Le Privé Korean Nightclub
721 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
When people find out my ethnicity – that I am, indeed, Korean, and neither a Jewish American Princess from a wealthy suburb of Detroit nor a bubble-headed blonde Midwest cheerleader because “Midwest” is apparently an ethnicity in The Delicious Life – one of the first few things they ask me is always related in some way to Koreatown. Do you go to Koreatown? What’s your favorite Korean restaurant in Koreatown? It is a classic conversational practice of making careful inquiry into the other’s life as related to things that have already been revealed, like ethnicity. If they are really trying to make a connection, they refer to Koreatown as “K-town.” Are you a K-town girl?
It makes me want to use a dull x-acto knife to trace the veins that are likely popping out of my forehead.
Unless summoned by some obligatory family dining affair that requires Asian food in a central location for our family that is spread out all over the southland or an ingredient that I could not otherwise find in a Japanese market on the Westside, I very rarely go to K-town. I don’t even call it “K-town.” Don’t call it K-town unless you are Korean, or you are a non-Korean who lives in K-town so it’s your ‘hood and you can call your own ‘hood anything you want. I call my ‘hood B-wood. I am a B-wood girl. I am not a K-town girl.
Repeat: I am not a K-town girl; never have been, never will be. A K-town girl is one whose life revolves around all things K. She gets her hair done in a K-salon. She shops in K-town Plaza. She speaks Engrish so she works as a bilingual teller at a K-bank. She probably doesn’t live in K-town, because seriously, the only people who actually live in the K-town who I know speak Spanish, but she lives close enough to K-town – probably Miracle Mile, since that’s a straight shot down Wilshire. She gets K-food from a K-market, unless it’s K-dining in a K-restaurant before a rut-like nightlife that starts in a K-café and ends in K-araoke, from which she can get home without the possibility of getting lost or a DUI by taking surface streets because like I said, she lives right down Wilshire.
But the most telling thing about my not being a K-town girl is that fact that I could count on two hands the number of times I have gone to a Korean club in LA's Koreatown. K-clubbing. It’s not just a dance club with lots of Korean people in it. Oh no. K-clubbing is a way of life.
Let me break it down for you. Of course, my breakdown comes from a slightly distorted perspective since 1) it is New Year’s Eve and I am at home so I have a midly bitter attitude toward everything, 2) I am at home on New Year’s Even because I am deliriously feverish, 3) the few times I have gone “K-clubbing,” it was back when The! H-O-T-Hot! Place! was Saga (if you actually know Saga, then you’re as old as I am and if you remember it as Bobo's, well dyaaaamn.), 4) going to Le Prive now as a thirty *coughcough* something is a totally different experience from going to Le Prive as a 21-year-old PYT, and 5) I never remember much of my nights in K-town because the only way that I can forcibly suffer through the chafing is with generous lubrication, aka vodka, Crown, or ethyl alcohol. Or all of the above. Ouch. Literally.
Basically, a night in K-town is like a very very expensive ride on the Orient Express. It’s a train ride where you start somewhere, end somewhere else, and by the time you’re heaving fully fermented but half-digested spice through your nostrils, you’ll have spent a lotlotlot (!) of money. In fact, the literal translation of what wannabe FOBs call the series of venues through the night is “car,” like the car of a train. I think I may have covered this in a previous post somewhere, but here’s to hoping that I have new readers everyday who have not yet read about this!
1. Il-cha. The Korean translates to Engrish “first car,” as in the “first car of the train of events that will go down in your K-town evening.” Often, it is dinner at one of those big K-BBQ restaurants where three pieces of galbi costs $50. However, most people never refer to “il-cha” because it never becomes “il-cha” until someone decides that there will be a destination to follow. That’s like calling a movie “Part I” without knowing that there is going to be a “Part II.”
People will disagree on what should constitute il-cha, but for God’s sake there is no grand Bible of K-nightlife with an official statement. In The Delicious Life, il-cha is typically a less formal eating place like a café, which in philosophy, is similar to the way a bistro is related to a restaurant – smaller, faster, less formal, and lots of alcohol. We were at Bohemian. The food is very expensive for what it is. We ate a little. We drank a lot.
2. Ee-cha. This is the “second car.” This is the K-club. We decided to go to Le Prive. I don’t know why, since there was not a single person in our group under the age of 30, and in case you haven't figured it out already, a 30+year-old Korean going clubbing in K-town is akin to a non-Korean going to an 18-and-over club. In the Inland Empire. On a Thursday night.
I didn’t dress for a club. I dressed for a café. Of course in K-town, dressing for anything means you’re dressed for clubbing! I have no idea what point I was trying to make with that statement. Let’s just say I was wearing a mini-dress.
If you ever drive through Koreatown, then you have seen Le Prive. You probably just didn’t guess that the enormous, boring beige drab building that looks like a crumbling warehouse on the west side of Western Avenue south of Wilshire transforms into a bumpin’, music thumpin’, heart pumpin’ hotbed of dance club hotness at night. You pull into the driveway and there is no other option than to hand over your car to a valet. The drive-up is crucial. Turn the volume up on your stereo until it hurts, but don’t roll down the windows. Put your sunglasses on, even though it’s night. It is the beginning of “be seen” and you best believe that “drive for show” (putt for dough!) is in full effect. If you aren’t rolling an S-class Benz, then you probably own your car. Ouch, was that harsh? Hope so.
There’s more “be seen” from the glassed-in patio – an aquarium teeming with a school of koreanorexic fish, hollow cheeks, hugely round blepharoplasted eyes that are surgically non-blinkable, and puckered lips sparkling with cheap drugstore gloss. It’s odd that Le Prive provides a “smoking patio,” since we all know that Korean people do not follow American laws and allow smoking inside. Just don’t tell anyone I said that out loud. Oops.
Usually, there’s a short line at the front door, but it’s not that anxious clubgoers are angling to do the limbo under a velvet rope. It’s that everyone has to pass through a metal detector at Le Prive’s front entrance. I have this thing about metal detectors, because you know *shrugs* it’s a fucking metal detector! LAX has a metal detector. The Federal Building has a metal detector. I’m pretty sure there’s a metal detector in every place where some attention-starved whacko with an AK47 could potentially try to get postal revenge on authorities by blindly shooting dozens innocent people. I kind of wanted to spin around on my platform wedge heels, go home, and blog - in the safety and comfort of my own metal detectorless living room.
Le Prive is huge. It is cavernous. It is probably meant to hold about 2000 people, but by the time we got there, the place was still looking sparse. Emptiness is not bad at 9 PM, but when we got there, probably close to 11, it was embarassing. Maybe too many people were rejected at the metal detector.
Now here’s the thing about Korean clubs. There is no cover charge because the standard operating procedure at a Korean club is to go with a group, or at least one other person and reserve a table that automatically comes with bottle service, something that is normally considered VIP service in a non-Korean club. Things might be a little different now given that not everyone can drop six bills on an evening out, but I wouldn’t know. I was a follower. The staff was more than happy to accommodate our fairly large group in a private room. Obviously, it was a very slow night for Le Prive.
You have your choice of what you want to drink, but no matter what, the cheapest thing on the “menu” is a bottle of Crown that costs $18 at Ralphs, but jumps in price to $250 in the club because...it comes with food! So apparently, the Crown is something like a mere $100, but it’s the pitchers of Coke and juice as chasers and a plate of hot dogs that have been carved into pretty floral shapes, fresh cut fruit, and a pile of dried squid that costs $150. OooOOOoooh, that makes it totally worth it, especially since the hot dogs were braised in ketchup! We didn’t get Crown anyway. Crown is ghetto, so we got a bottle of…Patron! Classy. Patron shots totally pair well with hot dogs.
3. Sahm-cha. During a normal evening out of crawling through K-town, the third stop after he
avy drinking, sweaty grinding, and all around debauchery in a club is a no-rae-bahng. That translates to “music room” in English, and “battle of the karaoke mic hogs” in Delicious. Lucky for us, Le Prive’s private rooms are equipped with karaoke. Two - yes, two! - chas for the price of one!
Some of us danced on the postage-sized dancefloor, and some of us stayed in the room to sing sappy love songs. Every so often the DJ did a set of slow songs. Yes, Korean clubs play "slow songs," as if eurotrash techotrance alternating with five-year-old bad hip hop wasn't enough excuse to grind. When that happened, we'd high tail it back to the room in a strange, nostalgic moment of high school dance deja vu. I'd grab the mic from whoever was singing Glory of Love and shamelessly scream Sweet Child of Mine while watching the animated dancers on the screen move in complete dysynchronization with the song.
4. Sah-cha. The fouth and final step is always a sobering early morning meal in some 24-hour dive that serves Korean food of questionable health and safety. We skipped that part.
The hots dogs had been enough.
** a year ago today, we spent a year in the life of Delicious **