WHEN we first started this beat about 15 years ago, the scene wasn't much of a scene. It was post-riots and pre-boom, and hopes for a Hollywood nightlife that could compete with New York or Miami were but a distant dream.
Slowly, thanks to tenacious promoters, bad-girl starlets and club owners from L.A., New York and Miami who saw Hollywood as a veritable gold rush, the dream came true, positioning L.A. as a nightlife power on par with any city after dark.
This year's annual Buzzies celebrates the highlights of a city that's sizzling:
Best New Nightclub
Les Deux Cafe
Oh, the wild times we've seen here in its first few months. The Dolce Group has unveiled a star-studded hang that runs on pure adrenaline. Unlike Dolce, Bella and Geisha House, which feed the dainty masses, Les Deux is a French-style nightclub that makes you feel like seductive Euro-trash the moment you touch down. It's not about food, although they do serve sumptuous desserts; it's about the people, the music and the A-list bumrushing.
Just try to get in on a Friday night when Josh Richman and Hartwell man the fortress and even Tyra Banks has to wait a second. You gotta know somebody, honey. On Thursday or Saturday, though, you might get to know somebody.
* Les Deux Cafe, 1638 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood, (323) 462-7674.
Vine St. Lounge
When I first stepped into the nightclub near the corner of Hollywood and Vine, I believed that it had the potential to become the next Viper Room. The Vine Street Lounge didn't live up to that calling right away, but when new owner Peter Zamani brought in image consultant Stacy Joiner and talent buyer Ron Mesh (a veteran tour manager) all things changed. Every week, there's something I have to see there, including funk soul brother Toledo (on Mondays) and hot punk and rap acts. And the fact that they lured Viper doorgirl Stephanie Mata and famed Viper soundman Frank O'Riley makes everything, well, pitch perfect.
* Vine Street Lounge, 1708 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 464-0404.
Best New Attitude
Last year we gave Teddy's, the controversial club at the Hollywood Roosevelt, the booby prize for destroying the vibe of what was once a great, low-key fave. It didn't take hotelier Jason Pomeranc long to get the hint. He axed promoter Amanda Scheer-Demme, whose late husband the club was named after, and brought in veteran nightlife pros the Alliance. All is well again at the legendary hotel. There's no shortage of celebrities, and the synergy between guests and clubbers is more seamless. The best part? The ghosts are back, and with them, the fun.
* Teddy's, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-7000.
Best New Design
Last year, Mood nightclub gave us the "wow" factor, with its luscious Zen design and flair for the dramatic. This year, the award goes to Jeffrey Chodorow and Melissa Richardson's renovation of the former playground to the stars, the Hollywood Athletic Club. The Moroccan-inspired nightclub and restaurant is stunning, top to bottom.
* Social Hollywood, 6525 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-5222.
Best New Eye Candy
Just describing this sweetheart of a nightclub makes my mouth water. It's tasty, dainty and oh-so-pretty in pink. The trendy restaurant and lounge at the former location of North is the best example of what owners Brent Bolthouse and SBE's Sam Nazarian can do together: build an exquisite venue that caters to A-listers without removing the fun factor, which is usually supplied by allowing young scenesters inside. This jewel box is worth the wait.
* Hyde, 8029 W. Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, (323) 656-4933.
Best Sunset Strip Club
Like Rocky Balboa in the ring, the Key Club keeps making inroads year after year to stay on top of its game. And 2006 proved to be a fine year for the venue at the former location of famed Gazzarri's. It's the year they pried Metal Skool away from the Roxy on Monday nights. It's also the year owners Keith and Jerry Pressman opened a successful new Key Club at the Morongo Casino. It continues to be the venue of choice to see raucous punk, rock and metal bands, as well as emerging young artists.
* Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 274-5800.
Best New Westside Hang
With its 1930s Italian gangster vibe and a penchant for the East Coast, the classy Scarboni Lobster & Steak House is attracting a colorful clientele to its Santa Monica locale. Famed nightlife impresario Steve Scarduzio, a successful film producer whose club lineage dates to the '80s, opened Scarboni with partner Tommy Saboni, and it's just what the Westside needed -- a classy hang where everybody knows your name.
* Scarboni, 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 393-2288.
Best Dance Club
Precious few dance clubs greet you like family, offer you a table without bottle service and give you multiple options for your aural palate. This Inglewood nightclub caters to an older black clientele, but it's not about color -- it's about hip-hop, jazz, funk, R&B; and fine local talent. DJ Groovy Lou seamlessly blends old-school West Coast hip-hop with modern-day all-stars for a booty-shaking blend that makes it nearly impossible to leave the dance floor until you've collapsed in a sweaty pile. Even then, you still want more.
* Dynasty Lounge, 206 S. Locust St., Inglewood, (310) 673-5441.
Best New Lounge
The Tower Bar
This spot at the Sunset Tower Hotel earns props not just because it's the most likely place to catch Sean Penn kicking back on a weeknight (although admittedly that makes it kinda hot). It's the fact that with little fanfare and even less advertising, the new hotel at the old Argyle has quietly enhanced the Sunset Strip with its low-key demeanor and classy design. Photos of Truman Capote, who lived at the hotel in the '40s, hang on the walls of the piano bar to remind us of a more civilized time. In addition, the Tower Bar is in Bugsy Siegel's old apartment.
* The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 654-7100.
Like the little engine that could, Safari Sam's is chugging away in a world of marketing tie-ins, cross-promotions and corporate mergers. The new, independent-minded nightclub club born from the ashes of Orange County's punk rock explosion opened with the klieg lights on its financial woes. But each week it continues to build, with great music and an easygoing vibe.
* Safari Sam's, 5214 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 666-7267.
Scene King and Queen
Corey Parks and Duane Peters
It's a love connection made in punk-rock heaven. Known among friends as the punk Sonny and Cher, the husband-and-wife team of Duane Peters and Corey Parks is a musical dream team. Peters, one of the first pro skateboarders who then went on to front numerous punk bands, met his match in Parks. The sister of former NBA player Cherokee Parks, Parks is one tall drink of water. She plays bass with a passionate fury in such bands as Charley Horse and Die Hunns, her band with hubby Peters. Now that they made the move from Long Beach to Los Feliz, we'll be seeing more of them.