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Welcome to Jumbo’s Clown Room, where there’s no cover charge and everyone is welcome

Words by Rachel Rambaldi and Myffy Rigby

“You’re standing in one of the last rock’n’roll bikini dive bars in Los Angeles, maybe in all of California, perhaps the world.”

Take a seat, any seat. Chances are someone has said/written/done some- thing amazing in it at some point in the 52 years this dive bar with benefits has been running. Ever wondered where Charles Bukowski did his writing? It was here, set up with cheap beer and even cheaper whisky. Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister would use it as his second lounge, when he wanted to escape the Rainbow Room.

Courtney Love was a one-time bikini dancer on that hot red stage, surrounded by paintings of clowns. Dyed-in-the-wool NewYorker Anthony Bourdain would drop in whenever he hit LA. David Lynch wrote most of his script for his 1980s neo-noir mystery thriller Blue Velvet here. You can almost smell the Jumbo’s suds on Dennis Hopper’s breath when he says, “Heineken? Fuck that shit. Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

Pass the amyl nitrate and strap in.

The alchemy here is its completely democratic approach to its customers. This is no stripclub for desperabros on sad buck’s nights (there’s one of those across the road).This is one of the last rock’n’roll bikini dive bars in Los Angeles, maybe in all of California. Perhaps the world.

Even throwing money is an art at Jumbo's

Out the front, a queue snakes around the block. There’s a trick, though, if you’re open to bribing bouncers. All you have to do is buy a $50 t-shirt, and you’ll skip the line entirely.

Once inside, phones stay firmly in pockets and respect is numero uno. The strictest rule, and the one that makes Jumbo’s the bar that it is, is the ‘no nudity’ rule. Clothes, though scant, stay on, and dancers rely on other talents to earn tips.

It certainly has one of the more idiosyncratic decors on the dive bar scene. In a room adorned with those portraits of clowns, the stage, replete with a well-slid-on pole, glows a deep red. It’s here you’ll see a rich and varied set of skills on show, from contortion and pole acrobatics to go-go dancing and burlesque.

One performer’s trick is to spit on one of the many dollar bills flying through the air and, using her saliva, stick the money to her mostly-bare bottom and crawl like a baby bear across the stage while The Pixies’ ‘Debaser’ rips through the speakers. A female friend once described a night at Jumbo’s as “a wildly sexy bar experience for even the most aggressively hetero of women.”

Enjoyed this extract? The whole story is available in glorious print, on all good bookshelves and via our store.

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Swill Magazine #1

Writer

Rachel Rambaldi and Myffy Rigby

Photographer

Scarlett Kapella

Sub-editor

Pru Engel

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