Loving the swinging years
For 22 of their 25 years as husband and wife, Marty and Elayne Roberts have given up their weekend evenings so that yours might swing. They are, of course, the beloved lounge duo at the Dresden in Los Feliz. It’s a gig that has brought them a quirky renown, playing vermouth-dry versions of disco classics and romantic standards, jamming with celebrities from Flea to David Lynch to Julia Roberts. And, perhaps most famously, appearing in the movie “Swingers.” Although their work is about helping other people enjoy the weekend, theirs is kicked back in a Rat Pack kind of way.
Dive right in
For the record:
12:00 a.m. Feb. 13, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday February 13, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Department stores -- An article in Thursday’s Calendar Weekend referred to entertainers Marty and Elayne Roberts shopping at Robinsons-May and Macy’s in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. That shopping center no longer has department stores. The Macy’s is at Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks and Robinsons-May is in North Hollywood.
“We are creatures of the night,” Marty says. “By the time most people are ending their Friday, we’re just getting up.”
He’s not kidding: They rise at the crack of 5 p.m. “We go for a swim in our pool at home and Marty has something to eat,” says Elayne. “I don’t eat until 1 o’clock in the morning.” Home is in the part of the 818 area code now called Valley Glen.
If every cup has a saucer, Marty is Elayne’s. They got together in 1970 when she was a 16-year-old pianist and chanteuse needing a jazz drummer for a gig in Alhambra. Four months later they were married, and they have been making beautifully loopy music ever since.
Friday and Saturday nights after last call, you might bump into them shopping at 3 a.m., two spectral figures in matching black and red outfits, with gold medallions (Marty) and big hair and a Cheshire cat grin (Elayne). They haunt Walgreen’s and Rite Aid and, says Elayne, “Ralphs, when they’re not on strike.”
“We’ll come home and cook, then put the tube on,” Marty says. “There’s all kinds of stuff to watch. Like ‘Three’s Company.’ ” Or maybe a movie rented from Blockbuster.
“We like good science fiction, like ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ ” Elayne says. “And when it’s nice out, before I go to bed I like to bike ride or take a jog up the hills by San Fernando Valley College in the first light of the day. I feel like I own the world.”
When their routine gets to be too much like a square 9-to-5, they’ll get away from it all and nest like lovebirds at the Sportsmen’s Lodge on Ventura Boulevard. “We make a weekend out of it,” says Elayne. “On Sunday, our day off, we get up and walk around looking at the swans in the lake. It’s very romantic.”
“Sunday,” Marty says succinctly, “we cool it.”
A Marty and Elayne Sunday shopping spree might consist of the following: Carter Sexton, an art supply store in North Hollywood for Elayne, whose hobby is painting; Macy’s or Robinson-May at the Sherman Oaks Galleria if they need clothes, though most of their stage gear just has to be tailor-made, and Target or Kmart for “domestic items.”
They might grab a bite at the Patio Cafe at the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which “has delicious food and is very reasonable.” Both pledge allegiance to such Sinatra-era fare as prime rib and Caesar salad.
On holiday weekends, when they visit their daughter in Henderson, Nev., they stay at the Green Valley Ranch. “The bathroom is almost as big as our living room,” Elayne says, beaming.
But this Saturday night, they’ll be taking requests at the Dresden once again. “Just write it on a napkin and put it on the piano,” Elayne will whisper, as she always does. And L.A.'s enduring lounge lizards will sing love songs -- including, no doubt, “My Funny Valentine” -- to each other.
-- David A. Keeps