We were somewhere around the Shaman Shack on the edge of the dance floor when the self-love began to take hold. The Enabler remembers saying something like, “I feel a bit enlightened; maybe we should dance...” and suddenly there was a hypnotic beat all around and the room was full of what looked like liberated hippies, all swooping and screeching and diving around the dance floor, which was grooving at about a million beats per minute with the lights flashing at Grateful Fridays, a metaphysical club night at Bardot in Hollywood.
And a voice was chanting, “You are beautiful! You are warm! You are lovely! Think of the color yellow and honor yourself!”
The Enabler — who was feeling as yellow and beneficent as a giant sunflower — and her designated driver and abstemious sidekick, the Inhibitor, had arrived at the weekly party to commune with their incorporeal sides, which had been damaged thanks to too many nights spent in the sodden arms of the Frolic Room down the street.
Grateful Fridays, which was conceived by a quartet of spiritually aware night life producers, including a gentle fellow named Chris Jackson, strives to bridge the gap between, as Jackson says, “consciousness and commercialism,” through a curated program of dance club activities including workshops on self-hypnosis, Kabbalah, transformational learning, Tantric dance, breathing techniques and “love step” — a softer, happier alternative to the dance music called dub step.
Michael Tronn, Bardot and Avalon’s new artistic director, who made Grateful Fridays a regular event at Bardot, says he believes in the 2-month-old night, which is packed by 11 p.m., because it’s a “counterculture movement on the verge of great expansion.”
That’s not to say that this crunchy, crystal-centric brand of entertainment doesn’t have a long history — think Burning Man — just that its presence in a bona fide Hollywood nightclub is a somewhat startling new development. And it seems to be catching on — another “consciousness” party called Luminous Movement takes place every Wednesday night at Zanzibar in Santa Monica. Grateful Fridays gained inspiration from after-hours dance parties held at the year-old raw-food restaurant called Cafe Gratitude on Larchmont.
The theme of the Grateful Friday party, at which the Enabler found herself considering the benefits of face-painting, was “Wild Things.” To get in the spirit, attendees inserted items such as 12-inch twigs through their septums and donned a variety of costumes including feathered spirit animal hats; pantaloons paired with puffy-sleeve shirts; thick fur Wookiee boots with sequin vests; and homoerotic caveman leather. One rebellious soul at the massage station where “tips are deeply appreciated” wore an Israeli-issue gas mask.
The Enabler and Inhibitor — making their way to the back bar where organic wine and beer were served alongside the acai-based spirit Veev, which Jackson cheerfully pointed out was “helping to sustain the rain forest” — felt like interlopers at the alien cantina in “Star Wars.”
What if these self-empowered nightclub-goers recognized them for the cynical, self-effacing, bottom-shelf whiskey drinkers that they were? What if they discovered that the Enabler’s idea of self-affirmation was a second olive in her martini?
No matter, pointed out a regular guest named Harry Paul, who calls himself “Shaman Harry,” Grateful Fridays is about not passing judgment on anything or anyone.
“I can tell you’re special,” he told the Enabler, pressing her hand, his blue eyes sparkling with the power of holistic healing. On the stairwell above him a DJ who looked as if he had escaped from the set of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” cranked up the volume and a thick fog of smoke bearing distinctly herbal notes passed through the room. The Enabler was transported to her sophomore year of college and a semester she spent near the Netherlands. The Inhibitor began to sweat.
The chanting voice became louder. It was coming from Michelle LeMay, a member of the lifestyle group Groove Temple, which aims to get dancers moving to honeyed lyricism laid over rhythmic dance music.
“Let’s get into that group chakra. Think about the color red and move and groove in your root,” intoned LeMay with authority.
“You have to lose yourself to find yourself,” Tronn had told the Enabler, and suddenly she flashed back to earlier in the evening when she had stood stoically listening to a self-proclaimed “metaphysical filmmaker” named Michael Perlin who wrote and directed an indie film called “3 Magic Words” as he talked about how drinking beer, watching sports and working at the Macaroni Grill had led him to ask, “Is this what life is about?”
Perlin had lost himself sometime after he met a young, not-yet-famous Renée Zellweger poolside at college in Texas. She told him that she was going to make it, and her eerie self prophecy stuck with Perlin as he struggled to produce a popular New Age film against great odds.
“The greatest pleasure in life is doing things that people tell you you can’t do,” Perlin had said. True, true, thought the Enabler, exiting Grateful Fridays and heading East to the Frolic Room — to her people — as the Inhibitor implored her to stop.