WHAT: Hollywood Rythmoteque, a classic dance club and model magnet.
WHERE: Milan, the runway capital of Italy.
WHY GO: The time zone change may keep you up all night, so you might as well be out on the town.
It's midnight on a Sunday, and fashion models and pro soccer players pack the VIP room at Hollywood Rythmoteque. They're a jeans and T-shirt crowd -- Armani jeans and Dolce and Gabbana T-shirts, that is.
I'm trying to chat with Roberto Galli, the club's art director, but the pulse of Sean Paul's "Get Busy" has thrown everyone into a fit of dancing. We push past a curtain into a backstage sort of area, and he hands me an absurdly strong vodka and soda.
Still it's hard to talk. First, in pops the DJ for a quick smoke, his touseled hair filled with styling products to make it look fashionably greasy and unwashed. Then two knockout women sneak through the curtain to stash their tiny coats. After they leave, Galli lets it drop that one of them was last year's Miss Italy and her friend is a Milanese TV anchor.
Galli has me peer around the corner. Against the wall, the captain of the AC Milan soccer team holds tight to his wife, a former Venezuelan model, as the DJ switches up from 50 Cent to Mary J. Blige. The captain's team beat archrivals Rome that day and the whole city is pumped. While the fans are straggling home with the team's colors painted on their faces and flags tied around their shoulders, the victors have descended into this small, dark, time-worn club to celebrate.
It is a testament to the club's staying power. After two decades on the scene, Hollywood -- at the end of Corso Como, a popular nightlife area near the city's central train station -- remains a top spot for celebrities and fashion industry people.
There are many newer, trendier clubs across Milan, but Hollywood's intense outreach still pays off. Galli says the club pays five people to lure models from fashion shoots and agencies to the club -- and two more to bring in athletes -- to ensure that enough really, really good-looking people are around at all times.
Sean Paul, Adrien Brody and Naomi Campbell have all hung out in the VIP room, according to the club's celeb list. And after-parties here during big fashion events are the norm.
Sunday is a particularly hot night for TV personalities, models and soccer players. Partially, this is because the soccer teams don't have to get up for practice on Monday mornings. Also, on this night before the club opens, homesick models are invited to come for free pizza and movies.
Hollywood maintains a solid crowd each night of the week except Monday, when it's closed. Tuesdays are devoted to modern R&B and hip-hop. Wednesdays are a gay-themed night called "Sodoma." Thursdays through Saturdays, the DJs move from hip-hop to house as the night progresses.
Officially, the club opens at 10:30 p.m. and closes at 3 a.m. In reality, expect doors to open well after 11 p.m. and the party to carry on until 5 in the morning.
The club's American name reflects its roots in the '80s, when it catered to American models with a stateside rock sound while other clubs were playing Eurodisco. The name, however, does not reflect the look of the club.
Hollywood remakes its interior every year with a new theme. This year, the theme is ancient Mexico, with huge mosaic snake heads and skulls plastered to the glossy black walls. After a six-week break that ends later this month, the club will reopen with a fetish theme, such as handcuffs gathering black drapes.
The capacious VIP room has a long bar and plenty of tables and dance space. A rail divides the VIP area from the main room, and a bouncer who makes the Rock look like a girlie-man guards the passage.
On this night, a thick press of people is angling for hallowed ground. Few of them will get through. The club has a strict policy: Only celebrities or well-known club regulars willing to buy a full bottle of alcohol are admitted.
Out in the main room, a different DJ is playing funky house music with an occasional nod to an MTV anthem like Anastacia's "Left Outside Alone" or a classic Daft Punk track. A crew of black-clad bartenders with stony faces slings drinks at the L-shaped bar. A flat $12 for each cocktail speeds the transactions and diminishes people's thirsts, so there's little wait.
Even the bathroom is a scene. The wall that joins the men's and women's rooms holds a blackboard-size mirror -- but the women can see through it while the men preen at their own reflections. I pop into the women's side to check it out and watch a guy fix his wave with gel and a comb, unaware I'm watching. I learn from Galli that members of the Offspring, the Southern California band, mooned women through the mirror when they visited the men's room.
It's my second night of partying at the club and I don't have the stamina to last until morning. I find a cab to zip me to my hotel, where a mirror is just a mirror, and the mini-bar booze for once seems like a bargain.
-- Seth Hamblin
Hollywood Rythmoteque is at 15 Corso Como; nearest metro station is Garibaldi. Entry is $25 and includes one drink. Info: 011-39-02-659-8996, www.discotecahollywood.com.