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'Jello' exhibit chronicles glitter-dusted years of LA polysexual dance party

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, at 01:34PM
Meredith Jenks and Michael Mendoza

A party-goer at A Club Called Rhonda event.

Everyone and everything is welcome at "A Club Called Rhonda," a Studio 54-esque, free form dance night that has been happening for over five years. Turntables, international producers and a variety of keyboards have created a sweaty scene where "all walks of life" are welcome.

Originally hosted at the Guatelinda club in Hollywood, "Rhonda" has since blossomed into a monthly 1,700-person club held at the 333 Boylston club near Downtown.

The never-dull Pop Tart gallery will soon host "Archival Jello: A Club Called Rhonda Retrospective 2008-2012" in celebration of the the disco-inspired, polysexual dance party.

Named after an imaginary diva named Rhonda, who never actually shows up to the party (but her drag queen BFF Phyllis Navidad does), the club's inspiration is still somewhat mysterious even to those who know it intimately.

"No one can put her finger on who Rhonda is," said Navidad. "She's like the Charlie in 'Charlies Angels.'"

Navidad became the face of the club when she started working the door years ago and attributes much of Rhonda's success to its underground appeal.

"People feel like they can go somewhere mysterious and be debaucherous," she said.

Navidad is now involved on multiple levels and recently opened the art gallery, Pop Tart, in Koreatown.

The gallery focuses on pop culture without being "trite," Navidad said, and it's goals coincide with "Rhonda's" -- both hope to highlight contemporary movements.

The dance club started as a wild party night at a "dump" club in Hollywood, but soon became a representation of a new mindset for Angelenos, Navidad explained.

If you're gay, you go out in West Hollywood; if you're straight, you go out in Hollywood -- politically and socially, the world seems more segregated than ever, said Navidad.

"Its cool to see a place where a bunch of people think that's bullshit," he said. "People are going to look back and think of this club as a movement."

As the club moved from Hollywood to El Cid in Silver Lake, its theme nights took off in popularity and officially exploded with a visit from Perez Hilton and his resulting tweet heard round the world; “First time here—and LOVING it! Hugs to Phyllis Navidad!”

Burlesque dancer/fetish pin-up girl perfection Dita Von Teese, who follows Hilton, then wrote “I love Rhonda too.”

"That's really when the ball started rolling really fast," said Navidad.

The hype from Perez helped the club get some exposure, but Navidad really began noticing Rhonda's success after every graphic poster they made for each party was ripped down and stolen by the end of the evening.

"There was something really special going on with the graphics," said Navidad.

He became completely convinced of the artwork's potential when he showed up to a house party in West Hollywood and discovered a framed poster from one of their earliest shows, hung proudly above the toilet.

Now, Navidad along with Rhonda club promoters/creative directors Loren Granic and Gregory Alexander, are sorting through hard drives full of images to create museum-quality pieces for the Pop Tart show.

The Rhonda club's in-house art director, Trevor Tarczynski, designed the original graphics which will now be turned into collectibles for the exhibit that opens next weekend.

The opening reception is Mar. 3 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Pop Tart Gallery. The retrospective collection will run until Apr. 5.

Pop Tart gallery is located at 3023 W. 6th St. near Virgil

A Club Called Rhonda takes place the second Friday of every month

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