“At Sunset” revisited: Remembering a private dinner at the underground after-hours club

By on January 4, 2016

We’ve posted about the early 80s underground nightclub next door to the Whisky on the Sunset Strip, called At Sunset, a few times before — check out this raw footage from inside the club, shot by Russell Buddy Helm — but today we have a post from our contributor Michael Dare, who tells us about a dinner party held at the after-hours club.

Michael Dare:

All I knew was I was invited to dinner at the boarded up steakhouse next door to the Whisky. The only way in was through an alley in back. There were about twelve of us at a table having a dinner prepared by Wolfgang Puck. Someone, I don’t remember who, explained what we were doing there.

AT SUNSET 1

I was a film critic for the LA Weekly. Someone else worked for A&M records. Someone else was an agent at ICM. We had been gathered for the starting of a new social club, because we were all interesting and talented people working in showbiz in LA, and because we were parts of organizations full of other people who might be fun to party with.

The idea was to MAKE DEALS, for THINGS TO HAPPEN, movies, TV shows, radio, journalism, music, and somehow the PLACE, At Sunset, would benefit, not by taking 10% like normal agents but by being the proprietors of the hottest and most exclusive nightclub in town. The front would remain boarded up so the public would never know there was a club there. Everyone would enter from the alley.

And here’s the genius: they weren’t in a hurry. The clientele would grow gradually just from us twelve. Before we left, we all agreed to be back the next week at the same time for a fabulous dinner with another A-list chef, but we all had to bring one, and only one, other person with us, hopefully from our organization.

AT SUNSET 4

The next week there was a dinner for 24. I brought with me the editor in chief of the LA Weekly. The guy from A&M brought with him the head of A&R. The agent brought by the head of the agency. We all met each other and it was the best party ever.

Next week, the same thing, dinner for 48, not quite as good, but still, an amazing group of people to party with.

Then 96, etc., till it did indeed become the hottest nightclub in Hollywood, despite the fact the food and drink became progressively worse, and because of the DEGREES OF CONNECTION, like degrees of Bacon, we were all connected somehow.

AT SUNSET 3

Timothy Leary and Michael O’Donoghue making the scene At Sunset

When I worked the door, I personally knew the first 24, so mentioning them got you in, everyone else, five bucks, unless you were John Belushi or any one of hundreds of celebrities I knew to let in.

The Three Guys from Hollywood put together a treatment for the TV show called “Dinner at Eight” which would be a talk show during dinner at At Sunset, a great idea that showed up as Jon Favreau’s “Dinner for Five,” but which was doomed by inner squabbling At Sunset, a real shame.

If that show had happened, the place might still be open.

Once the crowd reached critical mass, there was a big opening night party where the walls were covered with blowups of my Polaroids. Too bad we didn’t nail them to the walls because every one was stolen.

At Sunset, Details Magazine

Details magazine threw a private party at At Sunset and then told their readers about it

About Michael Dare

You may know Michael Dare as film critic and journalist for the LA Weekly, LA Times, Billboard, Interview, and the National Lampoon. Turns out he also studied with Lee Strasberg, jammed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, went to Disneyland with Eugene Ionesco, and got Timothy Leary for a birthday present. He was the Playboy Advisor on the Playboy Channel, wrote for Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs, and Scott Bakula played him in a CBS movie-of-the-week about his misadventures in Hollywood called The Bachelor's Baby. He was John Cassavetes' dialogue coach on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, has a close-up in Up in Smoke, sang the news on KROQ, and is responsible for one of the biggest April Fools Day pranks of all time. The only reason we believe one word of this is he has actual photographic evidence, thousands of warped Polaroids that are finally seeing the light of day.