A club countdown

You've picked out your threads, assigned a designated driver and the Tylenol is in the medicine cabinet awaiting deployment. Where will you go to unload the contents of your wallet (with "complimentary" champagne toasts) as you ring in the New Year? Nearly every club will quadruple its usual cover charge for Dec. 31, so your choice of a place to party could be a weighty decision.

For those who want to swing, Rat Pack's on the Avenue salutes you with their first annual New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball. New York City's Jet Set Six will be brought down for the occasion, and the band will stray from its commitment to playing all-original sets by backing "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself -- Sinatra impersonator Jim Andy -- for a zooted-up version of Auld Land Syne. Masks will be handed out at the door, and owner Ray Stines is providing flaming bananas foster and cherries jubilee à la carte to maintain the momentum.

There is no shortage of original acts in Orange Avenue's live venues. Piller and Minus Ten are set to perform at Barbarella, Dag will funk up Sapphire Supper Club and Throcket Luther and Bring Back Joel will make Skinny's a power-chord paradise.

Over at Wall Street Plaza, The Hate Bombs and The Vendettas garage rock the Go Lounge while Kow and Grand Ultimate lay down the groove at the Kit Kat Club.

If a getaway from the frenzy of downtown revelers is in order, Ybor's Martini Bar is hiding in an alley off of Pine Street and has a variety of shaken-not-stirred ways to celebrate; the yupscale establishment includes the appropriately decorated Leopard Lounge downstairs and a full menu of martinis, but ask for bartender Amy's non-menu, siren-song "Foreplay" concoction and the room is sure to spin on its own as midnight rolls around.

The folks at Bonkerz have booked comedians Warren Durso and Daniel Tosh for their New Year's Eve show, while Sak Comedy Lab will improv their way into 1999 with Sak's Rockin' New Year's Eve Gala Extravaganza of Shows.

The DJ fare at The Club at Firestone, Icon and Cairo will be accentuated with the obligatory balloon drops and champagne toasts, but for total weirdness Knock Knock seems like the best bet.

"I'm going to make it as ludicrous as possible," says Knock Knock's Billy Dill. "We're going for an apocalyptic theme. Real decadent and moody. Kind of an apocalyptic porno movie." Dill says the decor will be Mad Max vs. Deep Throat, and promises Knock Knock will provide a new low in downtown debauchery. "Last year we had a private party. I just remember filling up big inflatable Shamus with champagne and passing them around. ... Hey, didn't we get on a bus and go somewhere? I thought you were with me."

No, last year was the year to skip downtown for this reveler. This year, the screw-downtown crowd can party with Princeton's Guff at the Copper Rocket or get down-and-dirty at Will's Lock Haven Pub with the Unholy Trinity of Bughead, Clüj and Gargamel.

Will's Pub patrons also have the option of heading across the street to Performance Space Orlando, which will ring in 1999 with "An Excessive New Year's Eve." According to promoter Blake Gardner, Nostradamus predicted the world will end next year and the only way to celebrate is with ominously planned gratuitous excess. Improv group Third Draft will perform gratuitous improv, ex-Heronymous bandmember Rob Hull will provide gratuitous musical accompaniment and the Dickensian-monickered ringmistress Winnie Wengle-wick is cooking up gratuitous "hot food."

And there is sure to be gratuitous late-night DJing at both Club Fluid and Cyberzone, the latter of which is promising "chest-stomping, hard-beating, adrenaline-rushing dance music" all night long from DJs Stylus, D. Love, VO and Jason from the Drop Shop.

And for classic-rock crowds who prefer to stay put and not run the gauntlet of drunk-driving checkpoints there is U-Rock Inn, which has filled the hair-band void created when Jani Lane's Sunset Strip made its shift to swing. There, Kid Ridlyn and Southern-fried boogie monsters Bounty Hunter will conjure the ghosts of rock & roll past while U-Rock pushes its recently installed "bistro regional" menu -- complete with what Chef Marko says are some of the best steaks in town -- on unsuspecting patrons.

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