L.A. Plays Itself

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Greystone Manor Supper Club opened in 2011. So that already rules it out as passé for voraciously trendy celebrities-in-their-own-lunchtime types who actually utter things like, “Uh, that’s so last century!” Without a hint of irony.

But what a debut it made. In its first year, Hugh Hefner chose it to celebrate his 60th birthday (again!), P Diddy had his own mature fortieth bash here and the likes of Rihanna and Paris Hilton bigged it up. Greystone Manor swooped into town and scooped up the gossip column inches and social media likes. These days things may be a little quieter, but its reputation has spread far and wide. Demand remains high. So don’t be too complacent about breezing in.

Technically posited along the lines of an old-fashioned supper club, in reality, Greystone Manor is primarily a nightlife haunt and one run by a pretty slick concern at that; SBE, a leisure and lifestyle company that applies the same basic principles of opening a new shopping mall or beachfront properties to running night clubs with all the savvy of a business that matured in the decade that gave birth to phrases like  “concept store” or “boutique resort”. Decorative language may persuade us that we are not mere consumers but rather participating in something exclusive. And, in many ways we are: money, after all, is exclusive in the fuller sense of the word. But we are not talking ‘underground’ here.

You might catch rappers and their crews chowing down on the upmarket version of a grilled cheese sandwich or this season’s fusion burger. But the only way you’re going to get some of the starlets that hang out here to actually digest the showy, high-calorie fare is with a feeding tube. In short, it’s the line-up of big name DJs, local heroes and special club events that make the place tick over on L.A.’s own terms.

There are other places that remain more popular with bone fide film stars or with the sincerely hip (Yes, you know how hard it must be to be credible in the Capital of Shallow!) But Greystone Manor, located in a West Hollywood venue with a long pedigree of playing home to fashionable nightclubs, was taken to the bosom of the L.A. rap and pop stars in particular and the whole side industry of those trying to be famous, whether for a particular talent or simply celebrity for celebrity’s sake. As such, it’s a uniquely Hollywood experience packed full of unlikely fellow travellers. Anyone from white bread television actors to Midwesterners with a decent credit rating rub shoulders with real bad-ass rappers, aspirant media industry execs and the swathes of pretty young things welcomed as human confetti.

The building itself has a history so dramatic that there are few to rival it. In 1929 it was the scene of a bizarre murder-suicide that left the original owner Ned Doheny Jr dead beside his chauffeur-cum-confidante Hugh Plunkett. The official findings were that Plunkett had first murdered Doheny before turning the gun on himself. Naturally, in the Hollywood tradition of scandalmongers Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, the episode has been the source of much speculation. Every scenario from a disgruntled employee murdering his employer over salary disagreements to Doheny’s wife –who officially walked in unexpectedly on the carnage– shooting her closet husband and his lover in a fit of pique has gone around the rumour mill more than once.

W.C. Fields famously said that Mae West was “a plumber’s idea of Cleopatra”. The more refined and snobbish might look at Greystone Manor Supper Club in much the same light. Flashy and ridiculously opulent, it’s like a notion of luxury straight out of a Richie Rich comic, with a name that suggests it really is. It’s a dazzling Temple of Bling that only the greenest arrivals to Tinsel Town could mistake for a real country estate. The more generous observer, however, might note that it’s deeply knowing, as much a tongue-in-cheek nod to the enduring legend, warts and all, of Hollywood’s brash attempts to pass itself off as classy. In the age of social-media-as-money perhaps SBE don’t give a hoot what the sceptical think. The cash registers keep ringing behind the bar (well, more like digital transfer of capital these days, really) and there will always be enough wannabes deferentially respectful of Hollywood hierarchies of who has access to which VIP areas to sustain the suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps for no other reason this makes it an essential Los Angeles destination. Greystone Manor Supper Club epitomises the unique experience that can be found nowhere else in the world: Hollywood playing itself.

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