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Los Angeles, August 18, 1999


During the spring of last year, I was still an LA One virgin. Not just because I had never been to it. But in that more basic “Garden of Eden/Tree of Knowledge” sense of true innocence: I had never even heard of it.

But around that time, I was rather crazy about Michael Fierman, and he was playing a “Boys on Boxes” party called “Dawn Patrol” on Memorial Day. It was a great party at a fairly tawdry Hollywood club called The World, and it went from 6 am til noon. I thought 6 am was kind of an odd hour to start a dance party, and I remember noticing that it was billed on the flyer as the “LA One after party.” But I had no idea what “LA One” was, and I thought nothing more of it.

Over the next few weeks I heard a few references to the “LA One” party that had just taken place, and I asked a “somewhat in the know” friend if he knew what “LA One” was. He said it must have been this “host only” party that his “very in the know” hairdresser had been talking about. The hairdresser said it was totally unadvertised, and it was impossible to get tickets unless you knew someone very A-list. Sometime later I was talking to a “probably not A-list, but knows people on the A-list” acquaintance, and once again, LA One came up. I asked how I could get tickets to the next one. “Oh, honey, just ask me. I can get you tickets”

Through the second half of last year I went through a lot of anguish as Michael Fierman played a series of West Coast parties that were just okay and sometimes (it hurts to admit) less than okay. I needed new heroes, so I turned to Buc, Darin and Susan. But in the early part of this year Fierman came back strong. He played phenomenally at Probe’s Black Party, and in a very different but equally brilliant way, at Roseland. But I knew from the various online listings that he had nothing else lined up on my coast. So it was with great delight that fine spring day when I noticed on the Opus website that Fierman did indeed have one more big upcoming date: LA One.

It was a good month in advance of the party when I ran into my “knows the A-list” acquaintance. “Hey, listen, can you help me get a ticket to LA One.” Major drama and shaking of the head: “Oh, I don’t know. This year it’s really hard. Really really hard. We haven’t even secured our own tickets. I don’t even know who the hosts are.” Grasping at hope: “Maybe the tickets aren’t even out yet.” That look of pity for the total loser: “They’re out.”

And then it began. And it was not at all pretty.

I started at the top, with this one guy who is very connected to party tickets. I don’t really know him, and I had no reason to think he liked me. But I had no reason to think he liked anyone. So I figured it was worth a shot. “Hey, I was wondering if you know how I might be able to get LA One tickets.” “It’s all sold out.” “Isn’t there any way. You see, I’m really a big Michael Fierman fan, and I really want to go?” “It’s totally sold out. But you might try Freeman Fisher. He always has extra tickets.” “Who is Freeman Fisher?” That look of disgust for the total loser: “You don’t know who Freeman Fisher is?” All hope is lost, so why not get a little snotty myself: “No. And gosh, now I am starting to feel like I’m in some late 1940s B film noir. ‘Find Freeman Fisher.’ I mean how do I go about that?” “Well, I suppose you could look him up in the telephone directory, give him a call and ask him. But he’ll say no.” Groveling way too little and way too late: “Look, I’m really desperate. I don’t know anybody. I don’t even really care about going to parties like this. But I’m crazy about Michael Fierman, and I would really feel terrible missing one of his parties. Can you try to help me out.” Total self-satisfied victory: “I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”

Then I started working my way down. All the usual places - Prime Cuts, Perfect Beat, The Athletic Club. And all the usual suspects. And it just kept getting worse.

Good looking regular at the gym: “Can’t help you. I’m trying to find a ticket myself.”

Local DJ from whom I have bought a lot of music: “No. It’s sold out.”

Friendly local DJ in the courtyard at Orbit: “Give me your phone number. I’ll make some calls. I think I can get you a ticket.”

Friendly local DJ a few days later on my answering machine: “I can’t seem to find tickets anywhere. It’s really tough. But I’ll keep trying.”

Party Boy with “connects”: “Good luck. I hear they are going for up to $150.”

While nobody could help me find a ticket, lots of people had all sorts of really good and helpful advice:

At one of the “smart” shops on Santa Monica Boulevard. “God, why do you want to go? That party’s really not worth it.”

Smart Shop II (after I explain my Michael Fierman obsession): “Why don’t you just buy one of his CDs.”

Smart shop III (in a really disgusted tone): “Don’t pay more than the ticket cost. Let those people find their own drug money.”

But of course I was willing to pay more than the ticket cost, and my offering price kept going up. I had never even bought a scalped ticket before, and I have always sold my own extra tickets, event to the best parties, at cost. But the quickly escalating price was the perfect counterpart to my rapidly plummeting self-respect. I asked. I begged. I e-mailed to as far away as Boston and Fire Island. But tickets were not to be had.

Finally, I was ready to give up. The party was still two weeks away, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Then I decided I would give it one more try. I had already asked quite a few local DJs (who I tend to know a lot better than the party boys) without success. But there was one DJ who has always seemed very friendly and sweet. I’ve gone to many of his gigs, and I would say hello if I ran into him at Prime Cuts, but that was about it. And it hadn’t occurred to me to ask him. But I thought why not. I knew where he was playing that night. So I went. At the bar I borrowed a pen and wrote very neatly on a slip of paper: “If you can get me an LA One ticket: (1) I’ll be your best friend. (2) I’ll be loyal and true. (3) I’ll give you $150.” And then I went up to the DJ booth and passed him the note. As I stood there anxiously, he read it and a big smile came over his face. And then he said, ever so sweetly: “Honey, I’ll get you a ticket. It’s no problem. And you’re not paying $150. You’ll just pay me the normal price of the ticket.” Overjoyed at my deliverance, I insisted on paying more. But he very firmly shook his head no. He told me to check back the next week.

I couldn’t believe it, and in fact knew I wouldn’t believe it until I had the ticket in my hand. And so I decided not to degrade myself any further, but to still keep my eyes and ears open for any other tickets as a “back up.” And then, just about this time my dancing buddy let me know that he, who had up until then been turned off by the whole affair, suddenly wanted to go to LA One. “Everybody says it’s the party of the year. There are rumors of tickets going for over $200,” he reported, and apparently all this news was sufficient to overcome his former disdain. And now that I had somehow become the most experienced person in town at searching for (if not finding) LA One tickets, he asked me to try to get him one too. Oh God.

But then I got another break out of the blue. At the gym. There were two guys. I don’t know them. But I see them out a lot, and I overheard them loudly discussing LA One. They could see I was listening, and they invited me into their conversation. And then they really talked the party up, perhaps partly for my benefit. They were being very playful, reeling in the fish, when one of them finally let me know he had two tickets for sale. I asked how much. Major grin: “As much as the market will bear.” And with that, he and his friend spun on their heels, did this symmetrically choreographed twirl, leaped in the air, and did a perfect “Hi 5.” Then they both collapsed in laughter on their workout mats. I was not amused.

When they regained their composure, I asked the seller how it was that he had extra tickets. The grin returned: “Because I am a wise investor.” They then confirmed that this was indeed the greatest event of the year, repeating what I had now come to learn was the LA One mantra: this was no ordinary circuit party, but rather a special and intimate party of “close friends,” where attitude gets checked at the door and you just really feel the camaraderie and love of people enjoying a special evening together. “Well, obviously,” I said, “none of these people are my close friends, or I would already have tickets by now, wouldn’t I?” My usual conversation-killing skills. They both actually looked a little guilty. They were having fun, and I was not. In any case, the seller was not committing to a price, and I wasn’t in the mood to negotiate. So I said I would write down his phone number (he said he had put up a notice on the gym’s bulletin board) and check with my friend to see how much he would pay.

On the bulletin board I found the notice saying, “2 LA One Tickets. $150 each.” I thought it odd that he hadn’t just told me his price up front, but nothing about this party really surprised me anymore. Then I went and called my dancing buddy, and he said, yes, get him one. But when I walked back out to the main weight room, the gymnastic scalping duo had vanished. They were nowhere to be found. Perfect. So I called the number, left a message on the machine, and went home.

The next day I got this very mysterious call from the guy who put up the notice. It seemed that he didn’t exactly have the tickets, but a friend, or a friend of a friend, had them, or maybe could get them. But I had to buy both. I said I only needed one. No, they had to be sold as a pair. Then I said I would have to pass. Very quickly and very nervously: “Okay, I’ll sell you one.” But I had to buy it that day. These tickets were very much in demand. In fact he had already promised them to someone else, but he was going to let me have one. But only if I had cash and bought it right away. He was coming from Beverly Hills, so we scheduled a rendezvous at the Robertson/Santa Monica Starbuck’s for 6:00. As I approached at the appointed hour, I heard someone saying loudly: “How much shall we raise the price for every minute he is late?” Needless to say, I was not late. When I looked at the speaker, I saw a mischievous grin and realized this was yet one more bit of “LA One ticket humor” that I was in no mood to enjoy. But I handed over my cash to two very attractive young men who looked like they go to a lot of so-called fabulous parties in the Hollywood Hills. And they looked extremely anxious to get their hands on my cash.

As it turned out, the guys who sold me the ticket were not (and had nothing to do with) the guys from my gym. Apparently there had been more than one notice on the bulletin board. This proved important when my dancing buddy informed me that now another friend of his also wanted to go to LA One if we could get yet another ticket. So I went back to the gym, found the other listing, called the guy (who was actually very sweet and said a lot of people were interested in the ticket, but he thought my “magical dancing buddy” story was the best, so I was the winner), arranged yet another clandestine West Hollywood rendezvous, and took yet another trip to the ATM.

Closing out the whole nightmare was that once I had the additional ticket (the DJ came through with his promised ticket, so now I had three), my friend’s friend was suddenly nowhere to be found. Pagers, cell phones, the whole West Hollywood gamut, but nowhere. And so the day before the party we figured we had better try to sell the third ticket so we wouldn’t be stuck. So now it was back to my gym with my own listing. When I told the guys at the front counter what I was doing, one of them said, “What’s LA One?” The other one responded: “Oh, it’s just this really pretentious party.”


Now I really couldn’t take it anymore. So I told my dancing buddy it was his job to sell the ticket for me. Which he did. At a loss.


The whole lead up to LA One was so overwhelming, exhausting and demoralizing, that I had a hard time dealing with the party itself. The setting was great, and the crowd was very pretty to watch. But I was truly disappointed with the music for the first couple of hours. It was very slow. “What’s he playing?” I asked one local DJ. “Relax, he’s pacing himself; it’s a long evening.” But I was unconvinced and decided it was time I get a life. Then Sunscreem performed. They are extremely cool people, but, frankly, without Jimmy Gomez doing the remixing, their music is kind of bland. So in retrospect, I realize that Fierman had to keep the energy fairly low (and the music fairly traditional) until they were done. And soon thereafter, I thought he played quite well. Not one of his great musical journeys (there wasn’t real direction), but very dynamic, good music and sound, that transitioned exceedingly well into Joe D’Espinosa’s hot, hot, hot Aftershock party.

“I heard LA One was a dud,” I was told at one of the music stores. (And music stores are to the dance circuit what a North End tavern was to the Boston Revolutionaries - the gathering place where all the latest gossip, failures and victories are discussed among the hard core). “Cacophonous,” reported one of the local rags’ nastier reviewers, who was especially put out that even he, whose middle name is VIP, wasn’t able to get tickets for his people. The rest of the “word on the street” I heard was generally mixed. But opinion amongst the A-List was apparently sufficiently displeased that another local rag’s key columnist, who is apparently well connected to the “LA One Committee,” felt the need (even while blasting the prior harsh critique) to concede the history of an “LA One jinx.” This jinx, he suggested, was responsible for the fact that notwithstanding the LA One Committee’s hiring each year of the circuit’s top DJ talent, the music always seemed to go south “after 3:00” in the morning.

3:00 AM is a very significant time to pinpoint as the moment when the music goes south. In my experience there are only two things that should happen to a dance party at 3:00 AM. Either the party should end (so the sensible can go to bed and the rest can go to an after party). Or the music should get what’s called “progressive.” And in my opinion Michael Fierman was playing very good progressive music both at and after 3:00.

The whole debate in the rags made me curious about what had gone before. I had access to a recording of Mike Duretto’s performance from the previous year’s LA One. As best I can tell, around 3-4:30 AM he was playing things like: Hondy/No Access; Rollo Goes Mystic/Love, Love, Love (rmx); Tin Tin Out/This is Where the Story Ends; Gloria Estefan/Heaven’s What I Feel (Trouser Enthusiasts rmx); Rest Assured/Treat Infamy; Power of American Natives; Staxx/Joy (rmx); Trevor Reilly/Down With the Underground; Hypertrophy/Beautiful Day. I call that good progressive music. And then there was Susan Morabito on Memorial Day ’97, who was playing around 3-4:30 (according to a playlist I have seen) things like: Alibi/I’m Not to Blame; Legato/Small Town Boy; Blue Amazon/And Then the Rain Falls; Brainbug/Nightmare; Solar Stone/The Calling; Zhivago/Teardrops From Heaven; Quttara/Come With Me. I call that good progressive music. And from what I hear Susan was loudly criticized in the LA scene for close to a year for playing what was derided as “pots and pans.”

The more I thought about LA One, the more I came to the conclusion that there was in fact an LA One jinx. But it had nothing to do with the DJs (who, in my opinion, are all very accomplished artists). Instead, it had to do with LA. And more particularly with LA’s A-list crowd who are more into being “seen” with the right people at a “Hollywood Hills” party than they are into “dancing” to what I happen to think is the music that really counts. That is, the music that starts getting played at a sleazy old gay dance club like Probe after 3:00 in the morning. And Probe, chiefly thanks to Mike Duretto, is the club that has done the most to bring “progressive” music to LA (and while much of the Probe crowd was at LA One, it was not the dominant element).

I finally concluded that LA One was, as the guy at my gym said, a “pretentious” party after all. Not just in the sense of being “snotty.” But in the more basic sense of “pretending” to be something it was not. It was, as Circuit Noize described it, one of the “most coveted tickets on the circuit.” And it did contain a stellar collection of West Hollywood beauties. And it was kind of like an “Industry” party for a lot of people who know each other. But what it was not was one of the great all night dance parties, which is something it does “pretend” to be. And that failure, I think, is not a result of the dj’s (Morabito, Duretto and Fierman are exemplary all-night dj’s), but of its clientele. At 3 or 4 in the morning, I only really want to share a dance floor with a crowd that truly loves that music which is unique to that time period. And the very exclusivity which made LA One’s tickets so hard to get also contributed to the relative (but by no means complete) absence of that (for me) much more special crowd. LA One has an easy and logical solution to its “jinx.” End the party at 3:00.

But Memorial Day is now long gone. Labor Day LA is just around the corner. My gym has been shut down. Probe is no more. The two hot music stores, where the latest underground CD’s were sold, have both been busted. Prime Cuts is moving and faces an uncertain future. My “magical dancing buddy” moved to New York. And now I, having lost my LA One virginity, have to fly solo. But life, I guess, goes on.

Keep on dancing.

Los Angeles, August 18, 1999