Seventies Nostalgia

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The VIP Room

I first came across the VIP mentality when I attended an after concert music party in the late Seventies. It was a two tier party, as 'the VIPS', i.e. - the rock stars and their groupie entourages dined in a cordoned off area of the party – on a raised pier, so that they could be seen by the rabble. The mob partied in the rest of the room, only permitted to speak to the cordoned off diners, if the burly bodyguard zealously guarding the rope separating the stars from the plebs allowed them to. Getting near the rock stars was considered harder than getting an audience with the pope. I put it down to Music Biz elitism, as God forbid the performers would have to mix with their audience! Perhaps they were terrified of catching a throat infection, which would have been fatal for them, as rock stars sing from their throats, not from their diaphragms.

In the Seventies, there didn’t seem to be so much elitism in clubs and professional parties. Although, the commercial concept of VIP rooms was in its infancy, Studio 54 was a trendsetter. Its VIP room was the club's grubby basement where the jaded chosen few were freely allowed to snort drugs unobserved, a savoury step-up from doing drugs together in the lavatory. 'Cosy, cosy,' Alice murmered, eyeing the lewd graffiti daubed walls of the tiny cubicle in which she and Brent had locked themselves in,' is an extract from "Frantic", my nostalgic '70's novel when a lot of the party action was held in toilets.

In Seventies' London, VIP rooms/sections didn’t really exist in private nightclubs. Everybody was mixed up together. However, the VIP concept has existed in restaurants for years, invented to keep the ‘out of towners’ separated from members of the ‘A’ list. One of the mâitre d’s tasks in fashionable restaurants is to intuitively know whom to place in the ‘right’ section of the restaurant. Not only has there been an invisible cordoned off area in trendy restaurants for years, but there has always been a top table. Social climbers would kill to dine at this rarified table, which is usually reserved for the restaurant's owners and his friends. It must be tragic for people who care about such things to be seated on the wrong side of the restaurant, or to be led to a bad table by the lavatory. Some people don’t even attempt to go to fancy restaurants if they’re not on first name terms with the mâitre d’, for fear of being seated on the wrong side of the restaurant, which for them would mean social Siberia.

Los Angeles is the ultimate city for VIP sectioning. The city's social structure is divided into strict streams, where the 'A' list is hard to penetrate. It's rare for different lists to socialise together. But, you would certainly be considered 'Z' list fodder, if you were seated at a table in the Beverly Hills Hotel’s beautiful garden. It's the done thing to eat inside, even if the weather is glorious. But, as long as you don't care about the top table mentality, and are purely interested to eat good food produced in a clean kitchen, you are probably not interested in showbusiness, or are a potential Zen Buddhist monk!

Copyright: Frances Lynn, 2006

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