At Beacher's Madhouse at the Roosevelt Hotel

Man About Town columnist Chris Erskine takes in the bizarre but entertaining Hollywood scene at Beacher's Madhouse, in the basement of the Roosevelt Hotel. It's one of Miley Cyrus' hangouts.

Beacher's Madhouse

Beacher's Madhouse in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is a bizarre mix of cabaret, freak show and burlesque hall. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Let’s peel back the layers of L.A., the Big Onion — past the skin lotions, the spray tans, the unnecessary piercings, down so close that you can tickle this lovely city’s soul.

Wait, that’s not a soul. That’s another layer. Or maybe it’s bulletproof long johns.

I feel like Philip Marlowe sometimes. Just when I think I’ve found the essence of Los Angeles, I discover yet another veneer. A city without essence? Or pity. Keep peeling, pal.

“This is what Rome was like just before it fell,” notes a Times photographer at this club.

Believe it or not, I’m not old enough to know.

It’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday. Do you know where your columnist is?

In the rec room of the Roosevelt Hotel, that’s where, exploring the silly side of Hollywood, or at least the silly sides they let me see. Kept hearing about this crazy club, Beacher’s Madhouse, first from a friend, then through the scratchy grapevine of social media. (I always preferred the antisocial media myself.)

Now, you have to be leery of any club audacious enough to call itself a “Madhouse,” though Jeff Beacher’s twice-weekly show in the basement of the Roosevelt quickly lives down to its billing. I mean up to its billing. Down. Up. What’s the difference anymore?

Down is the new up in this intimate basement setting that a lot of locals are still unfamiliar with. Yet for two years here, Beacher has run probably the zaniest, most entertaining club in town.

I guess it’s a club. Maybe it’s a holding tank. Oompa-Loompas circle the ceiling. Some nights, bad girl Miley Cyrus dances in her corner booth (more on that hot mess in a moment).

Words fail to capture this place, yet I’ll try. Part burlesque revue, part bawdy saloon, this is the kind of unseemly circus a country sheriff would quickly close down.

In the aisle, the Easter Bunny is doing the Watusi. There’s also a dancing Elmo on stage, and during a mock wrestling match, Mini-Jay Z takes on Mini-Kanye as Amazon Ashley — either a very large woman or a tassel-wearing house — orbits the tiny stage.

“I’m a Shakespearean-trained actor,” our server Kendall explains.

Yeah? And I’m Cervantes.

At Beacher’s, nothing is quite what it seems. More on that in a moment as well.

At first blush, the room looks like a ’60s-era Rat Pack hangout. The crowd, mostly feral young women, spends a significant portion of the evening taking each other’s photographs. Seems a new religion: By recording one another, we give eternal life.

Meanwhile, table service here at Beacher’s is a small fortune, reaching $1,000. Though Beacher’s has a reputation as a tough ticket, you can sometimes get a reservation a few days ahead. And once patrons take their tables, others are allowed into the aisles and bar area, where a show ticket is required ($100) and mixed drinks go for $20.

Hard to call any of this a good value, but try having this much fun at Costco.

Tonight, the singer is wearing a leather jacket, sports bra and pleated skirt. This wouldn’t be so strange were he not a he. Semi-innocent fun, Beacher’s is what Catholic schoolgirls must dream of when they bump their little noggins.

The highly creative Beacher tells me he considers himself a showman, not merely a club promoter, though he’s obviously a bit of both. He has signed a $100-million deal with the MGM Grand to open a far larger venue in Vegas on New Year’s Eve.

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