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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 30, 2002

Wonderlounge's popularity might be a bit much for some

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kamakoa Page added to the visual delight on a recent Friday night at W's Wonderlounge as one of the featured dancers.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

• • •

What: Wonderlounge

Where: Diamond Head Grill, W Honolulu hotel, 922-3734, 922-1700

WHEN: 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays, Saturdays

Cover: $10

Under 21 OK?: No

Age of crowd: Twentysomethings to fortysomethings

Dress code: No shorts, slippers, tank tops (on men), hats

Attire we saw: Casual to dressy. On women: cocktail dresses, camisoles, blouses, jeans, pants. On men: dress shirts, aloha shirts, sweaters, polos, tees, dress slacks, jeans, cargo pants

Our arrival/departure:

11 p.m./1 a.m. on a Friday

What we drank: Chocolate martini, bartender's iced tea ($14.58 total)

How crowded was it?: 800 or more


Sample music: Main room: house with '80s grooves; second room: "Caramel" (City High feat. Eve), "Only You (Bad Boy Remix)" (112 feat. Notorious B.I.G. & Mase)

Dancing?: Yes

TIPS: 1) That Maglite beam in your face communicates a bouncer's desire that you kindly clear an aisle for people movement. 2) Beat the cover charge and get a table by arriving before 9 p.m. and ordering drinks.

OVERHEARD LINE OF THE NIGHT: "So who's your waxer?" — One female patron to another, comparing their clean, close shaven legs.

W's Wonderlounge turns 2 this weekend.

It's still as wildly popular (if not more so) as it was the first time the Diamond Head Grill opened its funky-mod candlelight-and-wood environs to would-be cool Honolulu nightcrawlers. And depending on how you prefer your fashionable evening of clubbing served up, that popularity might be a problem. At least on Fridays.

Wonderlounge offers enough upscale W environmental 'tude and a sweet DJ soundtrack of house and hip-hop in two rooms to satisfy club folk who fancy themselves discriminating. The trio of go-go dancers, the backbeat of a live bongo player and the possibility of catching an out-of-town celeb holding court in a glass-enclosed V.I.P. room likely holds some appeal as well.

But the real reason for Wonderlounge's continued popularity is obvious from the moment one enters: a blending of the beautiful (and not-quite-beautiful) from both sexes in quantities dwarfing most Honolulu night spots.

Simply put, Wonderlounge is to singles and folks on the prowl what Tamashiro Market is to seafood lovers. I'm almost certain that were I still single, I'd have probably been a lot more tolerant of going elbow-to-elbow and mouthwash-to-mouthwash with the ever-growing mass of bodies being let in the door. I may have even had a better time. Many others seemed quite happy to be pushing past people and squeezing around those lucky enough to find tables.

"Aw, dude, this is so freakin' phat!" yelled one guy in front of us to his male friend, as they both ogled and intentionally brushed up against a woman on their way to the bar. "I think I got some of that," said the other afterward, holding out his sweaty palm as evidence of skin contact.

Call us prudes, but my girlfriend and I just weren't in the mood to have our toes stepped on repeatedly, our bodies pushed into others while attempting to move between rooms, and our corneas intermittently blasted with bouncer flashlights (see Tips at right). After a while, the crowding became downright annoying.

That said, there was little else to bitch about. Service was fast and attentive once we managed to pounce on a table. Dawn's chocolate martini seemed a bit watered down and medicinal ("It doesn't taste like chocolate or martini," she griped). My bartender's iced tea, on the other hand, packed a cool and delicious wallop that worked thirst-quenching wonders in the increasingly sweaty main room.

Wonderlounge's smaller second room was as teeming with people as the main room, but more dance-friendly. Where the main room was discreetly lit, the second room was dark; its compact environs wall to wall with indistinguishable figures moving to an intelligent hip-hop and R&B menu.

By the time we headed for the exit, Wonderloungers filled the entire main entryway between the two rooms. People were still streaming in from outside. There was still a line at the door at 1 a.m.

Thankfully, those with a fondness for almost everything about Wonderlounge except its crowds have an alternative.

Since June, the W has been hosting a Saturday night Wonderlounge more suitable for actual lounging. We didn't get to check it out for ourselves, but bar manager Joey Gottesman said that Wonderlounge Saturdays (so far) have been far quieter and decidedly less crowded than Fridays.

On Saturdays, the main room keeps a house- and hip-hop-heavy dance floor, and the second room becomes a quiet, music-free lamp- and candle-lit lounge for chatting and sipping. Gottesman called the Saturday vibe mellow and appreciated.

"I couldn't take two nights like Friday side by side," said Gottesman, half-joking.

Neither could we. See you on Saturday.

Know a night spot or recurring club event we should be checking out? Reach Derek Paiva at 525-8005 or dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.