Hooray for Hollywood!We hope you’re satisfied. Your old friend, the one who was always there for you, is sick, in critical condition. And it’s your fault, partly, for abandoning him. His new doctors say he’ll pull through. But people who have visited him lately say he’s a goner.
The Hollywood Basement has been the sick club of Itaewon since spring, when it started suffering from an acute customer deficiency. It was in May that Limelight, a new club, moved in and drew its business away.
Since then the club has been comatose. You go there now and, apart from the music, it’s quiet as a tomb; apart from the booze, it’s spiritless.
We remember Hollywood’s happier, healthier times. We remember when it was born in 1994, on the third floor of the building whose basement it now occupies. It was an instant hit, providing expats with all the fun of a big Itaewon club but with 23 percent less sleaze.
A year later it was expanded to include the second floor, where it had a snazzy deejay booth, a cage-enclosed dance floor and caricature-decorated walls, the work of some professional animators posted in Korea. Remember the sequence of illustrations showing the progressive life stages of the Korean female?
The club always had lines outside, with the beefy doormen picky about who got in. On Saturday nights, to get past the bouncers, you either had to know one, like Big Marcel, or be an especially good-looking female.
Hollywood stayed hip until about 1997, when nightlife-seeking foreigners began shunning Itaewon in favor of new-for-them hot spots like Hongdae and Apgujeong. Since then, Hollywood’s popularity has been up and down. It went underground a few years ago and, as of a few months ago, it was still a place to be.
Then Limelight came and put it in intensive care.
But now Hollywood has a new team of doctors. Miss Ahn, who used to mix your soju kettles and fry your yakki mandu up on Hooker Hill, is the new owner. Vincent Sung, the Korean-Belgian who knows where you’re going every night and gets there first, is the new manager.
Mr. Sung is a veritable arts and entertainment impresario. He has heaps of experience organizing dance parties, fashion shows and art exhibitions. He plans to draw on that to infuse the club with some culture and class.
“We don’t want to compete against Limelight,” Mr. Sung explained. “We want to provide what it doesn’t, and help make Itaewon into a cool scene again.” Though Limelight is a fun place, it’s becoming something of a “factory disco,” he said.
One reason Hollywood has seemed so lifeless lately is that it’s undergoing image transplants, with Mr. Sung inserting a diversified entertainment program. The most enticing part is Thursdays, when the club offers free salsa dance lessons from 8 to 10, then free drinks from 10 to 11.
And the club is getting a name change, too: “Spy.”
So what’s the prognosis? Mr. Sung says Spy will be back on its feet once its doctors ― he, Miss Ahn and the deejay Sunny ― hold the official grand opening, toward the end of September.
If you care.
by Mike Ferrin