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Spotlight on Gay Los Angeles 2008


By Matt Skallerud

Known throughout as the home of Hollywood, entertainment capitol of the world, Los Angeles also plays host to one of the largest urban gay and lesbian populations in the world.  With a population of over 15 million, Los Angeles’ gay community is as diverse as its various local regions.  From the city style lofts of Downtown to the relaxed beaches of Santa Monica, each segment of this sprawling city seems to have its own unique gay subculture.

Today, however, West Hollywood stands as the central gay region of Los Angeles, bordered by Robertson Blvd. and La Brea Ave. on Santa Monica Blvd.  Locally known as WeHo, this gay friendliest of cities offers a haven of gay owned, operated, and friendly businesses catering to the GLBT community.  Since becoming incorporated in 1984, the city of West Hollywood and its local government have been committed to preserving and uplifting its vibrant gay culture.  Annual city events such as Gay Pride and the huge Halloween street festival are among the many city sponsored events.  On any regular evening though, popular starting places include The Abbey, a staple of West Hollywood whose recent expansion has further proven its dominance as “the gay bar” of West Hollywood, and Fiesta Cantina catering to a more casual and youthful crowd.  As the night progresses though, bars grow to include the Here Lounge, East-West, Eleven, Rage, and the Motherlode

There are many well established gay businesses on Santa Monica Blvd., including A Different Light Bookstore, Drake’s, the French Marketplace and many more.  Other gay friendly features of the famous Santa Monica Blvd. include a variety of popular eateries such as Bossa Nova, Basix, and Tango Grill to name a few.  Popular daily hang outs such as Cafe Marco, Starbucks, and The Coffee Bean are also all located within close vicinity to each other.  And of course, not forgetting LA’s emphasis on health and beauty, two of West Hollywood’s most popular gyms, Crunch and 24 HR. Fitness, are packed daily with GLBT members.  Moreover, besides the Ramada Hotel centrally located on Santa Monica Blvd. and the London Bel Age located on San Vicente and Sunset Blvds., the local San Vicente Resort is one of the nicest gay resorts, located right in the middle of West Hollywood.  As well, the local West Hollywood CVB helps promote gay travel and tourism to these and other hotels in the West Hollywood area, including the House of Blues, The Standard Hotel, and the Chateau Marmont.

Located just slightly more east of Weho is the city of Silverlake, an area that has always had a decent gay & lesbian presence, but has grown over the years as home prices remained slightly more affordable in this part of town.  As an older portion of Los Angeles, one filled with much character, Silverlake represents the unique intersection of two distinct gay communities.  On one hand there is an emerging gay youth culture centered around the arts and known for setting the latest trends in fashion and style, while on the other, there is the bear, leather, or more mature gay male community who inhabit the same space. 

Each year these two worlds come together at an enormous two-day, summer street festival called Sunset Junction, named after the intersection of Sunset and Silverlake where the city limits officially begin.  Since 1980, like the city itself, this street fair has been a virtual promenade of diversity – Latino families, leather daddies on cell phones, punks pushing strollers, drag queens, and Westsiders curious about the fuss.  With three live-music stages, over 200 vendors’ booths selling everything from tamales to Greenpeace literature, and a crowd of over 200,000, this high energy event has become a must do on the gay events calendar.

Silverlake, however, also has a variety of established bars and restaurants such as Casita Del Campo, where Mexican food and cocktails might be followed by a drag show, or MJ’s Bar where alternative fun is always the theme.  Other bars such as Akbar offer a more local or neighborhood friendly appeal.

On the other side of town, over in Santa Monica and Venice Beach there are a few smaller gay bars such as the Roosterfish where its most frequent visitors are the beach-going locals.  Another large draw is Will Roger’s Beach in Santa Monica.  Every summer this section of the beach, known by the community as a gay friendly hang out, becomes the place to be and be seen.

Much like the small local environments of Santa Monica and Venice, The Valley, as it is referred to by the San Fernando Valley residents, has its own smaller gay scene.  Located just over the Hollywood Hills which separate it from West Hollywood, the Valley has much more of a suburban feel to it.  There are numerous shops up and down the renowned Ventura Blvd., and some of the prominent nightlife stops would have to include Oil Can Harry’s.  Also, since many of the major film and production studios exist there, in Burbank, many of the GLBT members who make up a huge part of the entertainment industry have also made it their home residence.

Lastly, just south of Los Angeles are Long Beach and Orange County.  Again, though they are both much more suburban than their Los Angeles counterpart, they contribute greatly to the Los Angeles gay & lesbian scene and have some of their own local gay communities.  Long Beach, for instance, has its own strong gay community with several bars and restaurants such as Falcon, Silverfox, and Hamburger Mary’s.  Further south in Orange County, Laguna Beach has always been a small gay mecca, even though the gay establishments have mostly gone.

Beyond these individual communities, though, there are a number of events which draw large GLBT crowds from all over the city.  Outfest is a leading showcase for diverse, international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender film and video. Outfest produces the oldest and largest continuous film festival in Los Angeles, featuring more than 200 feature and short films, nine venues and attendance of over 40,000 people. Since 1982, Outfest has presented 4,000 film and video titles for audiences of more than half a million people.  As a non-profit organization Outfest’s goal is to build bridges among audiences, filmmakers, and the entertainment industry through the exhibition of high quality gay & lesbian films.

Another prominent event is A Cracked X-mas, put on by The Trevor Project in the month of December.  A Cracked X-mas brings together some of Hollywood’s funniest comedians and talented musical performers to benefit The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization, dedicated to its mission of promoting tolerance for gay and questioning teenagers and aiding in suicide prevention among that group.  Past Cracked X-mas celebrants have included Gillian Anderson, Debra Messing, Margaret Cho, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, Allison Janney, Sarah Michelle Geller, Drew Carey, Megan Mullally, Kathy Griffin, Holly Hunter, Camryn Manheim, and Sir Ian McKellen.

As mentioned above, Los Angeles also has two major gay pride parades and festivals, one in Long Beach at the end of May and the other in West Hollywood during the month of June.  Yearly, each draws a diverse GLBT crowd of hundreds of thousands.   

In terms of the gay business community, Los Angeles now has a formal gay chamber of commerce. The LAGLCC is now a well established association with GLBT interests in mind.

Larger Fortune 500 companies with strong diversity initiatives for gay & lesbian employees include:

Company CEI Rating* Fortune 500 Rating
Amgen 85 171
Applied Materials 93 274
Health Net 93 189
Hilton Hotels 95 296
IndyMac Bancorp 100 722
KB Home 75 228
Mattel Inc. 88 406
Northrop Grumman 100 73
PacifiCare Health Systems 68
Ryland 30 467
Toyota Motor Sales 100
Walt Disney 100 64

CEI Rating: HRC Corporate Equality Index is a tool to measure how equitably companies are treating their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors.

 

The gay media of Los Angeles, on the other hand, is well established.  Two of the primary publications serving Southern California are The Blade and Frontiers News Magazine.  Some of the more prominent weekly and bi-weekly magazines are Odyssey, a guide to the gay nightlife and social scene gossip, In Magazine, known for its articles covering pertinent community issues, and Cybersocket which focuses primarily on online gay interests.  Other notable publications include Metrosource and Adelante Magazine.

 

In terms of gay tourism publications, Los Angeles has the Los Angeles Gay FunMap, published by Columbia Fun Maps.  Providing both an advertiser-supported, detailed gay map of Los Angeles and coupons for local gay/gay-friendly businesses in the Southern California area, the Fun Map is one of the best pocket companions for the gay Southern California traveler.

Finally, there are a number of charitable and community organizations who have prominent standing amongst the GLBT community, often drawing attention to a community cause through events and entertainment.  Such organizations as those mentioned above and, perhaps the most prominent charity, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) are responsible for creating some of the areas most important events.  The APLA’s AIDS Walk Los Angeles is one of the most well-known.  Also, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, located in Hollywood, offers an array of services to the GLBT community, ranging from HIV/STD prevention and testing to community outreach programs.

 

PRINT

Frontiers News Magazine: www.FrontierNewsMagazine.com

In Los Angeles: www.INMagLA.com

Clout Magazine: www.cloutmagonline.com

Metrosource LA: www.MetroSource.com

Adelante Magazine: www.AdelanteMagazine.com

Odyssey: www.odysseymagazine.net

INTERNET

www.westhollywood.com

EVENTS

Long Beach Pride: www.LongBeachPride.com

Los Angeles Pride: www.LAPride.org

Los Angeles Gay Rodeo: www.larodeo.com

Santa Barbara Pride: www.GaySantaBarbara.com

Outfest: www.OutFest.org

Sunset Junction: www.sunsetjunction.org

BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS

www.laglcc.com

www.lbcbn.com

www.wehochamber.com

ORGANIZATIONS

The Trevor Project: www.thetrevorproject.org

La Gay & Lesbian Center: www.laglc.org

AIDS Project LA: www.apla.org

A Different Light Books: www.adlbooks.com

 


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