Seeing His Name in Lights

Ivan Kane, the owner of Cafe Was, came to Hollywood looking for fame as an actor, but made his mark with his nightclubs and restaurants.

By Rebecca Ford
Hollywood Patch

Ivan Kane’s journey to Hollywood started the same way that many people’s do: After success as an actor in New York, he drove across the country to make a name for himself in Los Angeles.

After landing several film and TV roles and selling a script to HBO, Kane decided he wanted to make a different kind of impression. After all, fame is fleeting, but ownership is forever.

In 1997, he opened Kane, an intimate nightclub that played mainly ’70s funk music, and then went on to open Deep on Hollywood and Vine three years later. In 2002, Kane opened Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce, the now-famous burlesque show and nightclub in Hollywood.

His most recent venture, Café Was, opened a couple of years ago. It’s his first real restaurant business. As he’ll tell you, however, his priority is to create a unique entertainment experience no matter the venue.

Hollywood Patch: Tell me about your transition from acting to owning restaurants and nightclubs.

Ivan Kane: I was becoming successful in my chosen career path, and I made a decision in 1997. I said, “You know what? I need to take more control of my own destiny.” Because although I love acting and I love writing, you’re at the whim of casting directors and such, so I had heard there was a bar for sale called Smalls, so in 1997, I bought Smalls with my own money, without any investors and we opened a small bar called Kane, which I named after myself because it was the easiest way for me to get my name in lights. And we had a concept that was much more than just four walls, lights and sound, which, traditionally a nightclub is. We decided that we were going to reinvent go-go girls in nightclubs, and get the best dancers in town.

Patch: What did you do next?

Kane: Three years into the run with Kane, I bought a club and transformed it into what was called Deep. And it was a very voyeuristic nightclub. It was famous for pushing the boundaries in terms of sexuality, decadence and voyeurism. It had all these two-way mirrors, where when you flipped a light, all of a sudden you were in a boudoir in the red light district. Two girls and a guy were doing a stylized ménage à trois. I mean, a club like Voyeur is doing that now, but this was in 2000, 11 years ago. If I say so myself, most of what’s being done in nightclubs right now, is a result of me. I’m not an egotistical guy, but, you know, there’s a thousand burlesque shows in this town, and there were none before Forty Deuce.

Patch: Tell me about Café Was.

Kane: It opened two and a half years ago, but it took almost two years to build because it’s a very modern building and I had a very specific design and feel that I wanted for the room. I wanted to make sure that once people stepped inside and took a magical mystery tour of the space, that they forget where they are. We offer something that starts with the eye. Visually, I wanted it to be really satisfying and whimsical. I wanted to create this kind of bohemian experience that would be about great ambience, great food and great live entertainment. Café Was has always been not really a restaurant, like all my venues, Café Was is about being many things and we are entertainment-driven. On any given night you’re going to catch something great.

Patch: Since you’ve been in Hollywood for years now, how do you think the city has changed?

Kane: The biggest change is the gentrification. I mean look where we’re sitting—we’re a block and a half from the W Hotel, The Pantages Theatre and 10 different high-end restaurants. And we’re just surrounded by nightclubs. It still has an edge to it, Hollywood, you know. When I had Deep on Hollywood and Vine, the streets were mostly packed with hookers and junkies, and I loved that flavor. Kane and Forty Deuce were next to a body shop on a dark street. The neighborhood has changed completely, the demographic has changed completely.

Patch: What advice would you give someone who was considering opening a nightclub or restaurant in Hollywood?

Kane: Don’t. [Laughs.] There are a lot easier ways to make a living. I think it’s really difficult because I think people get into it for the wrong reason, especially if you’re young. People get into it for the glamour of it, you know. Does that exist in nightlife? Yes, of course. But is that a reason to get into a business? No. The reason to get into a business is to run it like a business and make sure it pencils out and you make money at the end of the day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s