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The Boob Tube Is a Scenester

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Television is expanding its sphere of influence out of the living room and into nightclubs, where that tattered-robe-and-bunny-slipper ensemble just won’t do.

The move is not unprecedented. TV has long had a place in discos and bars--but as background, a visual diversion, like go-go dancers or salted nuts. (A notable exception, of course, is its place in sports bars, where the big game takes center stage.) Now TV is enjoying a coming-out party of sorts.

About a month ago, the Key Club’s Heidi Richman and Stila cosmetics introduced what was to be an eight-week “Sex and the City” party on Sundays. It grew out of a weekly soiree her friends threw to watch the show. “We outgrew everyone’s homes, and last year we moved into hotel suites. It was turning into this really elaborate thing. So I thought, ‘Let’s do a whole viewing party.’ ”

Richman had another motivation as well. “Los Angeles can be a really lonely place,” she says, “especially if you’re single. So it’s great to be able to go to a place where you can share what would usually be an at-home experience with people who are like-minded.”

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Richman lined up fashion designers, hairstylists and manicurists to round out the evenings. Buzz was strong. Then an HBO exec got wind of it and the party was over--at least the TV part. Sunday nights through Sept. 8 are now dubbed “Heidi’s Night of Beauty.” But take heart, rumor has it that the series has migrated to a nearby venue--sorry, we’re sworn to secrecy--making for a fun progressive evening.

Nearby, at West Hollywood’s Moomba (still open despite a recent bankruptcy filing), Greg Miller and Beth Lapides, the duo behind the long-running Un-Cabaret comedy show (now at the Knitting Factory), are introducing the Other Network on Friday night.

Over they years, they met a lot of people who produced TV pilots that never made it on-air, explains Miller. “We were like, there are all these great shows lying around and we’ve never seen them, but we’d like to, and we bet a lot of other people would too.”

Many of the shows to be featured during the six-week series were created by Un-Cabaret alumni, such as Julia Sweeney, Merrill Markoe, Judy Toll, Dana Gould and Bob Odenkirk, most of whom will introduce their shows. TV veterans Judd Apatow, Rob Cohen and John Riggi will also be represented, as will the master of ceremonies herself, Lapides, whose comedic talk show never made it to a screen near you.

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Miller, who has been previewing the shows, calls the material “deep, interesting, idiosyncratic and funny.” But whether club-goers are going to shell out 10 bucks to watch the tube, albeit on a very large screen, remains to be seen. Miller and Lapides are confident there’s an ample audience of industry types, comedy fans, TV wonks and the just plain curious. “You’re seeing TV you can’t see anywhere else,” says Lapides. “This isn’t like you’re coming to see ‘Frasier’ episodes.”

As far as watching television en masse, “people like people,” cheers Lapides. “I love watching TV alone in the dark in my room. But I love being able to go out and run into people in Los Angeles, people who you aren’t going to run into in your bedroom--hopefully. Plus it’s Friday in the summer and we’ve got to have some drinks. And this year has been particularly difficult.

“This is sort of an attempt to give people a place to commune. I don’t think this is the best year to be alone.”

Heidi’s Night of Beauty, Sundays at the Key Club, 9039 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 274-5800. The Other Network, Fridays at Moomba, 665 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 652-6364, or (323) 993-3305, or www. uncabaret.com.

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