Crowds pass by this scantily decorated bar front while trekking the starry path of Hollywood Blvd on any given LA evening. In fact, I passed by, and it was my destination. Flickering lights and unlicensed vendors selling beer and water out of coolers are enough distraction to miss the venue, even if there is a line forming with all manner of high fashion and stylish getups pushing up Hudson Ave. A line in Hollywood is as common as a fire hydrant in most cities after all, so the sight of one is no occasion to bring you pause. I was a looking for a sign that did not exist. I was lost in the walk more like it, when I heard my love yell to me “HEY!”
There on the corner, is a bouncer sitting at the door which does not bear a name over it, but a symbol only, and my accomplices this evening hailing and waving me over.
One feels like Neo in the beginning of the Matrix following the white rabbit into a nightclub, only this place is called the Black Rabbit Rose. The cocktail bar opens to a den of inviting booths with a noble bar ahead, the clean glassware glimmering through the darkness flanked by gaudy golden frames adorning the walls. The always magic themed, sometimes burlesque, sometimes speakeasy spot has a red tint to it and a soft velvet glow. As we take a seat at a high table, a tall magician in plain formal wear raises the voices of a nearby four top, as he reveals a unique card from within the deck. The voices are all but drowned out by the competing exuberance of this weekend crowd. The Houstin Brothers have gathered some press by opening LA’s first immersive magic bar back in 2017. They promise an atmosphere “to amuse and beguile” and cocktails “crafted to satisfy and amuse.”
“Action” Jackson, the tribute moniker of tonight’s bands’ tailored song, is the man to talk to “if you want satisfaction”. Jackson is currently handling the RSVPs to the back theatre. Late night crowds flock around him to purchase standing room as he calmly attends to the booked guests first. He appears to be Saruman’s handsome younger brother, A full and long, neatly manicured grey beard outlines the black mustache and soul patch. He looks out calmly from behind his partially transitioned aviator style glasses to direct the flow of traffic. He comes to life exchanging familiarities with the talent as they enter.
In the hallway that leads to the bathroom and man with an acoustic guitar plays deftly on a bench as an attractive brown skinned woman huddles into him and sings lowly. Ahead, behind glass doors, the hallway lights into a bank of elevators on either side; the conveyance for the residence boarding above. These two likely live here or are waiting on someone who does. I wonder where the audition is as I turn into the almost dark bathroom. The overhead fan is loose and buzzes loudly, like a distant welder. Mysterious shapes line the walls and the flash from my camera reveals old posters and adverts for various magicians as wallpaper. Walking back to my seat through the crowd, a man in a trendy white suit is living his best life, lost in a dance to the music currently being played, head thrown back with eyes shut, while the rest of his group laugh together in loud conversation.
A Texan at my table’s birthday is today and his New England friend shoulder taps the magician, requesting his attention next. Half a drink later he is with us and gives warm and almost bashful hellos. He hands the packaged deck of cards over to the Bostonian and tells her to name any card. She chooses the 3 of Clubs and opens the deck to find it on the top. This one-time tour partner with David Blaine then proceeds to fuck us up with a mind-boggling routine. As he chews and swallows a handful of nails that I myself personally verified were real, he continues his black magic. A glance over at Ruth and I inform the performer that she intends to drive a stake through his heart. He smiles and succesfully portrays the feeling like we are close friends through some sort of mind trick. We tip the man and head out back to watch the show.
The rodent and I snuggle into our seat against the wall centered on the velvet rope boundary of the seated and standing section. It has been a long while since we were part of the scene. It was nearly midnight-thirty and the band had yet to come on. Brick illuminated by chandelier enclosed this group of real life instagramers, eager for some live music. I was under the belief that it was going to be Jazz this evening, but quickly realized we were in for a night of funk. The sax was on fire, the damn tambourine was being played to perfection. Many stood and danced as the energy of the band propelled us into the night.
Outside the city purred. By the time we poured out of the place, the smells of street hotdogs and sausages filled the air as we blended back into the sounds and sights of the city. Next door, people stood in line at the Thai take-out window. We point our group down Hollywood Boulevard, sandwiched by stars above and below. Stopping to remember Betty White (and Jim Henson) as we pass her flower adorned bit of cement. We weave between different characters ducking into Ubers, homeless drug addicts walking with thousand yard stares or belligerent self monologues, small groups of minors cruising the strip on foot, a mixed group of spider-man cosplayers…The hot spots in the city are always alive. You leave the confines of your given establishment, and the street is still loud with all manner of folks coming or going, looking for the heart of Saturday night.
When to Go: When there is a show tailored to your interest, or when you want to see top notch illusionists while enjoying drinks with colleagues.
What to Order: Tito’s and soda were a common order at my table and Peroni’s. There is an impressive list of cocktails with names such as “ Dark Arts” (Lemongrass vodka, Lime, Aloe, Activated Charcoal) “Honey Bunny” (Mezcal, Lime, Honeydew, Habanero Tincture) or the “Siamese Twin” (Turmeric Infused Cognac, Thai Iced Tea, Lavander Bitters, Condensed Almond Milk) to name a few
What to Wear: Dress to impress, this be a high end dive