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Obama Club blasts off with a bang

THE stretch limo and the Hummer were parked out front, and the bored-looking pretty young things were draped on the couches inside for Shanghai's latest club opening, the recently launched Obama Club.

Every year Shanghai has a meteor night club.

It streaks across the night sky, catches everyone's attention for a brief moment and promptly leaves a big hole in someone's wallet when it disappears without a trace a few months later.

Obama opened with a bang on April 26, but it is yet to be seen as having the right recipe to draw Shanghai's fickle clubbing crowd away from their downtown haunts to the Hongqiao area.

A meteor club has several key ingredients but most crucial are a few moneyed investors with little knowledge of the local nightclub market and a burning desire for a vanity project to pump their cash into.

The club's marketing department says two Chinese investors are behind the venture, their first in Shanghai.

According to the marketing team, the investors were inspired by a radio report on Barack Obama: the light bulb went on, and so it is that Shanghai has its latest nocturnal watering hole named after the American President.

Like its namesake, this nightclub isn't scared to run up a big budget deficit.

From the road, you can't miss it. The building is massive, with a musical fountain at its mansion-like entrance spearing water into the night sky to strains of classical music.

The water features lining the club outside also include strange tortoise-like dragon sculptures spouting water.

The lobby of the club has a gold-painted wall featuring nude figures - just in case club goers missed the overt attempt at opulence outside.

The lavish interior has more marble than a Dubai hotel and its brass finishings and cream faux crocodile skin couches make it look like they borrowed Mike Tyson's interior designer.

The music is ear-bleeding loud and is dedicated to all things Top 40.

The sensory assault continues with five 10-meter-high screens lining one wall and playing music videos so big they seemed aimed at solving the mystery of Lady Gaga's gender.

For fans of the popette the club will be hosting the House of Gaga, a tribute act celebrating everything Gaga on May 22.

The club's marketing and artistic director Coco Araiz says they want to host a range of international DJs, flamenco artists and pop-style singers.

Covering more than 6,000 square meters, the club has one of the biggest dance floors in Shanghai but it is a cavernous space that will need a rent-a-crowd to give it atmosphere.

In the spirit of its namesake, Araiz is taking a democratic approach to the type of crowd he hopes to attract.

"We are not looking just for the highest quality people in the city but we have opened the place for everyone," Araiz says.

"The atmosphere we want is local and a little bit international."

Upstair is for the "high-quality" crowd, with presidential suites that are, in fact, large private KTV rooms that were reportedly designed by Cagley and Tanner, an interior design firm from Las Vegas.

There are baroque-style paintings, lavish gold trimmings and enough bling to impress even the most jaded fruit plate picking, Scotch and green tea-sipping warbler.

We didn't get a chance to hear the horsepower of the karaoke system as each presidential suite came with complimentary ear piece-wearing security muscle.

However the low ceiling gave the upper section a claustrophobic feel, and several tables overlooking the dance floor seemed to be a last-minute addition, rather than a well-considered use of space.

In a club like this no self-respecting preener wants to be out of the action in the upstairs tables.

Back at ground level. It's all bored-looking pretty lasses and their chain-smoking sugar daddies playing dice over glasses of French champagne.

The owners of Obama can only hope that they get a favorable roll and this club isn't just the latest fast-burning meteor in thecity's night sky.


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