Big Gay Fun in LA!
"Half of the people here are homosexual," said the narrator on the TMZ Hollywood Tour bus video, adding, "the rest are just gay."
In a recent study, the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School found that West Hollywood is indeed one of the gayest cities in the country. It came in sixth, just behind Guerneville, as having the highest percentage of same-sex couples. But if the census counted single gay men, WeHo would undoubtedly rank higher.
For those of us from northern California, just about everyplace within an hour’s drive of Los Angeles International Airport is simply "LA." And like West Hollywood, gay-friendliness is the rule, not the exception in LA.
A couple of big gay events are coming up in Los Angeles, if you can travel soon. Gay Days Anaheim (unofficially known as Gay Days at Disneyland), kicks off today (Thursday, September 29), with a Cirque de Soleil show at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Gay Days features jam-packed activities through Sunday, October 2. Some events are focused on families, some for women and some geared toward gay men. San Francisco’s own Carol Channing holds court on Sunday with an event at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel entitled, "An Intimate Conversation with Carol Channing," in which the 90-year-old performer discusses her life in the limelight. (More information http://www.gaydaysanaheim.com.)
But southern California’s big gay day will be in West Hollywood on Halloween. The gay high holiday falls on a Monday this year, meaning that the weekend leading up to it will be a de facto dress rehearsal for the town’s big night. Hundreds of thousands, some in full drag, will converge on Santa Monica Boulevard, WeHo’s main drag. If you miss Halloween in the Castro, WeHo Halloween is the next best thing. But if you plan to go, make your hotel reservation soon.
Despite the stereotype about no one walking in LA, West Hollywood is one of the most walkable cities in the country.
WeHo’s biggest landmark, the Pacific Design Center, has almost completed an expansion with a third building. The newest building is clad in red-colored glass. That adds to the existing blue and green buildings on the campus that covers 14 acres.
West Hollywood will be collectively bursting with civic pride this weekend. The city’s state-of-the-art public library opens on Saturday, October 1. It’s in a brand-new building across from the Pacific Design Center, a few steps from the old library, which will be replaced by a park. City officials promise the new library will be the centerpiece of the West Hollywood community. It will feature an expanded HIV/AIDS information center and the library promises to expand its current selection of 4,050 of gay and lesbian books.
A guided tour is one of the best ways to see the overall highlights of LA without getting lost. The aforementioned TMZ tour is one of the newest tours. Like the TV show and website, the tour takes a wonderfully irreverent and cynical look at Hollywood, warts and all. You will see a lot of the same stuff you see on any tour but it is interspersed with video clips of the stars’ greatest foibles. You will see the natural habitat of the Hollywood elite where they do a daily dance with the paparazzi. Often they go out of their way to be noticed by pretending they are trying not to be noticed. The TMZ tour is done in partnership with Starline Tours, which offers more standard tours as well as other off-beat tours, including a Crime Scene Tour that includes Hollywood’s true horror stories.
If you haven’t been to LA in a while, be sure to check out some of the city’s newer attractions, including a brand new one-acre addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibit Pavilion opened last year with 45,000 square feet. The space bills itself as the world’s largest naturally-lit open plan museum space in the world.
The LA County Museum of Art is in the middle of museum row; the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits are right next to it. The George C. Page Museum, next to the pits, showcases exhibits that explain how now-extinct animals got trapped in the gooey tar.
The three other museums that make up Museum Row are the Peterson Automotive Museum, the Architecture and Design Museum, and the Craft and Folk Art Museum.
LA’s best-known museum is the Getty Center. It is in the Brentwood section of LA on the top of a hillside with sweeping views of the city and ocean. Admission to the museum is free but parking costs $15. Public transit directions can be found on the museum’s website, http://www.getty.edu. The Getty’s not so-well-known sister museum is the Getty Villa in Malibu. It is dedicated to the arts and culture of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
The Hollywood and Highland complex celebrates its 10th anniversary in November. The stunning mega-mall includes 75 shops and the world-famous Kodak Theater, home of the Oscars. The theater is next to the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The Hollywood and Highland complex is playing a big part in the slow but continuing revitalization of Hollywood.
The Grove at Farmers Market, in the Fairfax District, opened about a year after Hollywood and Highland and is another very popular addition to the city. The collection of shops and entertainment venues is set in a pedestrian mall that looks something like Disneyland’s main street. Like West Hollywood, the Fairfax District is also very walkable.
Speaking of Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom and the newer next-door California Adventure park, are continually changing and updating. Disneyland is gearing up for its Halloween and Christmas-themed motifs. California Adventure is expanding with a car-themed section that is scheduled to open next summer and a 1920s-style main street also scheduled to open next year.
If you get homesick, California Adventure features a row of San Francisco Victorians, a humorous Boudin’s Bakery tour hosted via video by Rosie O’Donnell and Colin Mochrie, and the Golden Gate Bridge stars in the opening of the Soaring over California ride, an attraction that makes you feel like you have taken flight over California.
Los Angeles’ latest major attraction, LA Live, was completed last year. LA Live is a huge entertainment complex next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles with nightclubs, restaurants, the Nokia Theater, and the Grammy Museum.
You don’t have to go far to get away from the concrete jungle. LA’s gay beach is about a 25-minute drive from WeHo. It is a section of Will Rogers State Beach opposite Entrada Drive and West Channel Road. If you are driving, take Sunset Boulevard west to the Pacific Coast Highway. Make a left on PCH and then turn left onto either Entrada Drive or West Channel Road. There is usually free street parking available. There are a couple of pay parking lots nearby, including a public parking lot at the beach. It is about 45 minutes if you take the bus. You can take the #4 or #704 bus to Broadway and 4th streets in Santa Monica, then transfer to #9 bus to Entrada and PCH.
The biggest concentration of gay nightlife in the LA area is in West Hollywood and the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, a short drive east of WeHo.
Silver Lake was gay before West Hollywood took center stage. The Le Barcito bar (formerly the Black Cat) is designated by the city of Los Angeles as a Historic Cultural Monument. That’s because of groundbreaking pre-Stonewall pro-gay demonstrations that were held there. Among the most popular gay mainstays in Silver Lake are MJ’s and Akbar.
The gay bars in West Hollywood are clustered around Santa Monica Boulevard. Among the more popular are the Abbey, Rage, Mickey’s, the Mother Lode, Trunks, Eleven, Here Lounge, Fiesta Cantina, and East West Lounge.
The Palms in WeHo is the oldest lesbian bar in the LA Area. The Abbey has a women’s night on Wednesdays. The Here Lounge has women’s nights on both Thursday and Friday.
The Factory and the adjacent Ultra Suede nightclubs are gay WeHo’s biggest dance venues. Both clubs are generally open on weekends only.
Jewel’s Catch One opened in 1972 and boasts that it was the nation’s first black gay and lesbian disco. It is in midtown LA in the Pico/Arlington area.
Like just about everywhere, supply and demand govern hotel prices in LA. January and February are usually slow times of year, so you will often find lower hotel rates and fewer fellow tourists then.
One of the newest hotels in LA is the upscale SLS at Beverly Hills. It is owned by SBE, the same company that owns the Abbey. It’s centrally located near both the Grove, the Beverly Center shopping center, and West Hollywood. The hotel provides guests with a free shuttle service to and from the Abbey. The property is a designer queen’s delight with the "floating beds" in the middle of the room that have become so popular lately.
The Redbury Hotel is also one of the newest hotels in LA. It is in the heart of Hollywood at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. It is next door to the nightclub space that hosts the fabulous Mr. Black’s on Tuesday nights. Many of the rooms in this beautifully designed hotel have balconies and kitchenettes. If the design isn’t enough to peak your gay sensibilities, the stars of both Judy Garland and Cesar Romero are on the sidewalk in front of the hotel.
The San Vicente Inn is the only gay hotel in the LA area. It is perfectly situated in the heart of West Hollywood. Although mostly gay male, it is women and heterosexual friendly. Amenities in this boutique hotel include a 24-hour pool, hot tub, and steam room. It is in a perfect location a half-block from Santa Monica Boulevard and is a great value for anyone on a budget. The crowd is friendly and it can get very cruisy, if you are looking for that.
The newly remodeled Ramada West Hollywood is another well-situated property on Santa Monica Boulevard. It’s more expensive than the San Vicente but is a good choice if you prefer to stay in a large full-service hotel. By the way, it’s conveniently located right across the street from WeHo’s newly remodeled 24-Hour Fitness club.
The aforementioned Fairfax District has a wonderful boutique hotel called the Farmer’s Daughter. It’s right across the street from the Grove, Farmers Market and a block from CBS studios, where they produce American Idol. It’s a hip Hollywood favorite. Each room is designed to look like a farmhouse room.
For more information
The following sites have more information: http://www.GoGayWestHollywood.com, http://www.DiscoverLosAngeles.com (click on the LGBT section in the nightlife tab), and Frontiers/IN LA (http://www.frontiersweb.com. Click on "Gay in LA" tab for the full list of LGBT happenings). Or Odyssey magazine, www.odysseymagazine.net.