What the hell have I gotten myself into? I thought to myself as my Lyft drove me into the no-man’s land of LA’s downtown warehouse district. We passed tents and homeless missions, strip malls that were empty on a Saturday evening but filled with stores with names written in Japanese and Spanish I didn’t recognize.
We pulled up to a gate and I got out as the gate opened to let me in, shutting behind me ominously.
Where am I?
House music was pumping from giant speakers, a shipping container was open and a man sat inside giving tarot card readings. Two open bars in the back corner, the alcohol covered by the cost of my ticket, and a tall, tuxedoed devil sauntering around and flirting with everyone. Everywhere I looked the Devil’s minions lurked behind corners waiting to jump out at the unsuspecting.
I find friends and go say “Hello”. I find a beer and relax. Social lubricant, after all.
I strike up conversation with anyone standing around me as I wait in line for my tarot to be read. I flirt back with the Devil. I (mistakenly) tell him my name within earshot of one his minions, and throughout the night if the Minion sees me she refers to me by my full name.
And wherever I look, jumping around, hugging everyone, a wide smile on his face, is the man behind the curtain:
Matt Dorado, 25, has been putting together haunted houses since college. The Drunken Devil introduced himself to us at 2015’s ScareLA with a mini-maze, followed up at Halloween with a full one (which I wrote about here). The Halloween haunt was a mixed bag for Dorado. The fact that it even existed was a testament to his skill, talent and hard work. But ultimately, the response wasn’t what he had hoped for.
Besides, if he’s honest, his interests have shifted elsewhere.
In April of this year Dorado retooled, creating an evening of burlesque and magic with “Villains and Vixens”. This closer aligned to his current passions, bringing a sinister edge to the late night dance parties and supper clubs of LA’s cool kids.
After “Villains and Vixens” packed the bar, Dorado struck out again. This time he sought out a warehouse art gallery — Superchief — and made it his own. Dancing, flowing booze, and a charismatic Devil, all staples of Dorado’s events.
After a few hours of drinking and socializing, Dorado and The Devil corralled us into the gallery. There, on the makeshift stage, two burlesque dancers, Madeline Sinclaire and Scarlett Fox, as well as magician Jimmy H., gave us a fantastic show.
In between sets The Drunken Devil would take the stage to banter with the audience before introducing the next act.
At the end of the performances, Dorado came onstage to wild applause. “Tonight is for Orlando,” he said, dedicating the evening’s festivities to those killed at the Pulse Nightclub earlier in July. “This is a free space,” Dorado continued. “You are free to be yourself. We accept you. We love you!”
The crowd clapped wildly.
“Now let’s dance!” he declared.
DJ Aiden Ramos spun the night away. The revelers dancing, the performers moving around the crowd, and The Devil and his minions always lurking out of the corner of our eyes.
And through it all danced Dorado, greeting everyone like old friends.
At midnight the party ended, the bar closed up, and Matt announced that the evening was over, politely asking us to leave the warehouse.
Guests ambled out through the gate, hugging Matt and thanking him for a wonderful evening.
I hung behind, a few glances at friends that told me that perhaps there was more to be had.
Sure enough, at 12:30 we were lead back inside for the after party.
The DJ began spinning again, and though the beer was warm that didn’t stop anyone from popping open another drink and returning to the dance floor.
Around 2 am I left, the party still going. Matt walked me to the gate. “This is everything I wanted! This is what I wanted to make.”
And I looked at him, surrounded by friends, by performers, by this hidden art gallery in Skid Row.
“Keep making ‘em,” I told him, giving him a hug. “This was great.”
As I walked to my Lyft I stole a glance and watched as he walked back to his party to dance with The Devil of his own creation.