How L.A. celebrities party their problems away.
The Viper Room defined young Hollywood in the early 90s. It was a place owned and operated by Johnny Depp, that welcomed A-list celebrities to escape the public eye, relax and well, party. With each turning generation, there will be a new place for starlet babes to scope each other out and enjoy a good time. But, a new kind of celebrity welcomes a new kind of hangout. On the same street in Hollywood as The Viper Room, Saddle Ranch Chop House has quickly become the hotspot for social media influencers and TikTokers around L.A.
Where The Viper Room saw Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Anniston, and a young Leo DiCaprio, Saddle Ranch sees Jake Paul and the D’Amelio sisters. The similarities between the two establishments are noticeable. Both are located on the same infamous Sunset Strip, the proximity and centrality attract all sorts of names. The Viper Room was a nightclub where many bands got their start, including the Pussycat Dolls, while Saddle Ranch is a reportedly subpar restaurant that looks like the inside of Pinocchio’s Village Haus counter-service cafe in Walt Disney World. Saddle Ranch apparently lacks the edge and mystique that The Viper Room oozed.
It’s easy to write off the fact that The Viper Room brings a darker air than Saddle Ranch, as just outside the infamous establishment River Phoenix died in 1993. This tragedy wrought The Viper Room crowd, creating a ripple effect of a twisted glorified calamity, a theme that defined the early 90s with the popularity of grunge, or the Seattle sound, and the resurgence of heroin in Hollywood.
However, Saddle Ranch doesn’t lack a dark twist. The height of Saddle Ranch talk was in November 2020 when Ariana Grande acknowledged her disdain for young influencers’ readiness to go out in a large crowd amid a global pandemic. This narrative made Saddle Ranch a symbol for influencer ignorance and a potentially dangerous location given the size and quantity of people that flocked to the restaurant during the height of COVID.
But Saddle Ranch is not fully our generation’s Viper Room, as people went to The Viper Room to disappear, but influencer houses like Sway House and Hype House go to Saddle Ranch to be seen. Continuously followed by the obnoxiously present Hollywood Fix, the goal of going to Saddle Ranch is to let people know that you are breathing the same air as Addison Rae or The Kid Laroi. The Viper Room enjoyed a virtually pre-Internet party scene, where Saddle Ranch bathes in an attention-needy aura.
The evolution of celeb hideouts is perhaps telling of our generational changes. While the 90s had grunge as a resurgence of 60s counterculture against American roots of capitalism, today’s TikTokers have Bang Energy brand deals paying their sky-high rents. L.A. celebrity hubs changed as fame changed in L.A. itself. It’s commonly thought that the 90s was the last decade where it was uncool to be a celebrity. But, now it’s chic to be famous, and not subversively famous that requires a mask of apathy, but a legitimate drive for notability. Of course, the Kardashian and Hilton discourse is tired and we’ve heard it all before, but it is important in discussing the change in celebrity culture during the age of the digital.
If celebrities now like being famous, how is partying different? The Vinnie Hackers of the world will continue to flock to a place that proves to be the epicenter of young 20s fame. But, I don’t think all of the Saddle Ranch crew is like that. In many ways, YouTuber turned podcaster, Emma Chamberlain has become an it-girl that harks back to that fame disdain held by a lot of celebrities in the 90s. Chamberlain frequently doesn’t sugarcoat the downfalls of mass attention on her mental health, promoting this sort of fraught lifestyle of glamor and shine with loneliness and dread.
So, in review, Saddle Ranch Chop House is not the new Viper Room, but a mere reflection of fame evolution in Hollywood. Saddle Ranch can’t be the new Viper Room because there will never be another Viper Room in this age of social media. Gone are the days of cameraless rooms and faked confidentiality. Everyone knows everyone’s business and with the fall of The Viper Room marks the turning point in desired celebrity status in this burgeoning age of the digital.