Not too far from Laurel Hardware and Surly Goat on Santa Monica, there is a place called DBA. It has an intentionally roughed up exterior, an element intended to add great distance from the space’s formerly glossy white concept Voyeur. The place is usually quiet, going unnoticed five days out of the week. You may have seen that there is a window lined with baroque patterned wallpaper and a marquee with names and titles you may not understand.
But on a Thursday or Friday evening? This place is a madhouse. It’s a club whose goal is to thrill and titillate, confuse and sometimes frustrate. The experience of DBA is unrivaled and—by some Hollywood magic—we were invited to visit the exclusive nightlife spot and quickly spiraled into the craziness present behind their concrete walls thanks to a lot, a lot, a lot of vodka.
Fair Warning: Some images in this post are slightly NSFW.
DBA is opens at 11PM. This is something that seems understandable given it’s a late place but, because I am an early riser and usually never out past 1AM, I promptly show up to a sea of party people all fighting to get in. Naturally, a cool place like this doesn’t just let everyone in on time. In fact, they make it a point not to: doors “open” at 11PM but that really means, “Yeah, so, we’re just going to let people in as we like around that time.” This can be frustrating and can be annoying but, hey, that is how this place works. Since this was my first LA club experience, I thought the process might be more manageable: it is not, though. Shit: I’ve been to Oscar parties that were easier to get into. DBA is a tight lock.
After a few heated conversations with bouncers and a girl in a Keith Harring jacket—all of which was happening as a woman with no pants on and masquerade mask watched from behind the aforementioned baroque window—we made it inside. We later found out that getting inside DBA is no small feat and, really, we were of a rare few who have made it inside: admission to this place is by reserving a table, spots that require at least two thousand dollars spent on booze. Two thousand dollars. If you can’t or don’t want to spend that money, you can risk it and show up looking cool. One of the doorwomen will then look you over and give you the yes or no, admitting you into the circus solely based on if you are cool or not. Ridiculous, yes, but that’s how it works here, people. Only in Hollywood!
The inside of the space is wild. The walls are draped in old curtains and there are stress inducing candles and lots of performers are around dancing on poles or pretending to lounge around, like ecstasy fed extras in Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Because we had arrived so early, the club was fairly sparse. Swallowing our concern we would be robbed while ordering drinks, we grabbed a beer—which they have few of—and a whiskey soda. To our surprise, these two drinks only cost twenty dollars in total. Thus, if you can make it into DBA as a walk-in, you can survive on the cheap, drink-wise.
People were still finding their place in the club (Again: it was early.) and we decided to hang out near the room’s central circular dance floor and watch the Marie Antoinette types slowly gyrate on couches. My friend wanted to take a photo with one so she approached her to enquire.
“Is it okay if I take your photograph?”
“You are very pretty.”
“Oh, thanks…you are too.”
“Can I take your photograph?”
“No, darling…but you are very pretty.”
My friend returned, laughing as she recounted the story: someone had obviously filled the girl’s sippy cup with sizzurp and she had no idea. That was fine because whatever she was on powered her to jump onto the dance floor with three more girls like her and accompanying men and they did a choreographed dance around a giant, light-up creature not too dissimilar from a silver Chansey from Pokémon. Things got weirder: a stage curtain lifted revealing a woman in a clear plastic dress, her bits completely exposed, and a man in a giant mask and a jar of what looked like chocolate milk. Of course he poured the contents of the jar onto her and then the dancers grabbed more jars and proceeded to do the same to partygoers.
“What in the hell is going on here?” I ask my friend. “I am lactose intolerant and cannot process chocolate.”
We find our area with more friends after this situation has ended and begin to indulge in the communal spirits DBA had offered up: vodka. Lots of vodka. Mind you, I do not drink vodka and—after several collegiate experiences involving my running around naked or vomiting in public—I quit the stuff. But, when in DBA, you do DBA. You leave your ideas at the doors and you succumb to whatever creature the club wants you to become. So, I sipped on vodka cranberry, a drink that would be repeatedly spilled down my pant legs all night as people served themselves to my left and right.
At this point, more performances were happening and were a mixture of the broadway show Cabaret and Spaceballs (minus the humorous self-awareness) meets druggy Marie Antoinette. The point of DBA (Short for “Doing Business As.”) is to be a club friendly conduit for creativity. What does that mean? The concept we experienced is available for a limited time only because every few months the place will shut down, be completely gutted, and turn into a new, curated concept.
The current concept—”Esque”—was overseen by New York lifestylist and Oscar Hammerstein‘s grandson, Simon Hammerstein. Everything from the aesthetics to the performance was all Hammerstein’s idea so, if there is anyone to place blame for the insanity, it is him. It works though and apparently has drawn everyone to the club from Miley to Usher. Word on the street was that Gaga was to make an appearance the night we were there. Sadly, we weren’t alive enough to stay out to see if she in fact showed.
A few questions you may have, all of which were questions we had amidst the smoke and vodka haze.
“How are they getting away with both nudity and alcohol?” Well, apparently, the space is so “old” and under a strange grandfather law—similar to the one that lets you smoke in Tiki Ti—that allows both booze and boobs (and more) to be co-mingle. That said, it is not a strip club.
“What other performances were there?” The performances that happened ranged from a few (naked) women singing to people being lifted into the ceiling and back down again to a mirrored man dancing through lasers. There were frequently cocktail waitresses carrying around bottles with lit firecrackers fixed to them, too.
“What else has happened in this space before?” Funny you should ask: when the space was Voyeur, the Republican National Committed spent a few thousands of dollars here. That ultimately led to the club’s closure, outing it as a place where wild shit goes down.
“How long did you stay?” Until 1:30AM? I have no idea. What I do know is that DBA is transformative. I walked in a stuffy, “I don’t dance anymore!” type of late twentysomething dude and left a very drunk me, one similar to the early twenties me who basically was drinking booze from 6PM to 6AM. It was great to see that guy again—but he is only good in small doses.
DBA brings something out of you. This was apparent by my friend excusing herself early to head out with a newly met gentleman caller and my weekend long hangover, something that I didn’t think was possible but I learned of three days ago. DBA is insane. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of place and, really, I still don’t know how we got in or if we’ll ever go back again. If you crave looking fly and going wild, you must go to DBA. Just be prepared: someone may pour boozey chocolate milk down your throat. Or vodka cranberry down your pants, in my case.