Rainbow coalition

By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  August 24, 2011

I wasn't the only child to hang out there, either. A decade earlier, a young Anthony Kiedis had accompanied his own father there on drug deals. He had way more fun than I did: "One night shortly before my twelfth birthday we were all at the Rainbow," he writes in his memoir, Scar Tissue, "I was high as a kite on a quaalude." That same night, he lost his virginity to his father's 18-year-old girlfriend.

Any hair-metal fan knows that in the early 80s, the Rainbow — along with the rest of the Strip — became Ground Zero for the emergent LA scene. An aging Blackie Lawless portrayed it as a plentiful idyll on his uncharacteristically wistful song "Sunset and Babylon" from W.A.S.P.'s 1994 effort, First Blood . . . Last Cuts: "Cruising down the Strip is where I'll be / At the Rainbow Bar and Grill / I'll drink 'till I get my fill."

Its dim interior is visible in the 1992 video for "November Rain" — before Axl mourns Stephanie Seymour in a padded cell, the happy couple yuks it up in a Rainbow booth with Duff and Slash, pounding shots and blowing smoke rings.

The Motley Crüe memoir The Dirt contains a number of Rainbow-centric anecdotes, but Nikki Sixx's has to be the most evocative: "One night, Vince, Stephanie, and I were hanging out at the Rainbow, eating quaaludes and escargots, and throwing up under the table every fifteen minutes."

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THE FANCIEST OF MEN

The Rainbow hasn't changed all that much since Elton John played on opening night — the escargots Nikki Sixx puked up are still on the menu, a bargain at $9.95. Snails aside, the fare is the same as that of any number of other unreconstructed Italian restaurants: fried zucchini, sausage and peppers, spaghetti and meatballs, all under $15. Like most Italian restaurants these days, the Rainbow has a Mexican chef, known only as Miguel, who has presided over its kitchen for 38 years.

Mike Weber, the Rainbow's manager, has worked there for almost as long. He started there in 1975. When the hair-metal dudes descended in the early 80s, he didn't notice — they looked just like the other weirdos hanging out on the Strip. "At that time, they all had long hair," he said when I called him last week.

Weber started noticing when, every night, the bar was besieged by young kids. "Slash still tells the story about how the doorman, who still works here to this day, wouldn't let him in because he was underage," Weber said. "Then he went back home, he dressed like a girl, he came back, and they let him in."

Weber takes as much pride in the menu as he does in the restaurant's sketchy history. "It's great value for the food. Nowadays, everything's a la carte, and you still get soup or salad, vegetables, and potatoes with your dinner at a reasonable price," he said.

Weber's thrifty sensibility and strong Chicago accent make him sound eerily like my father. Little wonder: before starting his 36-year tenure on the Strip, Weber grew up in the neighborhood and went to grammar school with my uncle Vito.

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