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Wonderfully Awful: Christmas at the Rainbow


A blogumn by Robin Rosenzweig

rainbowThe year was 2000. I was visiting my sister Laura in Los Angeles for a few days before going to Palm Springs for Christmas with the parents. On the Saturday before Christmas, Laura took me on my first ever visit to the Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip. At its peak, the Rainbow was a landmark 80’s hair metal nightspot. Today, it’s the land that time forgot, and the place where those who refuse to let go of their Aqua Net and skin tight spandex can regularly congregate with mutual acceptance.

As a longtime resident of Los Angeles and a former resident of the 80’s rock scene, Laura was familiar with the inner workings of the Rainbow. She had previously educated me about their drink ticket system – the cover charge gets you a ticket that you exchange for the Strongest Drink Ever. She knew that those who want to be seen hold court at one of the downstairs booths, but the real fun is in the  upstairs dance club – where one can shake it like a stripper to the likes of The Scorpions, Dokken and Motley Crue. We sidled up to the bar, exchanged our drink tickets for slightly pinkish vodka cranberries, and took in our surroundings. From aging rocker dudes to big haired women in too-tight spandex, it was a people-watching smorgasbord. And as quick-witted, sarcastic sisters, we were the peanut gallery mocking it all amongst ourselves. Our growing inebriation only emboldened us, and soon enough we were telling a guy in a Korn baseball jersey that we were from Brooklyn…in our fake New Yawk accents, of course.

We soon discovered that we had caught the attention of a platinum-haired gentleman sitting at the bar. We learned that his name was Ian; he was visiting from Great Britain and, like us, was quick-witted and sarcastic. We formed a united front and for the rest of the night, we were the triumvirate of mock.
Laura and I stayed in touch with Ian, and our British pal eventually moved to Los Angeles. After another couple years, I also moved to L.A. Despite the three of us living in the same city, we found that we weren’t able to meet up often. However, every single year since our fateful meeting in 2000, Laura, Ian and I have always made our way back to the Rainbow for another night of strong drinks and stronger laughs. We started inviting our friends who, in turn, invited their friends.

Each year has its special story. One time the bathroom pipes broke, and urine rained down on us while we were waiting for the upstairs bar to open. Another year featured a “celebrity” sighting as we spotted the wrestler formerly known as Chyna  – or as fate would have it when we she bent over backwards in a skimpy dress…Chyna’s ‘gina. And yet like a Christmas miracle, people kept coming back.

One year, a friend of Laura’s met a friend of mine and they spent much of the night drunkenly talking. A chance meeting a year later would ignite sparks that would lead to them becoming a couple – and they remain together to this day. Who knew a place like The Rainbow could help people find lasting love?
We’re now approaching our 9th annual outing; though this time we’re going back to basics to reunite the triumvirate of mock in its purest form – just Laura, Ian and me. It makes me all sentimental to think that this is a holiday tradition – non-traditional as it may be – on which I can rely.

. Photo Credit: Matthew Winterburn