Photos by Steve Cabral
There's two types of dining: the kind where one just wants to grub, and the kind that is an experience, an event. Dining as amusement or as an event is nothing new. In days of old, diners were often provided with a show of some kind, be it court jesters or a joust. But in recent times, "spectator" dining on grander scales have been left to places like Medieval Times or mystery dinner theatres where the food is often an afterthought to the show.
Not so any longer, at least not in Los Angeles, Calif., for around the Los Angeles basin there's a variety of ways to enjoy great food while being fully entertained. This will begin a series of articles about where such places can be found and if the show and food live up to hype.
First on the list: Bootsy Bellows. Vaudeville, real, live, vaudeville -- variety shows that became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- is alive and well and living at Bootsy Bellows in Los Angeles. Bootsy Bellows is perhaps one of the most uniquely entertaining dinner theatre experiences happening in Los Angeles or anywhere at present -- combining eclectic, talented acts with a delicious dinner of down home treats.
"Hi, I'm David," the dashing and handsome host appeared at our table to welcome us to the event. "I hope you enjoy the show tonight." Dressed in a tuxedo with a small white feather boa around his neck the host took many guests by surprise. The "David" is David Arquette, yes, THAT David Arquette, who appears to be having a ball.
"Bootsy Bellows was my mother's performance name. She was an adult entertainer early in her life, posing for magazines, doing live shows," he started as we chatted near the bar of the Bootsy Bellows venue located at the "end" of Sunset Strip at 9229 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif.
"I love being near this type of energy, this kind of show. This brings me back to a feeling I grew up with, plus who doesn't love the feeling of an underground club, a speakeasy, of discovering something cool and fun?" he laughed.
Arquette looks and sounds great. Handsome as ever, a little grey in the beard, he is just as at home greeting club patrons as he is running from the paparazzi stationed down the street a few miles or working a red carpet.
Arquette is involved in all aspects of the night, from food choices to the acts themselves. "I get a lot of help from people. The host Rob Zabrecky really helps me as well. We get people from all over, all kinds of entertainment, people from the Magic Castle, from clubs and cabarets, from all over," he added.
As Arquette introduces the show and Zabrecky comes out and does some slight of hand, a delicious field greens salad is served. As the audience devours their salad and swills signature craft cocktails, Brett Laudermilk takes the stage and eats not food, but swords, as a deranged sword-swallower in a straight jacket looking as though he learned this in an asylum somewhere. While servers navigate tables, the Pacific Dance Company brings latin flair to the floor.
The main course of the evening was pot pies. Yes, pot pies. They were delicious and filled with garden vegetables or incredibly tender short ribs. (Yes, a short rib pot pie). They are served with a basket of tator tots spiced up with jalepeños and a side of mac and cheese that rivals any homemade. The two female vocalists of the evening are worth the price of admission ($60) alone.
Lyndsay Haldorson starts the show and appears throughout. Her unique and powerful vocals stand out and without a bit of auto-tune or 300 dancers and fireworks she entrances the audience with an act that's very David Lynch/Julie Cruise. (In fact, the entire night felt produced David Lynch meets the Rat Pack). And Lynda Kay's numbers make one want to see an entire show by Kay alone. Her song "Jack & Coke" has been featured on FX's Justified and she is a honkey tonk/vintage Blues singer complete with bouffant hair and a wailing backup singer. Her "Town Without Pity" rendition had people dropping their tator tots and jumping to their feet.
Paul Yath, yo-yo champion, (yup, yo-yo), Bob Baker Boys and their marionettes and Ruby Champagne doing Burlesque round out the talent, with Arquette himself appearing in a number with the marionettes doing "What's New Pussycat?" As the dessert tray comes with delightful varied small pastries and fruit many could be overheard saying things like "I've never experienced anything like this before..." That's because it is unique to the strip and our time.
After the show Arquette invited us back to a smaller bar area, again, right out of the past. A shadowbox had a burlesque girl in it, a mirror in the wall where someone was dancing. Pictures of Arquette's mom from He Man magazine fills the walls of the back lounge and as the cast comes in to sing Karaoke and have a cocktail, one couldn't help but feel they were, in fact, taking part in some nightclub experience that just doesn't exist in nature today. Except at Bootsy Bellows. Arquette's enthusiasm is infectious, his personality a unifying force that brings the vaudeville atmosphere to life.
Celebrities, young hipsters and everything in between are quickly finding out about this entertainment/dining alternative. Go to Bootsy Bellows for a preview and to set up one of the most unique and entertaining dining experiences in Los Angeles. The show changes weekly, so check the website for a lineup.
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