By Pat Sherman/Photos by Rob Hammer
A blues singer, a rhino trainer and a magician walk into a bar.
It's not a joke. It's a peek into the night-lives of 11 cool San Diegans and their hot evening itineraries.
For his dream night out, our city's foremost wine expert would rent a limo and take friends on a high-end, North County pub (and grub) crawl.
A dashing bouncer from Voyeur nightclub in the Gaslamp says if he had a night off, he'd go to Old Town for sushi, then head home to take respite on his couch.
As for the blues singer, she'd hit up a local casino for a night of bingo and slots, then head to an afterhours shindig until 5 a.m.
It just goes to show, in a town so fine, what comprises the perfect nightlife depends on who's living it.
While bar-goers at local nighttime hotspots are making cocktails disappear, Nick Ivory is combing the crowd with a wry smile and deck of cards, in search of his next victim. For one of his tricks, the Chicago-born magician (whose real name is Nenad Plavsic) has a patron pick a card, sign it with an indelible marker, then stick it back into the deck. He then wraps a rubber band around the deck and launches it into the air. When he catches it, removes the rubber band and scans the cards, the only one missing is the one bearing the patron's signature.
"When you step into Syrah and look up at the ceiling, you'll see thousands of cards with people's names on them," Ivory says. "It's my way of helping people leave their mark on San Diego and be a part of the nightlife scene."
Reaching into his hat to pull out his own night on the town, Ivory has no illusions about where he'd go-he'd return to the places where he works his magic when he's on the clock.
Ivory's dream evening starts with a cocktail at Firehouse in Pacific Beach , then progresses to the Gaslamp, where he grabs a burger at Analog before dropping in to party at Boudoir and Ivy Rooftop at Andaz. Later, he makes a late-night slice at Ciro's Pizzeria vanish.
Catch Ivory's magic Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Tilted Kilt in
; Friday and Saturday nights at Boudoir, and Saturday nights at Vin de Syrah in the Gaslamp; and Sunday afternoons at Firehouse in Pacific Beach.
W?hen she's not belting out the 1959 hit Have Love, Will Travel with her hotshot young band, The Diamonds, bespectacled blues diva Dorothy Mae Whitsett (aka Lady Dottie) has her own plans.
The Lady's perfect night begins with authentic soul food, or dinner at Croce's in the Gaslamp, where she was once a chef and self-proclaimed "gourmet star."
Once sated, Dottie would try her luck at Sycuan, Barona or Viejas for a night of bingo and slots.
"Of course I will!" says the 60-something singer.
From there Dottie would look for an underground, afterhours reggae event to get irie, "like from 2 to 5 o'clock in the morning."
If that didn't work, she'd "probably go home, have a sip of wine and watch a little television.
"It really puts me out- especially after I have the glass of wine," she says. "The TV will be looking at me."
Catch Lady Dottie and the Diamonds Wednesday nights at Gallagher's Irish Pub in Ocean Beach and Thursday nights at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge in East Village.
When he isn't helping decide who makes it past the proverbial velvet rope at Voyeur in the Gaslamp and Wave House in Mission Beach, door host Ian Forbes lets down his guard and heads to Old Town's Harney Sushi to devour Rollz Royce and Flaming Lip rolls.
His quintessential evening with friends also includes stops at Gaslamp faves Fluxx, Side Bar and, not surprisingly, a return to Voyeur, where he "keeps it simple" with a vodkawater or light beer.
"Definitely, I'd spend the majority of my night at Voyeur," says Forbes. "Work, to me, is a lot like going out anyways."
When kicking back on his night off, the former professional hockey player (who grew up near Toronto), hits the gym, then heads home. "There's a lot of nights where I just like to sit on the couch and watch a movie, because those nights are few and far between," he says.
Getting ready to hit the town for the best night ever, local fashion designers Laura Hall (left) and Gillian Mahin would invite their friends to select some of the chic, contemporary women's fashions they've created for their new clothing line.
"We'd get our girls together, allow them to browse through the For Love & Lemons closet and get dressed up in some sheer, breezy sun dresses," Hall says.
Next it's off to C Level lounge on Harbor Island for a "Desi Arnaz" tropical mojito cocktail and nut-crusted brie appetizer in a private cabana overlooking the city and marina.
"After sending a couple cocktails down the hatch, we'd head downtown to Cafe Sevilla to shake our grove thangs to some sultry salsa music," Hall says. "We'd then head to The Vine in Ocean Beach for a late-night dinner, outside under the stars, people-watching as we share a bottle of wine, the seared ahi and butternut squash ravioli."
The duo would wrap up the night in style, catching a late performance by a down-and-dirty blues band at Gallagher's Irish Pub in Ocean Beach,
Howard Leight Jr. owns and pilots one of the fastest and rarest helicopters in the country, an Italian-built Agusta A109, which can reach speeds of up to 200 miles-per-hour. The successful son of ear plugs magnate Howard Leight, he also owns a winery in Malibu.
Leight's dream night (which isn't so different from his real ones) begins at Montgomery Field airport, where he lifts off with clients for a one-hour jaunt north and subsequent jawdropping aerial tour of his Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyards.
After orchestrating a private, twilight wine tasting for his guests, he flies back down the coast and lands on the helipad at the Grand Del Mar Resort for a gourmet dinner at Addison.
After dinner, Leight motors downtown to attend an expensive toys event at a yacht club, where he kicks the tires of cars that cost more than some condos.
Next, he stops by one of the restaurants that serve his wine, like World Famous in Pacific Beach, and then caps off the night a few blocks away at Bar West.
"Bar West is always a good time for me," Leight says. "It's kind of like the downtown club theme, but I live in the Bird Rock area and like being close to home."
Leight says he's waiting for the day when he can land his helicopter on the roof of downtown's 34-story Symphony Towers for a sky-high dinner at the University Club. From there, he'd head to the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park to catch a play or musical.
"I'm kind of a nerd that way," he says. "I don't really go to movies, but I'll do that."
- Ben DeCamp feels pretty smooth (with the help of Felipe Becerra) at Lefty's Barber Shop in Pacific Beach.
Surf photographer (and future law school student) Ben DeCamp (aka the Style Shark) may be best known for the provocative nightlife snapshots he's captured for his website, styleshark.com.
These days, however, he and his buds are more focused on producing weekly parties through their event production company, Night Access.
Before dashing out for his perfect night on the town, the always dashing DeCamp first visits Lefty's Barber Shop in Pacific Beach for a shave and a haircut.
"After I get all freshened up, I throw on a suit and take a date over to Wet Stone Wine Bar in Bankers Hill," he says. "They have amazing red wine sangria and small plates."
DeCamp then heads to Noble Experiment in East Village for some speak easy-style ambiance and a craft cocktail before wrapping up the night with VIP treatment at multi-level mega-club, Stingaree.
"I think it's one of the classiest nightclubs in the Gaslamp, with the best-looking, best-dressed crowd," DeCamp says.
Classically trained saxophonist Jason Whitmore and his booking agent (and wife), Jennifer, start their perfect night with margaritas and Mexican appetizers at La Puerta in the Gaslamp, then walk over for dinner and drinks at Searsucker, one of several places where Jason wails on his sax while DJs spin house music.
For a special occasion (like their recent wedding anniversary), the Del Mar couple turns dinner-and- Jason's-show into an all-night affair, staging a stealthy afterhours bash with friends in a suite at the Se San Diego Hotel.
"We'd have an open bar, some good house beats going, maybe even a DJ, and just hang out with friends until the sun comes up," says Jason, who holds a daytime job as a sales rep for an Internet marketing firm.
"A perfect night generally involves me getting to play," he says. "I admit I'm a little bit of an attention hog. I like to be in front of people and have them dance while I'm playing."
Catch Jason Whitmore performing (he rocks) at Airr Supper Club, Firehouse, Searsucker, Side Bar, Stingaree, Vin de Syrah and various other cool locations.
When he's not assessing the flavor and complexities of vintage wines, Eddie Osterland, who was anointed as America's first Master Sommelier in 1975, treats his friends to unforgettable evenings, one of which included a surprise, chartered flight to Las Vegas, during which the finest champagnes and wines flowed non-stop.
Osterland says his ideal night is one he has replicated frequently. He rents a limousine to shuttle six of his closest compatriots to a primo progressive dinner that includes visits to Advanced Sommeliers Dan Chapman of Georges at the Cove in La Jolla, Jesse Rodriguez of Addison at the Grand Del Mar resort and Brian Donegan of Market Restaurant and Bar in Del Mar.
Arriving at George's for sunset, Osterland has Chapman recommend one of Georges' signature cocktails and a few appetizers for his lucky friends. At Addison, Rodriguez recommends some out-of-this-world entrees, then Donegan delivers a heavenly desert at Market-all stops and limo interludes including copious sips of the world's finest wines.
"You can't do any better than that," Osterland says.
Senior zookeeper Laura Weiner, who spends her days training and caring for rhinos and camels at the San Diego Zoo, often works late into the night, and she'll be on the job when the zoo launches its nighttime hours this summer.
Since rhinos sleep in the evening, however, Weiner is occasionally free to roam the urban jungle after putting her bulky charges to bed.
A great night for her begins with Indian food at "fancy, but relaxing" Royal India downtown. From there, it's a short walk over to swanky ultra-lounge Side Bar for a night of dancing with friends.
"I am a big Side Bar fan during the week," Weiner says. "They have a late happy hour we go to, and then there's dancing after that."
Next, Weiner reenergizes with a decadent treat from Hillcrest's late-night sweet spot, Extraordinary Deserts, which stays open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
A night with friends might beat one with rhinos, but Weiner says zoo visitors-especially those who sign up for a private feeding and petting session-are surprised at how personable the horned creatures can be.
"A lot of people look at them and think it's kind of a big moving rock, but once you take the time and patience to know them a little better, they are really quite intelligent," Weiner says. "They know a lot of behaviors and will pay attention to you."
If only all dates could be so chivalrous...