By Alex Rendon
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Bondage -- backed by trendy beats -- has abandoned downtown Hollywood. The fetish club night at Club Deco Drive called London Ballroom faltered rather than thrived there. Impresario David Cordoves says he fought a never-ending battle to get the venue to comply with his strict agenda. After a few months, he pulled his contract, citing both squabbling with his sponsors and fear of an eventual city crackdown.
"My biggest mistake was going to Hollywood. I thought Hollywood was an up-and-coming town," he recalls. "It was a very restrictive town. It has a lot of codes. It was constant harassment for me. There were a couple of swing clubs that were constantly raided -- and I know that it was just a matter of time before they raided me." (In November 2001, Hollywood residents took aim at the swing club Xchange, a.k.a. Hollywood Catering, urging city commissioners to shut it down. A month later, the city rejected the place's request for an occupational license.)
With the Hollywood hindrances behind him, Cordoves moved London Ballroom -- which he began almost four years ago -- to Level in Miami Beach. That city, he believes, will be more willing to embrace nudity and dancing. Resident DJs Dino and Tommy Gunn and special guest DJ Falstaff will spin the same versatile set of dance and progressive as well as niche-centric synth-pop, future pop, industrial, and EBM that rang out in the Ballroom's Hollywood days. Cordoves plans to fly in DJs from Europe and bring heavy-hitter bands to perform at the monthly affair. Although he admits this type of scene isn't a big draw, he claims it's getting bigger. In Miami Beach, he expects to double the crowd that he had in Hollywood.
Broward's less salacious but still subversive Lumonics is back. The late-night light show and dance party reopened after a May 25 bust (Undercurrents, June 20, 2002) in which cops arrested an attendee in the parking lot with a gallon jug of GBH. But there's a new wrinkle. Instead of allowing all ages to congregate, owners are restricting admission -- for now -- to people age 18 and over. It's worth pointing out that in recent years, Fort Lauderdale's tolerance level for under-21 fun has diminished substantially.
Pumped by PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect, y'all), Lumonics restarted in late July drawing the party faithful to its north Fort Lauderdale warehouse, although it's limiting attendance to 50 patrons. Says Lumonics publicist Barry Raphael, "It feels good to be running again, but we're not sure what the future is in this building -- we don't know if it makes sense to stay here." The city may not allow Lumonics an occupancy permit that would allow more than 50 people, he adds.
Started in 1988 as an out-of-the-way warehouse with light sculptures/sound installations by owner Dorothy Tanner and her husband, Mel, Lumonics gradually became an underground attraction. Mel Tanner died in 1993, but Dorothy and associate Marc Billard continued the tradition. In October 2000, the final component -- live DJs -- was added, along with open-mic opportunities and live poetry events. By the beginning of the summer, it wasn't uncommon for upward of 200 people to pack the Friday- or Saturday-night sessions; it gradually morphed into a place for the young dance crowd to interact in a noncommercial, nonmainstream way with the coolest den mother ever. Says Tanner: "I always felt dancing belongs in this place -- it's one of the things to get you high without doing drugs."
In South Florida, where a drug-free, late-night dance experience would probably exempt everything but church revivals and ice-cream socials, Tanner had her hands full. "Don't come in too drunk, because you're obnoxious when you're too drunk," she says. "Too stoned is not too cute either, but at least it's quiet."
Tanner knows cops will be watching Lumonics. "Their express purpose is to close places where it's possible to come buy some of this stuff," she says, referring to illegal dance-enchancers. She knows how the officials' minds work: "If you're running an all-ages place and you don't sell alcohol, then you're courting the whole drug scene, and they're going to close you."
The raid (which Tanner describes as "just straight ugly"), the closing, and the downtime made for a tough summer, she says. "The whole thing depressed the hell out of me, but I don't want to let 'em beat us down. We do live in a police state, though. It's getting worse."
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