On the scale of Complaints No One Ever Needs To Hear Again, somewhere between "the MPAA rates movies like a bunch of bible-thumping prudes" and "the 405 sometimes has inconvenient traffic", ranks this one -- "LA dive bars have become overrun with moneyed hipsters and have forever lost their scuzzy joi de vive." Take heart, dear readers -- for while the skinny-pant brigade may have overtaken such sleazy citadels as The Short Stop, there are still many dens of scary-bathroomed iniquity to be had in this fine metropolis. You just have to go to, for example, Culver City -- where life is cheap.
First stop: Dear John's. From the outside, it looks like a gay bar from a 1950's movie where all the main characters commit suicide -- a white, windowless bunker on a featureless corner of Sepulveda and Culver, its battered maritime sign projecting a cut-rate "Jolly ol' England" vibe; picture Dennis Quaid in Far From Heaven eyeing it with furtive curiosity. Inside, it's dark and cozy, with low-ceilings and black leather booths, with absolutely nothing drawing attention to the fact that it's no longer 1946. Nothing except for the Dear John movie poster amidst the headshots of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Or the AK-47 shaped tequila bottle on the bar. Or the fact that a glass of cheap scotch costs $8, and most of the food runs between $18 and $42. Which makes Dear John's something of a dive bar Trojan Horse -- a place that lures you in with promises of depressing drunken closet-cases and old-school LA kitsch, only to deliver a Grandpa Simpson-geared experience at Monty Burns prices. In other words, fuck this place. There's a reason it's named after a breakup letter.
NEXT: traipse on down Sepulveda to the Tattle Tale Room, the kind of place where it would come as a shock if they weren't running some kind of human trafficking operation out of the backroom. The entrance smells like a taxi that someone has barfed and shat in, while the driver made a valiant attempt to cover up the smell with one of those little Christmas tree air fresheners. You can deaden your olfactory senses with ridicuously strong drinks and a surprisingly good beer selection that, unlike Dear John's, is vintage dive-bar cheap. Across the room, middle-aged black hepcats play pool while cougars sip martinis amidst gaggles of Loyola students so underage it looks like the bar has been invaded by the freshman class of Hogwarts. Jagermeister flows, walls are overrun with jerserys for Mexican baseball teams, and bathroom stalls suggest a possible name change to "Herpes In A Hurry." In other words, a Webster's-definition dive. WE LOVE IT!
Finally, stumble next door to the Scarlet Lady, where the crowd looks like it has kicked its share of ass, and there is bona fide ass-kicking karaoke every Friday night. A nattily-dressed Samuel L. Jackson lookalike will perform a spot-on rendition of Bill Withers "Lovely Day", a fight over a pool table will result in death-threats which quickly turn into back-slapping bonhomie, and heartbreakingly attractive bartenders will refill endless pitchers of wallet-friendly, teeth-numbingly cold beer. It serves as a comforting reminder that the land that gave us The Geisha House and Extreme Makeover still has some grit in its teeth. Bless you, Culver City.
- WHAT: The finest dive bars Culver City has to offer
- WHERE: Dear John's, The Tattle Tale Room, The Scarlet Lady
- WHEN: Open 7 days a week
- $$$: Except for Dear John's, cheap as hell