Los Angeles shows off its Pride
by Ed Walsh
Pride season kicks off today, Thursday, May 30, in Los Angeles County.
West Hollywood will mark the day with a City Hall press conference with Carolyn Sherer, photographer of the show "Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South." Her photographs will be on display through July in the city's stunning new library that opened less than two years ago.
LA Pride's two-day festival in West Hollywood Park begins Saturday, June 8. The pride parade through West Hollywood starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 9.
The LA Pride parade is in its 43rd year and boasts that it was the first pride event in the world to call itself a parade. When it was first held in Hollywood, organizers had to battle authorities in court to get a permit to march down Hollywood Boulevard.
While Los Angeles seldom gets credit for advancing LGBT rights, three years before Stonewall, on New Year's Eve 1966, gays stood up to police against a raid on the Black Cat bar in Los Angeles' Silver Lake neighborhood.
Even earlier, in 1959, LGBTs rioted against police in downtown Los Angeles. The LAPD had to call for back up after gays threw donuts at them at Cooper's Doughnuts, a gay hangout at the time. So take that New York and San Francisco.
The history of gay LA is kept alive by Jim Anzide's Out and About Tours (outandabout-tours.com). His tours are a must for anyone who wants an entertaining history lesson on Los Angeles from an LGBT perspective.
Out and About Tours offers weekend walking tours of both downtown LA and Hollywood, with bus tours and a brunch tour on the last Saturday of the month. His company also provides fascinating private tours tailored to your interests.
As you will learn on the tour, while WeHo is one of the gayest cities in the world now, LGBT history has deeper roots in downtown LA and Silver Lake. By the way, West Hollywood wasn't incorporated as its own city until 1984. WeHo is just under two square miles in area and has a population of 35,000.
West Hollywood is also a good base camp for LGBTs who want to check out everything the Greater Los Angeles Area has to offer. WeHo is very walkable. In fact, the Web site WalkScore.com named it California's most walkable city.
Although LA's subway service doesn't run to West Hollywood, bus service is fast and frequent. Buses in LA move a lot faster than Muni with fewer stops.
For first timers to LA, the Starline Hop-On-Hop-Off bus is a good way to see everything without getting lost and you can pick up the bus in West Hollywood. The tour offers a number of loops that will guide you through Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, The Grove, the city's Farmer's Market, the LA Museum of Art, the La Brea Tar Pits and, of course, Hollywood.
The Hollywood City Pass is a good way to go. It only costs $59 and includes one of Starline's bus or open-air tram tours, admission to the fabulous Madame Tussands Hollywood, a Redline Tours walking tour of Hollywood, and your choice of a tour of the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars originate, or admission to the Hollywood Museum.
If you haven't been to WeHo in a few years, be sure to check out the new library just across from the Pacific Design Center. A glass wall on the library's east side offers a perfect view of the design center and has become a landmark in its own right.
If you want to check out a book for the beach, you don't have to be a resident. Just show your ID and fill out a one-page form to get a library card on the spot. The WeHo library offers free validated parking in the city's attached parking garage for up to three hours.
Some have already figured out that's a way to beat the system when you can't find parking on the street. As long as the library is open, the check out desk will validate parking.
Speaking of the beach, 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 the #9 bus to Entrada and PCH.
Nightlife options abound
Next month marks the end of an era in West Hollywood. The city's only lesbian bar, The Palms, will close on June 15 after 46 years in business.
A developer plans to tear down the building and remake that part of the block with new retail and housing. But most of the other bars in West Hollywood, while predominately male, are very women friendly.
The Revolver bar has a women's night on Tuesday, the Abbey has a women's night on Wednesdays, and the Here Lounge caters to women on Friday nights. Rage has a lesbian night the first Saturday of every month.
The biggest concentration of gay bars in southern California is in West Hollywood. The mainstay bars there remain the open-air Abbey restaurant and bar, Mickey's, Eleven, Fiesta Cantina, Mother Lode, Rage, and the Factory nightclub space on Robertson, which hosts various weekend dance parties and special events. The Rage is 18 and up Thursday-Sunday.
While you are enjoying WeHo's gay nightlife, why not get checked for HIV? LA makes it easy with a mobile test site that gives free tests nightly. The van is usually parked on Santa Monica Boulevard to catch the bar-hopping WeHo crowd.
West of WeHo, Silver Lake is home to a number of gay bars and is a more affordable gayborhood for gays not willing to pay a premium for living in WeHo.
The Silver Lake neighborhood was hard-hit by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It was once dotted with gay bathhouses that have since been replaced with other businesses. Los Angeles opened the first AIDS ward in the country in 1982.
The aforementioned Black Cat is no longer there, but in a nod to history, the Black Cat sign still stands. Akbar, MJ's, the Eagle LA and the Latin drag bar Silverlake Lounge are among the more popular gay bars in the area.
In Hollywood, the Circus Disco and Arena on Santa Monica Boulevard packs them in every weekend. Mr. Black takes over the Bardot Hollywood space on 1737 Vine Street on Tuesday nights.
The 108-room Ramada Plaza Hotel is in a perfect location in the heart of gay West Hollywood. It is on the famed Santa Monica Boulevard, WeHo's main street, where you will find most of the city's gay bars, cafés, nightclubs and restaurants.
The hotel has a small pool and fitness room. The rooms are stylishly decorated with hardwood floors and larger than life portraits of Hollywood legends. WiFi is free. The hotel maintains an LGBT Web site at thegayhotel.com.
If you have the budget to splurge, the 200-room, all-suite London Hotel is just a couple of blocks above Santa Monica Boulevard next to West Hollywood's famed Sunset Strip. Unlike most high-end hotels, The London gives it away. The hotel offers free WiFi, free buffet breakfast, and free calls to London.
The rooftop pool, bar and restaurant offers the best view in town of West Hollywood. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the rooftop restaurant hosts the very popular Wednesdays at Sunset happy-hour mixer starting at 6 p.m. It is reservation-only.
The 249-room Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of the Sunset Strip has long attracted some of Hollywood's wildest personalities. The stories of rock bands throwing televisions out the window are legendary. The hotel's top-notch gourmet restaurant is a great place to splurge.