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What’s Hot in L.A.

LOS ANGELES -- From January (post-Christmas movies) through May (early summer movies), it's traditional downtime in Los Angeles -- with a brief resumption of activity in March (Oscar parties). But despite the current slump in movie-related events,...

LOS ANGELES — From January (post-Christmas movies) through May (early summer movies), it’s traditional downtime in Los Angeles — with a brief resumption of activity in March (Oscar parties). But despite the current slump in movie-related events, there actually is some buzz below the surface — and that’s where the best things usually are in this intentionally superficial town.

Clubs

A few tenacious promoters are keeping the nearly dead L.A. club scene crawling along. Bryan Rabin and Jimmy Medina do a one-nighter on Saturdays called Highball in a small place on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. Jaye Davidson hangs there when he’s in town, and so do the hipper local actors, film and fashion types.

Brett Witke, the man behind nightspots B.C. and the T-Room, just opened a club on Sunset Boulevard across from the Chateau Marmont called Union. Open from Wednesday to Saturday, it features a private back room hidden behind a sliding bookcase. Like Highball, it’s more about chatting and eating than dancing.

Despite River Phoenix’s death, The Viper Room is still getting the Gen X crowd — in fact, more than ever.

Thirtysomethings are checking out The Derby, a dinner/jazz club in the Los Feliz neighborhood that also features a gospel brunch the first Sunday of the month.

Jazz and blues are picking up steam — The Hard Rock NY’s Isaac Tigrett and Dan Aykroyd are readying a blues club in Venice to open by spring.

Restaurants

Chic expensive places come and go in L.A., but the medium-range funky watering holes are thriving in the (hopefully) last days of the California recession.

Swingers coffee shop is still the breakfast hot spot, the Emporio Armani restaurant is hottest at lunch and upscale Bikini in Santa Monica is adding a lower-priced, simpler food space called Abique. Fred Eric, a former chef from The Olive, is about to open a place called Vida in Los Feliz that will feature lots of vegetarian dishes, interesting design and a private party room. He says it looks like “a cross between a Viennese tearoom and an opium den.” Lavish Drai’s on LaCienega continues as the celeb den of choice.

The coffee house craze has peaked, but orange pekoe is catching on. Chado, a tearoom on Third Street, has become the place to take your caffeine — you can find Rosanna Arquette and new hubbie John Sidel there every weekend, and 250 kinds of tea leaves.

Shopping

The malls may be groaning, but Beverly Boulevard isn’t complaining. It’s taking over the lead on trendiness from Melrose and LaBrea. Two stores just opened that sell only white clothing — Sterling and Eros. Richard Tyler’s boutique continues to thrive, although the designer is looking for a bigger location, probably in Beverly Hills. Chanel made a great move by moving the boutique across the street and expanding on Rodeo Drive. It’s more celebrity friendly and it’s packed every day.

The hot designer of the moment is Pamela Barish, whose velvets and brocades are only in Maxfield’s and Les Habitudes. Laura Dern, Jennifer Grey and Anjelica Huston are already big Barish boosters.

The Juice

One of the best hangouts in town is the Erewhon health food store on Beverly Boulevard, where Ringo Starr goes to get his fresh juice in the morning and Sondra Locke does all her shopping. The Teegarden, a Venice emporium that makes Chinese herbal elixir drinks, now has a Beverly Hills location. All the agents and execs stop there each morning for an antidote to stress.