The Cicada Club: a Vintage Night Out in LA
My last night in Hollywood was a doozy!
For the past couple years I've been participating on http://TheFedoraLounge.com, a great place for classic and vintage style of all kinds, including the old bikes and canvas rucksacks that I incline to (pipes and panamas, too). They are somewhat based out of Hollywood so I looked forward to running into some of these folks. They've often posted about having lunch or get-togethers at Musso's, for instance, a favorite old place just down the hill from where I stay at my aunt and uncle's house.
I'd asked on the Forum when I arrive about what's to do and got a quick note from one of the coordinators that there was a special night of live "standards" music at a place called Club Cicada downtown at the Art Deco Oviatt Building. I asked my uncle about this and he said he used to work near there and also went to the haberdashery that is now the fine Cicada restaurant. Well, I checked out http://clubcicada.com and had to go!
So, could I go out to such a Club with what I had brought with me in my carry-on? Let's see, I had my new hat---it would be perfect for the occasion, a roll-up panama in the original Optimo style. (See other report here at OYB.) I also had some swanky vintage seersucker trousers plus my coat and a tie. (I really enjoy traveling with a sportcoat---you can carry so much stuff in one! Yet, really, it doesn't have to look bad even loaded down. Pipe, camera, phone, wallet, flask...it all fits without a lump.)
So I set off in the subway for a last big night out!
A formally attired doorman set the right note for the evening when he ushered me in saying "Nice Optimo, sir."
Well, here's a little YouTube taste that I captured of the music and dancing that evening:
The Oviatt Building has an amazing history, worth looking into and summarized at this link: http://www.puzzledpictures.com/oviatts/. I believe it centers around a rich young man who started out working in the fashion industry at a low level to learn the ropes. He then decided he was ready to set out on his own and went to Europe---during a very strong dollar---and bought tons of great fashion. He came back to the US and set up shop selling it. Then he built a grand dream building---the tallest in LA at the time, real Art Deco wonder. And built a house for himself on the top floor and opened his clothing store down below. OK, I'm rather winging it with my history. Use the link to find out the real deal. Marc Chevalier, one of the Fedora Lounge gang, just co-produced a movie about this building. It was almost going to the wrecking ball a few years ago when some folks decided to save it. It's now fully restored. They had a gala 80th anniversary for it, where the movie was launched. Fun stuff!
Anyway, I was a bit lost, on my own, at first at the event. I introduced myself to Marc, who was hanging around the front area, and then I introduced myself to the host, Maxwell Demille. Everyone was stylish and dapper! I hope that my winging-it attire worked at least passably. I soon learned that doorman was also a Lounger.
Marc told me that he was no longer on the Lounge. I asked why and he said that I too would find out someday. Later on I pieced it together that someone was posting too frequently for his own wellbeing. Our hero is now much improved and a habitue of the more wholesome forum, http://thecad.net. : )
I also found out that the bell-hop can really hop. After his duty shift was up manning the vintage elevator he hit the dancefloor and proceeded to do wild moves with his lady friends for an extended period. (Vid clip below.)
The cigarette girl, Roxy, was really something---totally pro, photogenic and very friendly, especially when I gave her a wad of bills that she dropped.
The singer and the band were both fine. It's great to hear the standards and see all the accomplished dancing. I need more lessons! (Actually, I *might* have been able to not get kicked off the floor, and should've gone out. If you don't dance at a club you're not really there. It's true.)
I learned that the coat-check girl was also a singer in a band. And my waiter was a drummer who just missed a 2-week tour due to breaking his hand. Talent!
Matt Deckard, the local Fedora Lounge host who told me about the event, didn't make it. It would've been nice to hang out a bit more with the local Clubbies, but maybe I was a bit out of my league, what with my ad-hoc carry-on ensemble. Not that I'm a true vintage person in any case. I suppose that in such a new and impressive setting that introducing oneself is about all one can do.
I wonder if my uncle would've enjoyed himself. The Club is an interesting blend. It's real yet it's period. And my uncle is FROM that period. He obeys the rules of urban civility---no shorts on the street, etc., no hats indoors---but he doesn't "do" any era. He does only go out for live music, though, and he would've enjoyed those standards.
It was interesting watching the vintage crowd. Was being fancy just a hobby? I rather think not. These folks ARE fancy and classic attire lets them express themselves.
It was nice but a little unusual wearing a hat indoors. I saw some folks checking their stylish lids---perhaps they were regulars. I was happy to show mine off, but it was all I had. I suppose there are enough details to express for a true buff that a hat is no longer needed. I noticed that the hat made me a bit warm and it obsured my view. It's a weird thing to wear a hat indoors!
Of the three vintages cars were parked out front, 2 were Rollses.
The absinthe was flowing, thanks to a recent law change, but I kept it a mellow evening and caught the last train home on the subway at midmight. LA closes up early. I then had a pleasant stroll back up into the Hills.