When it comes to the world of nightlife, parties come a dime a dozen wherever you are. Whether they be at dive bars or massive rave-ready arenas, everyone and their mother, it seems, is behind an event. Cities like NYC, London, and Tokyo tend to have a good number of ragers that truly live up to their name in proportion to flops that few would be duped into attending―a ratio we've all learned to live with. Los Angeles is an especially obvious exception to this loose rule, however: a bona fide good time rolls around approximately once in a blue moon.
A Club Called Rhonda withstanding, that is.
Over the past few years, Rhonda―originally the brainchild of four Angelenos who were parched for a regular, uninhibeted blast―has grown from its humble origins at a Guatemalan restaurant to its current status of must-attend Saturday night destination. We chatted with the current owners of the monthly about their origins, their successes, their futures, and, of course, the virtues of letting yourself go wild every once in a while. Read on for the full story in addition to some guest DJ testimonials. Also be sure to download the spectacular mix co-owner and resident GODDOLLARS made to soundtrack your life for a while. (A full tracklist can be found on page two of this article.)
How was Rhonda originally conceived? What was the motivation to start it? The catalyst?
Loren Granic (GODDOLLARS): Rhonda was originally conceived by Gregory [Alexander], myself, and two other collaborators. We wanted to start something big, something new, and something completely unhinged. We parlayed our adulation for classic house and disco meccas like the Warehouse, Loft, and Paradise Garage and combined that with our penchant for hard, hard partying, and everything kind of grew from there. We started a party and ended up with a person. We love you Rhonda.
Gregory Alexander: Rhonda was originally conceived out of a desire to make the party we wanted to attend. The original four of us got together and brainstormed all the elements we desired in a party, did some research, some traveling, a lot of partying, and then Rhonda was born. We wanted something more from the nightlife in our city; something a bit rough, a bit glam, a bit old, a bit new; something smart but still reckless; and something that never backs down from a good time. This is Rhonda.
What do you aspire for Rhonda to become?
L.G.: A country.
G.A.: We'd like for Rhonda to become an international mecca for hedonism in all the right ways. I'd like for it to happen in multiple cities at different times throughout each month. We'd like for Rhonda to touch as many people in as many different cultures as possible― inappropriately of course. As long as there is a soundsystem, intoxicants, and people that love to dance, we'd like to be there.
There're parties that are just parties and then there are parties that intrinsically are significantly cultural in nature. Where does Rhonda fall on the spectrum?
L.G.: We've always envisioned Rhonda as more than a club. She is Rhonda after all, and we must respect that. We've always resented parties or people or anything for that matter that exhibits anything less than all the possible human effort one can muster. We work really hard to separate ourselves from half-assery and strive to provide an experience that can deeply affect club-goers. She's not a club that you simply attend; she's a person that you can become part of… someone who works day and night to be able to provide sensory stimulation that revelers need in this day and age. We don't just book a DJ and call it a day―it's a top-to-bottom operation that focuses on theme, decor, aesthetic, audio, video, sound, and lighting… on top of the graphic aesthetic that extends to Rhonda's promotional flyers and print publications.
G.A.: I'd like to think that Rhonda is more than just a party. I know for many people it is a destination―a vacation from their normal lives, a place to forget about the rules for a while and just have a great, sleezy, sweaty time. Certain comparisons to bigger clubs of the past have been made, which is extremely flattering and makes us strive to truly accomplish the status that people wish of us.
What's the process for selecting guests? Is it arbitrary or random? Or do you aim to bring people on that all fit a certain aesthetic or style?
L.G.: Music is a huge part of what Rhonda does, and her tastes for this particular venture reside comfortably in the vast house and disco orbit. Rhonda's heroes include Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, Daniele Baldelli, Frankie Knuckles with a little Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer thrown in for good measure. Anyone with heart and soul and underground goodies who exhibit the qualities of any of the aforementioned juggernauts is more than welcome at Rhonda.
G.A.: Nothing about our guest selection is random. We look into the talent we'd love―the past of the genre as well as the future of it―and review each possibility before picking the right guest for each month. We don't just let anybody spin Rhonda, not even certain acts we love and respect since they aren't the right fit our club.
Last year you screened They Call It Acid before the DJ Pierre party, which was neat in that you expanded your offerings. Do you have any similar plans prepared for future events?
L.G.: Doing an advance screening of They Call it Acid was amazing and something we'd definitely like to do more of. We treat these kinds of opportunities on a case-by-case basis: if something comes along that has some amazing gravity and can compliment Rhonda's circus then we're definitely down. We recently did something else that was outside Rhonda's normal orbit and that was working with FYF Fest (a.k.a. Fuck Yeah Fest) to bring New Orleans' Sissy-Bounce queen Big Freedia to L.A. The show was nuts! There was, like, eight metric tons of choice asses clapping over frantic bounce music―people were losing their shit. Rhonda definitely has an open mind for all things new and different, and if it's up to her snuff, we'll do it.
G.A.: We enjoyed doing that screening, and would like to do more different things in the future, but we don't want to stray too much from what people come to Rhonda for. I think there is a certain expectation of Rhonda and we definitely want to focus on perfecting that experience first before moving into other types of entertainment.
It's pretty safe to say that L.A. is a city that's in want of a solid music nightlife that doesn't revolve around Steve Aoki and O.C.-girl-attracting Avalon “raves.” How does Rhonda fix this dilemma?
L.G.: That's the thing that has always perplexed me about L.A. I've been all around the world, but there is no city in the world that is more beautiful to me than this big, dumb city. Because of its size, the spectrum of credibility is both gorgeous and frightful. There's also a contingent of unfortunately opinionated commentators who make lazy assumptions based on obvious and apparent side of L.A.: the cheese. And there is cheeze. Large amounts of it. But for every culturally devoid, shitty bottle service club there are hundreds of amazing, interesting, and uniquely beautiful people who avoid these places like the plague and seek out experiences that are visceral, sincere, and unforgivably balls out.
We address the credibility gap in L.A. by simply paying no mind at all to any cultural black holes that dot the landscape of L.A., instead focusing on doing something amazing that we're proud of in every way.
G.A.: Rhonda is different from Hollywood parties and weird raves. We have a very sincere approach to what we are trying to do to you; it might seem like we're joking sometimes because of how theatrical we get in explaining what will happen to you. But we really do try to educate the party goers with what we consider great music and believe that getting royally fucked up and losing your inhibitions is necessary every now and then for any healthy life. Not only do we provide a venue for this, but lead by example ourselves. We make the party we want to be at, and, truthfully, we party the hardest out of anyone there. We don't feel a separation between ourselves as promoters and the people as club goers. In this vain we try to pick the right place, the right times, the right artists, the right specials, and the right price.
I'm sure hosting a monthly is a tremendously laborious effort to begin with, but why did you not decide on something more frequent? Do you want to have more Rhonda events or are you currently on the sweet spot?
L.G.:We were a bi-weekly, then weekly party, but we moved to the current monthly format for a few reasons.
We have never been content to get a DJ, find a venue, and call it a night. We put ourselves into creating a cohesive aesthetic for the club that would please Rhonda greatly. Everything from graphics to lighting to signage to sound to decor to the flavor of our jello shots is deliberated over until we're certain that it lives up to Rhonda's Standards. Much of the month leading up to the club is dedicated to realizing that vision. We dedicate ourselves fully to making something special and doing that more than 12 times a Roman year would simply suck us dry.
The other reason is based of the feedback of Rhonda's denizens. Asking around we found that attending Rhonda weekly was literally costing people their jobs and their health. She's not something to underestimate and partying that hard is a serious test of endurance and devotion to Dionysian principles. Spacing the events out allows everyone to both drink that sweet Rhonda nectar and give their bodies enough time to recuperate for the another go.
G.A.: [The biweekly schedule] started to get a bit confusing to people. They didn't know whether it was on this week or the next, and things got especially confusing with certain months having one more or less weeks in them. At that time, the party was gaining some speed and doing pretty well, so with pressure from the venue (then Guatelinda) we decided to take it weekly―then the shit hit the fan. We quickly realized Rhonda was not made to be weekly, especially when we started to be exhausted from all the work and also started hearing about how people were fucking their lives up too much and had to stop coming. The party was on Thursdays then, and with how wasted Rhonda leaves people, nobody was making it into work on Fridays. I think Rhonda is now at a good pace being monthly. It allows us time to throw it all together and allows the people a recovery period of about 3 weeks, which some people really, really need.
What demographic do you think identifies most with Rhonda and why? How is it different from others like, say, the kids who religiously go to the Smell or something?
L.G. When we started the party with polysexuality we were pretty serious about that. The diversity of Rhondiites is something we're really proud of. The people that show up pretty much run the gamut of serious party gods and I couldn't be more “proud of our crowd.” Pretty boys, handsome girls, femme fatales, 6-foot freaks, party monsters, punky kids, steppy queens, and other beautiful specimens of social errata. I guess if Rhonda had to describe her crowd in one sentence it'd be “down for whatever”―and she wouldn't have it any other way.
G.A.: Rhonda's demographic spans a pretty large age group, from the young kids trying to sneak in and get drunk all the way to the older ladies and gentlemen who were there when some of the house/disco forefathers were spinning their first parties. I think there are two main factors that everybody shares: a love for a debaucherous good time and great music. Other than that I'd say Rhonda's crowd is fashion-forward drunkards with a pension for drinking and a low tolerance for prudes.
What does 2010 hold?
L.G.: We're super excited for 2010. Check the farmer's almanac: 2010 is the most crucial year on record. Not just because Rhonda's going places, but because everyone seems to be walking around wild-eyed, willing to explore new things and ideas with a fervor not seen since the Rennaissance, or perhaps the Egyptians. Tons of our contemporaries are doing really amazing amazing things. As for all-things Rhondesque, we couldn't be more excited for this year. We've been scouting locations like Mexico City and New York for places to do travelling Rhondas that would bring our crew and cunnning stunts to other party cities of international renown. We've had great feedback from the international community and can't wait to take the show on the road. We also have some fantastic guests coming through this year and are poised for a first release on Rhonda's House of Rhonda label.
G.A.: Yeah, 2010 will be a big year for Rhonda. We are working on quite a few things, trying to push Rhonda's reach further and bigger, but L.A. will always be our mainstay, our pride and joy. We get asked a lot if we would like to move to a bigger venue to accommodate everybody that comes, but I don't think we'd be interested. We'd rather keep it a bit smaller and exclusive, keep costs down, and keep the music element more intimate. I think L.A. deserves that.
Earth, Wind, And Fire – Evil Intro
Staple Singers – Slippery People
Gloria Gaynor – (If You Want It) Do It Yourself
Positive Force – We Got The Funk
Chaka Khan – Clouds
Ray Mang – Quantico Hilton
Art of Tones – Breaking Bad
Willie Colon – Set Fire To Me (Inferno Dub)
Logic – Blues for You (Hard Dub)
Endangered Species – Ping Pong (Re-Pinged House Mix)
D-Train – Music (Mastermix)
Change – Angel In My Pocket
Martin Circus – Disco Circus
Musique Bell Break
Raw DMX – Do It To The Funk (Greg Wilson Edit)
Unrhythm Trax – Humanoid Beat
Patrick Cowley – Get A Little
Narada Michael Walden – Tonight I'm Alright
Johnny D & Nicky P – Johnick Fire
Blackjoy – Moustache (Franck Roger Remix)
Atmosfear – Dancing In Outer Space (MAW Mix)
Total Unity – Green Eyed Lady
Club 69 – Diva ft. Kim Cooper (Accappella)
Cassius – 1999 (Tim Green Remix)
Soda Inc. – Full Moon (Greenskeeper Mix)
GODDOLLARS – Say Her Name (Basement Vocal ft. Shaun J. Wright)
Satoshii Tomie – Tears (Full Intention Dub)