Mark Hayes loves living in LA in the summer — except when the Irish come calling and expect him to produce ‘A’ list celebs at the drop of a hat
THE request I dread from Irish people visiting LA is to be a tour guide for them, and for their friend of a friend whom they don’t know and don’t like.
They want to know the best places to go at night, which means they want me to set up in the most popular, celebrity-filled nightclub, hassle- and charge-free.
I get it: they want the greatest Hollywood night-out ever. It’s hard to know where to recommend, when you don’t not the person. Plus, my tastes have changed. The first time I came to LA, on holiday, I wanted the flashy club experience.
A few buddies and I went to Area, a nightclub we’d seen on the then popular TV shows, The Hills, and Entourage. We thought we were the smoothest clowns in town, blagging our way in, past the long queue, pretending that I was an Irish actor and my buddy, Bam, was my agent.
“Can you sort out a table for my client?” Bam asked.
“Sure,” said the doorman, “You guys know the prices?”
“Tsk, come on, of course.”
Red-velvet rope parted; in we went. Ridiculously hot, blond waitress led us through the bustling crowd to our tiny, wooden table, hidden in the far corner next to a brightly lit service area by the kitchen. Exclusive. That night, for $400 for a bottle of vodka that you could buy at the shop for $30, we had the greatest three hours pretending to be like the people on TV.
Beautiful women everywhere, all with vacant, drugged-out expressions. Dull, good-looking guys posing, laughing at nothing when they sensed a camera flash. You just wouldn’t see an ugly ... actually, no, you wouldn’t even see an average-looking person. (Unless I looked in the mirror). When I came back to LA to live, and the locals upgraded me to a ‘blow-in’, I bluffed my way into these clubs for free. My House was the most popular spot. A skip of the velvet rope and I was mingling with B-, C- and D-list actors, and waning celebrities drunkenly chatting you up in the hope you might be Colin Farrell’s brother or someone who could put them in touch with his agent.
I played the role of someone who was good friends with Mr Farrell, to bag this once beautiful Baywatch actress, now a tired-looking version of the character she used to play. Before I knew it, I was at tables boozing with people from the TV shows I used to watch, “Here, Ricky! Ricky! I mean Justin… Bobby! You’re huge in Ireland! Pardon? OK, calm down bouncer man, I’ll leave now, let me just say goodbye to my new friends.”
Back in my blow-in days, these places were amazing and would be on the tip of my tongue if people asked where’s good to go. Then, one morning I woke up and looked in the mirror, after another mediocre, soul-sucking, life-draining night, to see a slightly more tired version of myself than the one who first blew into town. The monkeys and fear swarmed in, making me question my life choices. Why did I come to LA? For this? For those people? Huh? You idiot. Only then, as I lay in bed, covered in cold sweat and staring at the ceiling, did I realise: Those clubs are kind of crap. I mean, they’re grand a few times, but you get sick of them. I want more out of (night) life. Instead, I tried to enrich my existence by giving bars a whirl. At first, I aimed high, going for swanky ones with neon blue trimming, expensive mahogany tables, and lights that drip down from the ceiling like golden rain drops. The kind of place where a beer only costs $14, some sort of dark, Austrian brew that tastes like it was stored in somebody’s welly for a few weeks before being served to you in a tiny, deranged-shaped glass. A place where they want you to queue, even though it’s not busy inside, just so people passing by will think it’s packed. Some laugh.
Another option was somewhere more relaxed: dive bars, usually full of locals, Los Angelicas who don’t like out-of-towners, the clientele all men, plus one woman who flirted with everyone despite being married to the owner. Always fun. Sports bars consisted of former fraternity meatheads, alongside girls stinted from their time as sorority sisters, all of whom would be huge fans of sports/steroids/cocaine.
Combine these with booze and wings specials and the whole bar just seemed to be jacked-up to the nines the entire time, everyone looking to fight. Again, a great hoot.
Eventually, after going to enough duds, I found good spots for myself.
Places that are a laugh.
Mostly, non-locals mixed with tourists who aren’t all about popping bottles, along with a handful of well-known folk looking for something more low-key. There’s not too many of these places, but that’s the joy of no longer being a blow-in: You know your way around.
Thing is, you prefer to keep them off the radar, so they don’t get ruined. With that in mind, now, when asked “where’s good to go?” I reply, “I don’t really know?” followed by “And that weekend I’m actually out of town/working/I don’t know you.”
Depends who’s asking.