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Paparazzi's presence lackluster


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POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2009

Sometimes it's hard to believe we're in the midst of an economic downturn.

Yes, the local nightclub and bar scene has taken a hit in recent months. But take a look around on a Friday or Saturday night in Honolulu, and you'll notice some people haven't stopped partying on the weekends.

It was a madhouse last Friday at the Ward Entertainment Complex, with packed parking lots and crowds on the sidewalks, outside Starbucks and inside Menchie's. The frenzy continued at Paparazzi, a new nightclub by George Kail that opened in the space formerly occupied by Brew Moon.

Despite the sizeable crowd on hand for the club's VIP grand opening party, I sensed impending disappointment almost immediately upon arriving. Other than a tiny vinyl banner hanging from a second-floor railing, there was no exterior signage — in fact, Brew Moon's old sign remains visible above the space that used to house its brewing operation.

Inside the club, a wall that used to separate Brew Moon's dining room from its lounge has been removed and satellite bars added both inside and out. Two large projection screens were set up along the Diamond Head end of the club, separated from a VIP lounge on the opposite side by Paparazzi's new dance floor. Nightlife veterans I spoke with said the decor reminded them of the old Blue Zebra and Mystique nightclubs.

I was told the sound and lighting systems have been improved, although I also received a number of complaints about the volume level being “;painfully high”; all weekend. Las Vegas' DJ Crime and local DJ Fandango opened the club on Friday, followed by DJs Audissey and Sovern-T on Saturday; Sick Dog Productions is currently helping Kail with booking entertainment.

Hawaii Pacific Entertainment, which helped produce Friday's launch party, will return Nov. 13 to host a monthly event at the club; other weekly events include an '80s-themed party on Wednesdays with Rick Rock Productions and “;Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!”; on Thursdays with Acid Wash Entertainment. Paparazzi will reportedly be open seven days a week from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

I guess it all comes down to execution here — Paparazzi's potential for greatness is obvious, and Kail is no rookie when it comes to running a club. But you can also tell he's hedging his bets by cutting corners on expenses. The furniture looks recycled, the VIP area needs more privacy (and LCD screens) and the satellite bars need working fixtures — not mixers poured out of plastic containers.

And sure, a red carpet and photo wall at the main entrance is expected, but where is the photographer presence inside the club? Why not utilize the projection screens to broadcast a live, in-house feed of the action? There was nothing about Paparazzi that made me feel like I was in the middle of a spectacle — and isn't that the kind of imagery the club's name conjures up?

Unfortunately, Kail abruptly walked away after less than a minute of conversation at the grand opening party, so I wasn't able to ask him about his plans. We'll just have to wait and see ...

ELSEWHERE IN Kakaako that same night, promoters Bryan Simpson and Titus Nakagawa absolutely nailed it at the Living Room's farewell party. The club is set to close after tomorrow's “;Malice in Wonderland”; party.

There was already a line to get in at 11 p.m. last Friday, with the downstairs lounge full of people and the upstairs just opening. I only meant to stick around for a little while, but DJs Flip and Sovern-T quickly changed my mind with solid musical selections. Big Mox (who revealed plans to move to California early next year) was even gracious enough to share a microphone with this columnist until Creed Chameleon and DJ Packo showed up at 1 a.m.

By that time, DJ Jahson the 45 Revolver was rocking a packed dance floor downstairs in anticipation of a live set by the Deadbeats, who didn't disappoint at all. DJs Compose and Eskae were also in the booth, as Walter “;High Chief XL”; Saole and Tassho Pearce showed up to pay their respects and Waimanalo Laundry Services owner Ericka Drayton made a rare nocturnal appearance to relive the memories.

After a rough start to my Friday night, spending the rest of it with familiar faces saying goodbye to what was an important part of the local club scene was bittersweet — but lots of fun ...

In the Mix drops Fridays in HILife. Contact Jason Genegabus by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or phone at 529-4766. Check him out on Twitter at twitter.com/sonecessary.