Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#16 Jumbo's Clown Room

#30 Hollywood Walk of Fame
#29 Yamashiro
#28 Hollywood Billiards
#27 Genghis Cohen
#26 Piano Bar
#25 Shmutzville
# 24 Loteria
# 23 The Griddle
# 22 Proximity
# 21 Hollywood Freeway
#20 Kitchen 24
# 19 The People
# 18 Sushi Eyaki
#17 Raymond Chandler

# 16 Jumbo's Clown Room

Yes, I just wrote "Jumbo's Clown Room." Since many of you have no clue what I'm talking about, allow me to give you my own interpretation of Jumbo's. Jumbo's, despite what you may or may not have heard, is NOT a strip club. Jumbo's is a tiny, and I cannot stress that word enough, bar in East Hollywood on the border of Thai Town. It is in a strip center on a very unassuming stretch of Hollywood Blvd. that to the average west sider could appear sketchy or even, dare I say, dangerous. It's not. I think.

Inside Jumbo's is a small stage with a stripper's pole. There is a small bar with a maximum of eight stools. Maybe four pub tables, and a booth against the wall. It is kind of dirty, the drinks are strong, and the crowd requires its own paragraph later in the entry. The dancers generally work in rotations maybe six or seven deep and come out with some sort of wrap on at the start of each song. As their hand picked song goes on, the wrap comes off revealing a bikini-clad woman below.

The dances are sexual in nature, and they do work for tips, but because the clothes never come off, they are forced to play up the dancing a little more. The girls are diverse as all hell, ranging from 5s to 8s and everything in between. There is a starlet type, the leather type, the aggressive ones, the passive ones, really there's no rhyme or reason to the type of girl dancing at Jumbo's. Because there are no private dances (at least that I'm aware of) the girls work purely for dancing tips. Hence, the stage is the main focal point of the entire bar.

The bar creates this incredibly original and kind of weird dynamic. It's kitschy in the best ways possible. There is nothing overly offensive by the dancers, in fact it's actually quite the opposite, it is not unlike a carnival attractions, so, unlike traditional strip clubs, women generally have no problem patronizing Jumbo's. Subsequently, men are there not purely for the sex thrown in their face by the dancers, but because there are actual girls there, and girls that are at least intrigued by erotic-style dancing. Essentially, everybody wins.

This dynamic works for the strangest crowd you'll ever see in LA. On one hand, the East Hollywood location offers many of LA's finest sleazeballs a haven for drinking and looking at girls. On the other hand, the kitshcyness of it, combined with the dynamic described above, offers several members of the Hollywood in-crowd an awesome alternative to the tiresome schedule of lounges, boom-boom clubs, and high-class restaurants. In my visits there, I have seen several celebrities, and not low-levels either, pretty good ones. There are good-looking women, and good-looking men at the bar. It's weird because the 6 on stage is bringing in the sleazeball, and the sleazeball is brining in the CBS procedural star. Kind of backwards.

Essentially Jumbo's represents all that is unique about Hollywood to me. I mentioned earlier that Hollywood produces authenticity by embracing its inauthenticity. Jumbo's is inauthentic in that it is not a strip club, it is not dangerous, and it is not even dirty, but because it represents these things in an inauthentic way, it becomes purely authentic. A jewel of Hollywood in a relatively desolate neighborhood where all sorts of Hollywood denizens come for one reason or another. And here are two more facts about Jumbo's that I won't argue about:

1. If you asked anyone who's ever been to Jumbo's to describe it, you would get completely different descriptions from everyone. Everyone gets something different and special out of Jumbo's.

2. Jumbo's Clown Room couldn't exist, the way it does, in any other city in the world.

It is purely Hollywood, and I will miss that pure, unadulterated, sweaty Hollywood, clicking its heels together to the beats of a Black Crowes song. A lot.

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