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The Column

Grilled Cheese With a Side of Hip Hop
8/15/04

Canter's is a very famous deli in Los Angeles. Well, most of the time. Sometimes, it's a nightclub.

Canter's opened in 1928, and has been at its current location in West Hollywood for over 50 years. Many reviews list it as a kosher deli, but that's not true. It used to be - kosher delis don't serve BLTs. Now, Canter's is a kosher-esque deli, providing the same rude service you'd expect to get in a kosher place with none of the rules about not serving pig.

But on Tuesdays, half the place closes and becomes a trendy music venue, where bands play to the greased hair and tube-topped masses. I went there to grab some fries with a few friends Tuesday and saw a line around the block. Thankfully, it was not for the deli. Just for the dance club. Not so thankfully, there was a dance club at my freakin deli.

I understand why Canter's goes from deli to dance club - it's just good business. I don't understand why people go there. I've never been half in the mood for a party, half in the mood for a pastrami.

"This is a great beat. You know what would make it better? Coleslaw. And some bass. With a pickle. And some e. Maybe an egg cream. And a glo stick. But yeah, some more bass.”

Has Los Angeles run out of real clubs? Are there not enough clubs in one of the largest cities in the country, that people are taking over a deli in order to find a good place to party? No, there are plenty of clubs in LA. Skybar, Saddle Ranch, and White Lotus, for instance, are not known for their pastrami.

I'm not about to write the sequel to Footloose - I really like going out and dancing. I just don't like having to wait an extra 20 minutes for my fries because the staff is busy selling drinks. I especially don't like that the reason why Canter's is so popular as a music venue is because it is not really a music venue, and that draws more people in.

That's right, you heard me. Or read me. I'm accusing anyone who goes there as going specifically for the novelty of it. "Isn't this fun?” they say, as they wait in line and I wait for my fries. "I got so tired of the scene at the real clubs, I'm glad this place opened. Now I can get all of the club sketchiness with none of the classy ambience.”

Canter's is known as a celebrity hang out - the Rat Pack used to eat there, as well as stars from yesterday's Marylin Monroe and Cary Grant to today's Madonna and Brad Pitt. It was the backdrop for the recent "100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time,” and the less recent "Enemy of the State.” Nick Cage met wife Patricia Arquette there, Keith Moon of "The Who” got kicked out once, and Gene Simmons has publicly discussed his fondness for their pastry.

But the cool part about that is that at Canter's, nobody cares about the celebrities. They just eat, and no one ever bothers them. And that makes the rest of us feel cool - because we can sit and enjoy ourselves as equals in a town that typically separates the cream from the coffee.

On Tuesdays, all that changes; Canter's becomes a "scene.” Rumor has it that Simmons will be playing there sometime soon. I doubt that he'll stick around to enjoy some babka. And even if he does, there won't be parking for anyone who wants to stick around with him.

Canter's, as a club, succeeds for a dumb reason. People, especially people in LA, like going to parties that they feel are cutting edge. They like parties that are their little secret, even though there's a line around the block. Soon, people will tire of club Canter's. As more people find out about it, it will no longer be cool. And then they'll probably fence off half my laundromat once a week and rename it "Cycles.”

"Look how the laundry detergent glows in the black light!”

I don't partake in "scenes,” so on Tuesdays, I am forced to go elsewhere to eat. Since this is Los Angeles, I take solace in knowing that 24-hour eateries dot the landscape, and I have many choices. I will have even more once Skybar, Saddle Ranch, and White Lotus start serving pastrami.

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