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Laguna Beach

Volume 15, Issue 8  |  January 27, 2023


Laguna Logo 2022

Shelton Taylor and Scotty Wise make history with Club 222 by bringing ‘80s dance parties back to Laguna

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Picture this – an over-21 crowd waiting in a line all the way down the block just to get into a dance venue – a scenario reminiscent of the infamous Studio 54 in the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, this particular crowd is anticipating entry into Sueños on Ocean Avenue for the inaugural event of Club 222 on August 12, 2022.

“Passionate” may be an overused word, but Laguna residents and brothers Shelton Taylor and Scotty Wise are nothing short of fervent about their new endeavor. As founders of Club 222, their spirited and heartfelt vision in bringing the dance scene back to Laguna materialized last year. Their business has gained momentum during the ensuing months by expanding to three venues. 

shelton taylor outside Suenos

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

(L-R) Brothers Scotty Wise and Shelton Taylor in front of Sueños on Ocean Avenue. Wise is wearing a shirt designed by Michele Lantz.

“The first event was crazy,” Taylor said. “There were around 1,000 people, and a line all the way to the Union Bank sign.” 

There’s no doubt that 22-year-old Taylor, who is a musician, and 24-year-old Wise, a photographer, have the brains, talent and confidence to not only bring the vision to fruition, but to continue to grow their original model. However, their concept encompasses more than music and dance. Of course, they want to succeed and make people happy, but their larger vision is to blend art and music into unique and varied experiences.

shelton taylor closeup Scotty

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Photographer Scotty Wise 

It all started with the spark of an idea.

For two and a half years, Taylor played in every restaurant in town (and in Los Angeles) including Sueños. “I’d been bugging Sueños to consider the idea of an after-hours spot. I didn’t understand why, if people love live music, the restaurant would be closing at 9 or 10 p.m. They finally said, ‘yes.’”

With the approval to go ahead, Taylor brought in Wise and Club 222 was formed.

“The first thing I did was call Scotty because of his personality,” Taylor said. “He’s a people person and would be the face of 222 and run the door. It was divine timing. So I said, ‘let’s try it out,’ but it wasn’t until two weeks prior to the first event that we started asking artists.”

Before that time, their sole venture had been a silent disco at Helen’s, a speakeasy bar in South Laguna. “It’s Laguna’s best kept secret,” Wise said.

Truly the face of 222, Wise said, “I go person to person and do ground marketing. I go to every business and to city staff and personnel and introduce myself.” 

“Being a musician and living in Laguna, it’s so high end, musicians can’t play on the street anymore,” Taylor said. “This business is an artist’s vision. Over the past two to three years, I’ve played in every restaurant, venue and on every street corner in Laguna. I know all the locals from playing. I love art and the beauty that is natural to this place. However, there seems to be a war between art and commercialism, seeing art as an investment versus art (for its own sake). The solution would be to have venues to showcase them, so if you want to do art, you have a fair chance. So far, everyone appears to be receptive.”

shelton taylor crowd opening

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Photo by Christina Cernik

Opening night crowd in August 2022 

“The model for Club 222 is to not only bring energy back to Laguna Beach, but also maintain consistency, so we’ll be around forever,” Wise said.

The brothers’ collaboration is a perfect match. 

Taylor handles the business side. “An artist can still be a businessman,” he said. According to Taylor, “As the face of 222, Scotty can do exactly what he loves to do – dance, take photos and talk to people. He’s a celebrity photographer. At one point, almost every night, he was up in Hollywood meeting celebrities and staying at their houses. He’s part of the L.A. night scene.”

Background

Nowhere in their background was there a foreshadowing of the possibilities to come – in fact, just the opposite. Along with six younger siblings, Wise and Taylor were raised in a religious cult in the hills of Texas and every element of what they’re involved in now was forbidden by the cult.

“We broke free and came to a judgment-free zone that wasn’t like our past,” Taylor said. “Around five years ago, at the age of 17, I had already left home and headed for California. I came here to figure it out, and I was crashing on people’s couches, and then connections landed me in line for American Idol in LA. Then Scotty came out here.”

shelton taylor closeup taylor

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

 Musician Shelton Taylor has been playing around town for several years

Taylor made it to the top 20 in American Idol.

Click open story button to continue reading…

 

“It was an opportunity to escape the cult and find an artistic space,” Taylor said. “Mary Hurlbut [Stu News photographer] saved our lives. We each stayed with her family for a year. We came with no money and no idea of the world, because we weren’t supposed to know. We learned the hard way.”

“Mary is our adopted grandmother,” Wise added.

History of dance in Laguna

Over the years, Laguna has had its share of dance venues. The Cabrillo Ball Room, which opened here in 1926, was a mecca for jazz and dancing. According to locals, the building next to Art-A-Fair was a dance hall in the ‘70s. 

“We want to bring the 1980s back to Laguna,” Wise said. “I did a lot of research into the history of dance places here. The first dance hall in Laguna was on Main Beach, and Laguna was a hub for dancing and art in the early 1900s. Then there was ‘the Happening’ in the ‘70s, that put Laguna on the map as the place where art and dance meet. We’d like to model Club 222 x Sueños after Studio 54 (in New York).” 

As the 1970s gave way to the ‘80s, New York City’s party scene entered a ferociously inventive period characterized by its incredible creativity, intensity and hybridity.

shelton taylor stiffriff

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Photo by Christina Cernik

SpliffRiff plays at inaugural Club 222 event 

Club 222 embraces the “hybrid” nature of that period by blending the worlds of art and music by way of “live” onsite painters and varied party themes. 

“We have different themes and music every event,” Wise said. 

“Art from LCAD students is on the walls,” said Taylor. “It isn’t for sale, but the artists have exposure and patrons can contact them.” 

Philosophy behind Club Sueños

Club Sueños, for the 21-and-over crowd, happens every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m.-12 a.m., and has a five-dollar cover charge (which Wise and Taylor said will never go up). 

“The main objective is that we want it to be a safe space to have fun,” Taylor said.

shelton taylor scotty at mic

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Photo by Scotty Wise

The crowd vibes to DJ 

Publicity is via word of mouth and social media – and artists bring their friends. Locals and friends Connor Brashier, DJ and son of Craig Brashier, and Sam Dameshek, celebrity photographer and son of Ben Young of Ben Young Studios, bring people from LA. The venue attracts other celebrities from LA as well.

Logistically, the tables are moved against the wall or put in the back of the restaurant.

How do they handle the amount of people who regularly show up? “We give them a wristband that allows access back in for the whole night,” Wise said, “Then we suggest they go out and try other amazing spots in town as well, such as Brussels Bistro, Hennessey’s Tavern, Hotel Laguna and Marine Room or some other restaurant, for a drink and then come back. We want attendees to connect and frequent other establishments. The intent is for the atmosphere to be that of a flowing night – to be flowing from one place to another and then come back here, so they’re not stuck to one location.”

shelton taylor scotty at mic

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Photo by Scotty Wise

Connor Brashier DJs at recent Club 222 event

Due to this system, Hennessey’s (the first night) made a significant increase in revenue upstairs.

“To regulate attendance, if I know certain people are going to attend, I’ll tell them either to come at the beginning, middle or end of the night,” said Wise. 

The funding behind the fun

“As a musician, I lived a modest life, but I still wondered how I could do music and survive,” Taylor said. “I played in a disco band, I’d say, ‘I’ll play for free.’ I did it for art not business, but I needed to find a way to be successful some other way. I saved up from gigs (weddings and other events) for two to three years and invested in stocks.”

shelton taylor performing taylor

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Photo by Christina Cernik

Taylor performing at the first Club 222 event

“The big vision is not to make money, but to be able to pay everyone and make sure that they feel appreciated,” Taylor continued. “I’ll invest as much money as I need to. Not very event makes a profit, sometimes we lose money.” 

Memorable shows 

In addition to artists creating live art, events have included exotic dancers and a drum circle which joined the DJ, syncing the drumming with electronic music. 

“There were about 20 people on drums, people on different kinds of instruments and two DJs,” Wise said.

An international, Berlin-based DJ, who has played the main stage at Berghain in Germany five times, made his first Laguna Beach appearance at Club 222 last weekend.

“We had a Y2K theme and everyone wore flip flops, jeans and puka necklaces,” Wise said.

shelton taylor circle drummers

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Photo by Scotty Wise

Drum circle 

The Halloween party featured costumes and a punk rock show. “Laguna hasn’t seen a thriving punk scene in a long time,” Wise said. “We had 500-600 people attend from as far away as San Diego and LA.”

One of the outstanding events was the New Year’s Eve show which 700 people attended. “There was free Champagne for the whole town at midnight and almost everyone showed up to ring in the new year,” Wise said. “We had three events going on – Sueños, Comedor at Casa del El Camino and in Beverly Hills. There was live music at Comedor and DJs here at Sueños.”

“There were 1,500 people in Laguna between the two places (Sueños and Comedor) and 1,000 in Beverly Hills,” said Taylor. 

All evening, Taylor and Wise were shuttling back and forth between venues, with Taylor’s girlfriend acting as Uber driver. “She barely (by seconds) made it back to Sueños to celebrate and toast the new year with me,” Taylor said. “Everyone was cheering for her to get back and when she pulled up, everyone started screaming.” 

Wise added, “It was the first annual Laguna’s New Year’s Eve toast. It was great to see 20-somethings and their parents all having fun.”

Future plans

 Looking to the future, Taylor and Wise hope that residents use Club 222 Productions for events such as weddings, private and company events, birthday parties or house parties in which they would provide everything including live music, food and drink, dancers, live painters, staging and artists of every kind. 

“We have a big list of DJs (150) and bands,” Taylor said. “We’d like to do more events in more places. Our idea is that it’s not a business, it’s a group of people who create new things, while paying attention to the demographic. After two years of the pandemic and lost social interaction, people returned with shorter attention spans and a desire for something new. That’s why we have a new theme every week and keep it interesting. There’s a place for everyone at these venues, and we’re not boxed in. We want to do better, constantly grow and reach people where they are.”

shelton taylor artist

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Photo by Christina Cernik

Artist Sinahi Garcia (on right), who painted live, celebrating with attendees on opening night

“We’d like to replicate Studio 54,” Wise said. “I studied the clubs and parties of the era. At first, many locals were skeptical because we were new. Now we’re starting to get traction and tons of support from established members of the community. I love, and am so grateful, that people are offering sponsorship. Sometimes attendees give us more than the entry fee of $5 (as much as $100). We get super excited when locals bring out all their friends. It reminds us that we are all family here.” 

“We’re so happy to be here,” Taylor said. “Love is what I’m about, all-encompassing love and other people make you feel that, and that’s the atmosphere we want to create.”

Of course, the Club 222 journey hasn’t been without its challenges, however, Taylor and Wise have forged on. Both consider Club 222 to be the result of divine intervention. 

Selecting the name “Club 222” holds special meaning. The angel number 222 is associated with creativity, intuition and connection. The numbers 222 are said to represent happiness and indicate that you are a lucky person.

“At the first event, one of the locals told me, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this happening in Laguna, nothing of this size since the ‘70s,” said Taylor. “You’re making Laguna history.” 

Follow Wise, Taylor and Club 222 Productions at www.instagram.com/scotty.wise/; Shelton Taylor – Musician at www.instagram.com/sheltontaylor/ and Dance Club at www.instagram.com/club222productions/.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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