignon to lobster cocktails, each table is outfitted with a hookah, which looks like an elaborate bong but is actually an aperitif of sorts. Charcoal tops the hookah, and a shot of Sambooka liqueur fills out the watered-down base. Guests can choose from a variety of fruit-flavored tobacco and pass it around the table as if it were a peace pipe. It's a fun element and adds a unique spin to the dining experience.

Speaking of unique spins, they didn't waste a dime in hiring deejays. Culling from the cream of L.A.'s crop, the venue, which is open six nights a week, features such star deejays as Sean Perry, Scott Oster, DJ Hire and David Orlando.

Let's get back to that timing element. With summer loving coming and the nights aflame with that balmy L.A. air, the Canteen fills up early with young lovers looking to floss what they got.

Who can blame 'em? Hollywood's all about scenes, being seen, movie scenes, living la vida loca . The Hollywood Canteen has captured the zeitgeist for the moment.

All I can say is, sign me up.

*

* Hollywood Canteen, 1006 N. Seward St., Hollywood. (323) 465-0961. Closed Sundays. Dinner reservations recommended. Call for guest list inquiries. 21 and older. No cover.

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