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You know, my co-pilot Jett wasn't always the L-word Jessica Alba. Before she became the lipsticker queen of Phoenix nightlife, she was just another cute chick in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform hanging out at Scottsdale's Jamaican Blue Lounge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
"Hey, Special K," the Jettster says to me, using one of her pet names for this Cap'n Crunch of corpulence. "Tonight, let's check out JBL. They just got a beer-and-wine license, and you'll get to see where I first made out with another girl."
Now that's a historic site, one that should have a bronze plaque attached to it, so how could I resist? Jamaican Blue Lounge is in a little strip mall it shares with a tattoo parlor and a Schlotzsky's Deli at Scottsdale Road, one block south of Indian School. FYI: "Jamaican Blue" might sound like a sticky-icky brand of good ganja, but actually it's a high-end coffee grown in the land of reggae and Rastas, one that JBL still serves.
See, JBL's in transition from funky-assed coffee house to the hippest nightspot in an un-hip area. I mean, they don't call it Old Town for nothin', yo. If you wanna peep the Depends set ambling about in their Bermuda shorts, looking for a deal on turquoise, that's the place to go. Jamaican Blue's always been an oasis of cool, but recently megacorp rode in lookin' to make JBL history.
"Two or three years ago, Starbucks opened up across the street, and it robbed a ton of the owner's business," explains Jimmy Lipovsky, 25, a playa with long brown hair who reminds me of Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame. "JBL's a landmark place, but they were ready to go under."
Enter Jimmy and pal Barry Solomon, 30, the bartenders/managers at the spot that used to be a little bit of Kingston. The owner gave them carte blanche to redo the place the way Xzibit and West Coast Customs do to the hoopties on MTV's Pimp My Ride. Where the interior was dark and bohemian before, now it's rocking baby-blue and white racing stripes, with blue lamps, a pool table, a digital jukebox, computer hookups and couch-laden grottos where you can kick it and drink one of the 30 beers they have by the bottle, a little Chablis, a house sangria, a sake-tini (a martini using sake instead of vodka), or a margarita made with a wine-based tequila. They still serve killer coffees, but now with a vibe more akin to the Emerald Lounge.
"It's a place where you can come and be yourself, as much as the shiny-shirt guy can at Sugar Daddy's," explains Lipovsky. "I'm just sick of that whole scene. I want this to be a hub, where people can come and listen to cool music, hear about cool shows and cool bands, with cheap pool and cheap beer."
Right in the door, Jett scores a Sauvignon Blanc and I a Red Stripe, which is only correct considering JBL's island moniker. But rather than waxing poetic about her first, furtive fem-bot lip lock, Jett's already scopin' shorties, which isn't tough considering there's a bounty of bootylicious babes all about.
The J-girl heads straight for a cluster of honeys, while I strike up a confab with Rob Bonilla, a tall guy with horn-rimmed glasses in a black-and-white trucker hat with the label "King" on it. He's hangin' at the bar with his homie Malachi, a thin dude with a shaven head who's on the extra-shy side. Bonilla tells me he's a graphic designer/publisher.
"Really, who for?"
"Erotica magazine in Phoenix," he says.
"You mean the adult freebie they give away at all the Castle Megastores? I always pick up that rag. I love the joke page," I tell him.
"Everyone loves the joke page," he agrees. "Our best advertising space should be next to that joke page. I'm the one who picks those out."
"It's even better than Hustler's joke page, but you don't have to pay for it. Where do you get all those?"
"You can get them from any public joke Web site. I really like the twisted ones, the ones that are so wrong. We come out every month, so there's a new one in the racks right now. We're in Washington state, too, and we have plans to expand to California."
Rob and I are discussing the finer points of adult publishing when Jett interrupts to introduce me to this tall blonde in a wife-beater. Her name's Vanessa Ernst, 24, and she's getting ready to move to NYC to attend Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology.
"I wanna do 'image consulting,'" she says. "You know, like a fashion stylist, a personal shopper, things like that."
"You'd probably do that for a Hollywood star or some really rich person, right?" I ask.
"That would be the pinnacle of success, I think," she explains. "New York's gonna offer a whole lot more opportunity than Arizona when it comes to this industry."
"Give me an example, consult me, fashion-wise," I challenge her.
"You're dressed nice, your clothes fit well, you got nice dress shoes on, so I think you're looking pretty pimp," she says, smiling. "And you've got a good personality, so you're all good."