What is it about too many cocktails that make even the most shy want to belt out a glass-shattering rendition of "The Greatest Love of All?" Karaoke is an indelible part of night life, a lowest common denominator and bonding exercise for businessmen, college students and even, say, Sean Penn at a beachside bar.
Which is precisely what's going on at Rande Gerber's Malibu spot, Café Habana. Situated in the Malibu Lumber Yard, the eatery is well appointed with wood accents and some palm shrubbery for privacy. No doubt appreciated by the likes of Penn, who has attended Habana's weekly Wednesday night karaoke jam. He's been joined by the tennis legend John McEnroe (who knocked out Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" recently) and Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine. Kid Rock has indulged in mini-sets with tunes such as Bob Seger's "Night Moves," Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" while locals munch on Cuban sandwiches and corn on the cob. Habana is a New York transplant, curated for the West Coast by Gerber, who is "keeping it casual and comfortable with a beachy vibe and a great, old wood bar with lots of history."
Karaoke and restaurant crooning in general have long histories in L.A., including singalongs to "That's Amore" at the C&O Trattoria and warrens of private karaoke rooms in Koreatown or special nights at clubs like the former Guy's in West Hollywood.
"Café Habana Malibu has become the spot for locals who were craving a place to come both early with their kids as well as late night with friends or a date. It has the ambience and energy people love," Gerber says. Like famous people. "Real entertainers love to entertain," he hypothesizes, "we are fortunate they like to do it at Habana."
And his go-to crowd pleaser for patrons and his wife, Cindy Crawford? "Anything everyone knows the words to," Gerber says. Words to live by.
Café Habana, 3939 Cross Creek Road, Malibu. Karoake, 10 p.m. Wed. Free. Habana-malibu.com