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Acting the part at the exclusive, members-only club Otis

Wednesday, Jul 20 2005
Social scientists say that it is rare for a person to move from one class to another; people generally stay in their income/status bracket for life.

But there are a few things that will cause a person to jump upward into another class, mainly fame and money (OK, lots of money, like, say, the Google guys). And something more precious, a quality that trumps everything else: beauty. Not just homecoming queen/king looks. Greek god shit, like Marilyn Monroe, Brad Pitt, Farrah Fawcett, and even Anna Nicole Smith, all of whom came from humble backgrounds. But those are just the people we know because they're famous. There are untold masses of superhumanly attractive people who have moved west to our fair town and are now mingling with the mayor at Tosca, perhaps terrified that he will find out that their mama was a shift manager at Wal-Mart.

What's with the sociology lesson, you ask? Because last week I jumped classes for a night, weaseling my way into the newly opened "members only" nightclub called Otis on Maiden Lane near Union Square. According to the club's Web site, Otis is a discerning place, open to members whom the ownership has "identified to clearly fit our desired demographic." When one applies to be a member of this glorified watering hole, one must sign up for an "informal but necessary" meeting with the management.

"Two words," said one of my compatriots that night about this clientele. "Douche bags."

We got into the place the only way folks of our status could, by saying we worked for SF Weekly. This was, of course, true, since we were the music editor, Garrett Kamps; the clubs editor, Brock Keeling; and myself, clubs columnist Katy St. Clair, at your service. All three of us stood and watched several hotter people pass us to get into Otis; we were torn between embarrassment at wanting to go into such a place and the biological dismay of being left out of a group of primates. Finally Brock got ballsy (he was on the guest list, fer crissake) and pushed forward, waving our business cards. We had made it! I couldn't wait to see what Otis looked like.

Why a place that's trying to appeal to the upper echelon would name itself after Mayberry's town drunk still puzzles me, but Otis seems to want to exude a casual elegance. White is the dominant color, with smatterings of antiques and '50s modern lighting. The place has one very high-ceilinged room with a bar, then a staircase that leads up to a smallish second-level area with a few high tables, some French provincial chairs, and a DJ. Oh yeah, and on this night, someone had laid sod over the entirety of the upstairs floor, so we were standing on grass. Indoors. At a nightclub.

We ordered whiskeys and stood on the lawn feeling self-conscious. I got a really good look at everyone, and yes, they were all beautiful: men with pretty eyes, dark skin, and expensive trousers hanging on their hips just so. Men with shoulder-length blond hair swooped back from their chiseled faces, as if they'd just dismounted a horse. Women with long legs, narrow hips, and milky skin, all supporting the main event, that face. Then there were the people who sparked my class theory, pretty young women in clothes from Forever 21 with not-quite-up-to-date hairstyles who were only an undiscerning millionaire away from moving up in life. But everyone seemed nice enough to us and to each other, and I felt sort of guilty for pre-judging. It's not their fault that they're so attractive, and anyone given that power would be a fool to waste it.

"Douche bags," said Garrett, bringing me another drink. "All you have to do to fit in is laugh like I am saying something really funny, then I'll laugh back at you really loudly like I concur." It sounded easy enough, so we tried it. I let out a "Hohohaha" and he threw his head back and chortled, and lo and behold, a flashbulb went off in our faces: The guy who was wandering through the party with a camera finally noticed us. "OK," continued Garrett, "the second thing you do is fart a lot." We both regretted not eating a big bowl of black bean chili before we went out. The two of us could have really singed the grass in such a small space.

That was us, in the corner, him dressed like Ashton Kutcher in a T-shirt, long, baggy '60s trousers, and Converse; and I in a black wraparound dress with hoop earrings. Then there was Brock, who jumped into the fray full throttle, dancing past us occasionally with a new glass of champagne and stories from the men's room. It wasn't that he was in his element, exactly, it was that he was really fucking drunk.

Normally in situations like this I would raid the free hors d'oeuvres table, steal some toilet paper from the restroom, and cut out early. But this place didn't have any free food, I didn't want to deal with the chicks in the bathroom mirror, and something -- OK, maybe the booze -- kept us rooted to our spots. And it was there that we realized, after a night of feeling less than, that Otis' attempts at being chic didn't make it cool.

We ended the night at Amber, hanging out with the guys from the band American Heartbreak. And though we knew it was just another bullshit social hierarchy, like the kind that fueled Otis, it was our bullshit social hierarchy, our fish tank of douche bags, thank you very much. We had found our primates, free of charge.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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