Brent Bolthouse is worried. The 24-year-old host extraordinaire at such happening L.A. night spots as the Viper Room, Roxbury and Saturday Night Fever thinks the city’s party scene is in the throes of an identity crisis.
“There was a time when there were six different club parties going per week. Now there’s nothing to do,” he complains. “The main problem is that L.A. is still a segregated city when it comes to partying. Certain people only go to certain places, so nothing ever becomes really big.” In an attempt to change things, Bolthouse recently resurrected his infamous New Year’s Eve party, co-hosting the bash for 2,000 people at a Mulholland Drive estate with the modeling agency Bordeaux.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Bolthouse continues. “We’re all trying to figure out what direction the club scene is going. Even though I was never into Rave parties because of the drugs, they’re over. And we used to have all of those hip-hop kids, but they grew up and moved on. There’s no incoming group to replace them. Even the bands that grew up here — Cypress Hill and House of Pain — aren’t doing their thing here.”
The young impresario speaks wistfully of the New York club scene. “Hip-hop is more mainstream there; a new crop is always coming in at the Soul Kitchen. Hip-hop acid jazz is very cool. US 3 is a great group. I’d love to see a club open with that theme.”
Staying connected to the record, modeling and entertainment industries helps Bolthouse keep his ideas and his guest lists fresh. Re-energizing the fading Roxbury by redesigning the staging, lighting and sound to make room for live music was another tactic. With the help of the Doobie Brothers’ Skunk Baxter and Stray Cats’ Slim Jim, both of whom will perform at the venue, Bolthouse hopes to introduce more sophisticated evenings into the lives of night crawlers.
Another priority is getting them to dress better. “I want to see L.A. get a little more elegant,” says the long-haired, goateed Bolthouse, who typically wears a black three-piece suit complete with watch chain. “Maybe that’s because I’m getting older. Maybe I’m a role model for that idea, since I act too middle-aged.
“I like it when people dress. The best billboard I ever saw in L.A. was Charivari’s sign saying, ‘Just because you live in L.A. doesn’t mean you have to dress like it.’ The problem is that L.A. is a movie town. Men and women who work around the clock on a movie set are in jeans. They don’t have to care about fashion.
“On the other hand, New York is a fashion town. You have supermodels and the fashion mafia in New York running around looking chic and telling everyone what to do. Look what’s out here! Vogue L.A. is two girls, and they don’t even go out!”
But then again, Bolthouse doesn’t think anyone else in L.A. is socializing like they used to. “People aren’t going out to meet people because they are afraid of AIDS,” he explains. “Instead, people are looking for entertainment and having dinner with friends.”
Maybe that’s why he’s just opened the Moroccan-themed Babylon restaurant on Robertson. The eatery is a yet-to-be-exploited meeting place for loyal Bolthouse followers Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, U2, Tia Carerre and Elle Macpherson. But while a New York branch is set to open — possibly in SoHo — by fall, Bolthouse isn’t about to abandon L.A. A move into fashion might just be his next maneuver.
“I would love to get involved in fashion shows out here. I know they exist, but no one knows about them, and that’s too bad. Going to shows in New York or Paris is a blast because everybody knows about them and you always run into your friends. Here it’s such a secret thing for special customers. Why not get a little youth in there? Use more celebrity models, rock ‘n’ rollers, and have a big party afterwards. “L.A. really needs that kind of fun. But I think stores and designers just don’t want to take the risk. I know it would be good for business, because all my friends would love to see beautiful girls and beautiful clothes on a runway.”
Another fashion-oriented strategy Bolthouse is considering is a partnership with jewelry designer Axel. The designer, who currently makes oversized silver pieces for rocker Axl Rose and other customers by special request through Maxfield, is getting ready to distribute a line of silver and gold designs with the help of Bolthouse’s connections.
As he moves on to become restaurateur, show producer and fashion entrepreneur, the only thing Bolthouse lacks is an ideal successor to fill his shoes as teenage club king.
“I can’t do clubs forever. I always look around and say, ‘Who’s going to get the torch that was passed to me a few years ago?’ But I don’t see anybody.”