Dancing on Sokolov’s Bar

Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2008

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On a recent Friday night, my friend Anat and I attempted to storm Villa Sokolov, a hot new bar in Tel Aviv. But when we arrived around midnight, almost 50 people were clamoring at the entrance.

I turned to Anat. “Do we really want to try to get in?”

“First let’s see if there are any cusim (our own code for male babes, a play on the Hebrew word for the female variety, cusit),” suggested Anat, who had been to the bar once before.

We looked around and noticed a few, but not enough to justify an aggressive push through the horde, so we vowed to come earlier in the week next time. A week later, on Thursday night, we got there at 10, the nightlife early- bird hour. Still, to our surprise, about 30 people were pushing to get in.

“This is degrading, isn’t it?” I told Anat. “I think I’m too old for this.”

“It seems like this is the place you have to be,” Anat said. “Is there a good reason? I don’t know. Only alcohol will give us the answer.”

Finally, the selector let us in, and we walked through a garden to reach a door with a sign that said “The Sokolov Family.” Villa Sokolov rents its space from Sokolov House, headquarters of the Israeli Journalist Association named after Hebrew journalism pioneer Nahum Sokolov. The establishment was imagined as his “villa,” and his portrait looms over the bar. I wonder if the Zionist writer would be flattered. The spacious “villa” is furnished with two large ziz-zag shaped bars and ample cushioned lounge areas along the perimeter. Oil paintings, a grand piano, lamp shades, and a lounge/study area adorned with books all add a homey touch.

No doubt the interior is impressive, and we definitely counted a few cusim but couldn’t yet figure out why the place is so “in.” We ordered beer.

We began to loosen up to the music. Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” took me back to my pre-teen years. We took Lauper’s words to heart and order another round.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a clip from a Guns N’ Roses concert appeared on a large screen, and Anat and I watched dreamily as Slash attacked his guitar to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I felt like I was back in eighth grade as I turned my head over to imitate Slash with my curly hair flopping over my face. It was something I hadn’t done in years, and the great thing was – people weren’t looking at me funny.

But then comes our own personal test for Villa Sokolov: will the DJ put on some Britney? Usually DJs think they are above the flailing pop star, but they should know she’s crazy enough to make some of us women crazy.

Fellow Britney fan Anat asked the DJ for the dame, and we eased the wait with yet another round. Suddenly Britney’s hit “Gimme More” came on, and I was up on the bar, looking Mr. Sokolov right in the eye. The bar tender asked me to get down, but I was not in the mood to listen.

After dancing on the bar as if I were alone in my bedroom, I really needed a nap, so I rested my head on a sofa for about an hour. A guy (unfortunately not a cusi) who treated me to a drink earlier tried to revive me with a kiss, but I pushed him away. This is not Sleeping Beauty. Then I noticed the contents of my little purse on the floor.

The next day I realized my credit card was gone. Villa Sokolov’s “lost and found” consists of tracking down the owner, who refers you to a manager, who really doesn’t give a damn and refers you back to the owner. Not fun, especially when nursing a hangover. Finally, the owner informs me they can’t find it. Apparently, it’s easy to lose things at Villa Sokolov. On her first night there, Anat’s boot straps fell off, and last week the owner lost his credit card.

I think Anat and I were too drunk that night to come up with an articulate answer to our question about what makes Villa Sokolov so special, but I do know this: the night was worth the lost credit card – and the lost dignity.