NIGHTLIFE IN LOS ANGELES
L.A. didn't invent the word hip, but it certainly holds the patent on it. The City of Angels has some of the most cutting-edge clubs and bars in the world and is the polestar for the best and brightest in the music scene. Entertainment of all stripes -- from Hollywood Bowl picnic performances to cool jazz venues, retro roller discos, and rock-'n'-roll clubs -- can be found in the city.
Of course, first you need to find out who's performing while you're in town. Your best bet for current entertainment info is the L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com), a free weekly paper available at sidewalk stands, shops, and restaurants. It has all the most up-to-date news on what's happening in Los Angeles's playhouses, cinemas, museums, and live-music venues. The Sunday "Calendar" and Thursday "Weekend" sections of the Los Angeles Times (www.calendarlive.com) are also a good source of information on what's going on throughout the city.
To purchase tickets in advance, first try buying them directly from the venue to avoid paying a surcharge. If that doesn't work, log on to Good Time Tickets' website at www.goodtime-tickets.com or call tel. 800/464-7383. Based in Hollywood for more than 30 years, the privately owned company specialises in selling tickets to sporting, theatre, concerts and other entertainment events throughout Los Angeles -- at a markup, of course. If all else fails, take out a loan and call Ticketmaster (tel. 213/480-3232; www.ticketmaster.com), but beware of their absurdly high processing fees.
The Club & Music Scene
A Note on Smoking: In 1998, California enacted legislation that banned smoking in all restaurants and bars. Despite repeated efforts by opponents to repeal the law -- and willful disregard by some proprietors -- it's more widely enforced every year. If you're looking to light up in clubs, lounges, and other nightspots, better check to see what the locals are doing first.
The Live Music Scene
Los Angeles's music scene is extremely diverse, to say the least, a daunting and dizzying beast. But on any given night, finding something to satisfy any musical taste is easy because this city is at the centre of the entertainment industry. Every day, countless national and international acts are drawn here. From acoustic rock to jazz-fusion, heavy metal to Latin funk, and up-and-coming to put-to-pasture, L.A.'s got it all.
But there's a catch. The big events are easy to find, but by the time you get to town, odds are the good tickets will be gone. The best advice is to plan ahead. On the Internet, both Ticketmaster and concert business trade publication Pollstar (www.pollstar.com) have websites that include tour itineraries of acts that are on -- or will be going on -- the road. Just start your search in advance. For a listing of smaller shows closer to the date of your arrival, both the L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times "Calendar" section have websites . Sometimes tickets may come available at the box office before shows, or when all else fails, try "negotiating" with some of the locals in front of the venue.
Mostly gone are the days of the behemoth stadium shows, excepting, of course, the occasional U2 or Rolling Stones tour. Still, major national and international acts tend to be attracted to some of the city's larger venues.
The crown of Downtown and home to the Lakers and Clippers pro basketball teams is the STAPLES Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St. (tel. 213/742-7340; www.staplescenter.com). This combination sports/event stadium is now a primary concert venue, with recent acts including Prince and U2.
Amphitheatres are the staple of national rock and pop concert tours. Los Angeles's two main warriors are the outdoor Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles (tel. 323/665-1927; www.greektheatrela.com), and the indoor Universal Amphitheatre, Universal City Drive, Universal City (tel. 818/777-3931), each seating about 6,000. Both are among the most accommodating and comfortable facilities for big-name acts. Nearly as beautiful as the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek books a full season of national acts ranging from System of a Down and David Bowie to Al Green and Harry Belafonte. After a recent multimillion-dollar renovation project, the Greek is nicer than ever. Be advised that getting out afterward can still be a problem, as cars are stacked in packed lots, making exiting a painfully slow process.
Universal Amphitheatre has one advantage over the Greek: It has a roof, so it can book year-round. It's not as aesthetically pleasing, but it is quite comfortable and none of its seats are too far from the stage. For some events, the "Party in the Pit" offers a general admission section next to the stage. In addition to pop stars from Celine Dion to Jane's Addiction, the Universal has booked such theatre events as The Who's Tommy. While the neon jungle of Universal's CityWalk doesn't appeal to everyone, it does offer plenty of pregig dining and drinking options.
Orange County's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (formerly Irvine Meadows), 8800 Irvine Center Dr., Laguna Hills (tel. 949/855-8096; www.verizonwirelessamphitheater.com), which holds 15,000 (including a general-admission lawn way in the back), hosts KROQ's often-spectacular summertime "Weenie Roast" and KIIS's "Summer Jam" each year, as well as a plethora of touring rock acts, including recent shows from Rush and Sting. If you're going from L.A. on a weekday, get an early start, since Irvine is located at one of the most heavily traveled freeway junctions in the country.
Another popular venue is the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, 2695 E. Katella Ave. (1 mile east of I-5), Anaheim (tel. 714/704-2400; www.arrowheadpond.com), a combination sports/event stadium that's gaining momentum as a primary concert venue. Recent highlights include heavy hitters such as Prince, Rod Stewart, and Yes. It's about an hour from Los Angeles via the always-crowded I-5 freeway, but it's convenient to Disneyland-goers (about 8 min. away).
The Club Scene
With more small clubs than you can swing a Stratocaster at, Los Angeles is the place for live music. Check the L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com) to see who's in town during your visit. Unless otherwise noted, clubs admit only patrons 21 and over.
Dance Clubs-- The momentous popularity of Latin dance and swing has resulted in the opening of new clubs dedicated to both, taking some of the pressure off the old standbys. DJ club culture is also on the rise locally, featuring noteworthy shows at some enjoyable clubs; such dance clubs, however, can come and go as quickly as you can say "jungle rave." Mere whispers of a happening thing elsewhere can practically relegate a club to a been-there-done-that status. Check the L.A. Weekly for updates on specific club information.
The Performing Arts
Classical Music & Opera
While L.A. is best known for its pop realms, other types of music here consist of top-flight orchestras and companies -- both local and visiting -- to fulfill the most demanding classical music appetites; scan the papers to find out who's performing while you're in the city.
The world-class Los Angeles Philharmonic (tel. 323/850-2000; www.laphil.org) is the only major classical music company in Los Angeles, and it just got a whole lot more popular with the completion of its incredible new home: the Walt Disney Concert Hall, located at the intersection of 1st Street and Grand Avenue in the historic Bunker Hill area. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry, this exciting addition to the Music Center of L.A. includes a breathtaking 2,265-seat concert hall, outdoor park, restaurant, cafe, bookstore, and gift shop.
The Philharmonic's Finnish-born music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, concentrates on contemporary compositions; despite complaints from traditionalists, he does an excellent job attracting younger audiences. Tickets can be hard to come by when celebrity players like Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Emanuel Ax, and Yo Yo Ma are in town. In addition to performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Philharmonic plays a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl and a chamber music series at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Slowly but surely, the Los Angeles Opera (tel. 213/972-8001; www.losangelesopera.com), which performs at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, is gaining respect and popularity with inventive stagings of classic pieces, modern operas, visiting divas, and the contributions from high-profile artistic director PlÃƒÂ¡cido Domingo. The 120-voice Los Angeles Master Chorale sings a varied repertoire that includes classical and pop compositions. Concerts are held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (tel. 213/972-7200) October through June.
The UCLA Center for the Performing Arts (tel. 310/825-2101; www.performingarts.ucla.edu) has presented music, dance, and theatrical performances of unparalleled quality for more than 60 years and continues to be a major presence in the local and national cultural landscape. Presentations occur at several different theatres around Los Angeles, both on and off campus. UCLA's Royce Hall is the Center's pride; it has even been compared to New York's Carnegie Hall. Recent standouts from the Center's busy calendar included the famous Gyuto Monks Tibetan Tantric Choir and the Cinderella story Cendrillon, with an original score by Sergei Prokofiev.
Free Morning Music at Hollywood Bowl-- It's not widely known, but the Bowl's summer morning rehearsals are open to the public and absolutely free. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm, you can see the program scheduled for that evening. So bring some coffee and doughnuts (the concession stands aren't open) and enjoy the best seats in the house (tel. 323/850-2000; www.hollywoodbowl.org).
Major Theatres & Companies-- Tickets for most plays usually cost $10 to $35, although big-name shows at the major theaters can fetch up to $75 for the best seats. The Theatre League Alliance (tel. 213/614-0556; www.TheatreLA.org), an association of live theaters and producers in Los Angeles -- they also put on the yearly Ovation Awards, L.A.'s theatre awards -- offers same-day, half-price tickets via Web Tix, an Internet-only service at www.TheatreLA.org. Tickets are available Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 11pm; purchase them online with a credit card and they'll be waiting for you at the box office. The site features a frequently updated list of shows and availability; you can also sign up for e-mail alerts. If you didn't bring your computer, log on at any public library, Internet cafe, or office service store.
The all-purpose Music Center of Los Angeles County, 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown, houses the city's top two playhouses: the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum. They're both home to the Center Theater Group (www.taperahmanson.com), as well as traveling productions (often Broadway or London bred). Each season, the Ahmanson Theatre (tel. 213/628-2772) hosts a handful of high-profile shows, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera; the Royal National Theatre's production of Ibsen's Enemy of the People, starring Sir Ian McKellan; and the Adventures in Motion Pictures presentation of Matthew Bourne's Cinderella.
The Mark Taper Forum (tel. 213/628-2772; www.marktaperforum.com) is a more intimate theatre with a thrust stage -- where the audience is seated on three sides of the acting area -- that performs contemporary works by international and local playwrights. Neil Simon's humorous and poignant The Dinner Party and Tom Stoppard's witty and eclectic Arcadia are among the more popular productions performed on this internationally recognised stage, which has won three Pulitzer Prizes and 18 Tony Awards.
One of L.A.'s most venerable landmarks, the Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway (at 9th St.; tel. 213/749-5171; www.laorpheum.com), recently reopened after a 75-year hiatus. Built in 1926, this renowned venue has hosted an array of theatrical productions, concerts, film festivals, and movie shoots -- from Judy Garland's 1933 vaudeville performance to Ally McBeal. The 2,000-seat theatre is home to the Mighty Wurlitzer, one of three original theatre organs still existing in Southern California theatres.
Across town, the moderate-size Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood (tel. 310/208-5454; www.geffenplayhouse.com), presents dramatic and comedic work by prominent and emerging writers. UCLA purchased the theatre -- which was originally built as a Masonic temple in 1929, and later served as the Westwood Playhouse -- back in 1995 with a little help from philanthropic entertainment mogul David Geffen. This striking venue is often the West Coast choice of many acclaimed off-Broadway shows, and also attracts locally based TV and movie actors eager for the immediacy of stage work. One recent production featured Annette Bening in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Always audience-friendly, the Playhouse prices tickets in the $28 to $43 range.
You've probably already heard of the Kodak Theatre, 6834 Hollywood Blvd. (tel. 323/308-6300; www.kodaktheatre.com), home of the Academy Awards. The crown jewel of the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex, this modern beauty hosts a wide range of international performances, musicals, and concerts ranging from Alicia Keys and Elvis Costello to the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet and Grease starring Frankie Avalon. Guided tours are given 7 days a week from 10:30am to 2:30pm.
The recently restored Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd. between Vine and Argyle (tel. 323/463-4367), reflects the full Art Deco glory of L.A.'s theatre scene. Opened in 1930, this historical and cultural landmark was the first Art Deco movie palace in the U.S. and site of the Academy Awards from 1949 to 1959. The theatre recently presented the run of Disney's The Lion King and Mel Brooks' smash hit The Producer, with Jason Alexander and Martin Short.
Located at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, the 1,245-seat outdoor John Anson Ford Amphitheatre (tel. 213/974-1343; www.fordamphitheatre.org) is located in a county regional park and is set against a backdrop of cypress trees and chaparral. It is an intimate setting, with no patron more than 96 feet away from the stage. Music, dance, film, theatre and family events run from May through September. The indoor theatre space, a cozy 87-seat space that was extensively renovated in November 1998 and renamed [Inside] The Ford, features live music and theater year-round.
One of the most highly acclaimed professional theatres in L.A., the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., near Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena (tel. 626/356-7529; www.pasadenaplayhouse.org), is a registered historic landmark that has served as the training ground for many theatrical, film, and TV stars, including William Holden and Gene Hackman. Productions are staged on the main theatre's elaborate Spanish colonial revival.
For a schedule at any of the above theatres, check the listings in Los Angeles magazine (www.lamag.com), available at most area newsstands, or the "Calendar" section of the Sunday Los Angeles Times (www.calendarlive.com), or call the box offices at the numbers listed above.
Smaller Playhouses & Companies
On any given night, there's more live theatre to choose from in Los Angeles than in New York City, due in part to the surfeit of ready actors and writers chomping at the bit to make it in Tinseltown. Many of today's familiar faces from film and TV spent plenty of time cutting their teeth on L.A.'s busy theatre circuit, which is home to nearly 200 small and medium-size theatres and theatre companies, ranging from the 'round-the-corner, neighbourhood variety to high-profile, polished troupes of veteran actors. With so many options, navigating the scene to find the best work can be a monumental task. A good bet is to choose one of the theaters listed below, which have established excellent reputations for their consistently high-quality productions; otherwise, consult the L.A. Weekly (www.laweekly.com), which advertises most current productions, or call Theatre L.A. (tel. 213/614-0556) for up-to-date performance listings.
The Colony Studio Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank (tel. 818/558-7000; www.colonytheatre.org), was formed in 1975 and has developed from a part-time ensemble of TV actors longing for their theatrical roots into a nationally recognised company. The company produces plays in all genres at the 276-seat Burbank Center Stage, which is shared with other performing arts groups.
Actors Circle Theater, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (tel. 323/882-8043), is a 47-seater that's as acclaimed as it's tiny. Look for original contemporary works throughout the year.
The Actor's Gang Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood (tel. 323/465-0566), is not one to shy from irreverence. Back in 1997, the in-house company, a group of UCLA alums, presented Bat Boy: The Musical, based on a story in the bizarre tabloid Weekly World News.
Founded in 1965, East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles (tel. 213/625-7000; www.eastwestplayers.org), is the oldest Asian American theatre company in the United States. It's been so successful that the company moved from a 99-seat venue to the 200-seat David Henry Hwang Theater in Downtown L.A.'s Little Tokyo.
The 25-year-old L.A. Theatre Works (tel. 310/827-0889) is renowned for its marriage of media and theatre and has performed more than 200 plays and logged more than 350 hours of on-air programming. Performances are held at the Skirball Cultural Center, nestled in the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Center. In the past, personalities such as Richard Dreyfuss, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Robards, Annette Bening, and John Lithgow have given award-winning performances of plays by Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, Joyce Carol Oates, and more. For nearly a decade, the group has performed simultaneously for viewing and listening audiences in its radio theatre series. Tickets are usually around $35; a full performance schedule can be found online at www.skirball.org.
Founded in 1981, the West Coast Ensemble Theater, 522 N. La Brea Ave. (between Melrose and Beverly), Hollywood (tel. 323/876-8723; www.wcensemble.org), is a nonprofit multiethnic assemblage of professional actors, writers, and directors. The ensemble has collected accolades from local critics, as well as many awards for its excellent production quality. Expect to see well-written, well-directed, and socially relevant plays performed by a talented and professional cast. Ticket prices range from $15 to $22.
L.A.'s comedy clubs have launched the careers of many comics who are now household names. Check out the alternative comedy featured Monday nights at Largo, 432 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles (tel. 323/852-1073).
The Gay & Lesbian Scene
Like San Francisco to the north, Los Angeles has a vibrant and politically powerful gay and lesbian community. Every year in June, this active community comes out in full force for one of the city's most popular events: the Gay Pride parade, which all but takes over West Hollywood in the spirit of activism and audacity. If you're in town, this is one party you don't want to miss.
Although West Hollywood (WeHo), often referred to as Boys Town, is the best-known gay neighbourhood in Los Angeles, there are several other noteworthy enclaves. Silver Lake has a long-standing gay community that's worked hard to preserve the area's beautiful homes that Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille once occupied. To the west of WeHo, Santa Monica and Venice also have a strong gay and lesbian presence.
If you're looking for specific info on gay culture in L.A., check out Frontiers (tel. 323/848-2222), one of the most prominent free biweekly gay mags, available in coffeehouses and at newsstands citywide. For this and other GLBT magazines, call or visit A Different Light Bookstore, 8853 Santa Monica, West Hollywood (tel. 310/854-6601). The L.A. Weekly and New Times Los Angeles also have lesbian and gay articles and listings.