HOORAY FOR HOL­LY­WOOD

THE BOY JUST CAN’T HELP IT AS STEPHEN UN­WIN KEEPS COM­ING BACK TO THE GAYEST PART OF THE GAYEST CITY IN THE USA

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Is there any­where gayer than West Hol­ly­wood?

“Your ba­con’s com­ing right out. I’m re­ally ex­cited about it!” Make that “t” in “ex­cited” lazier than your av­er­age bot­tom, imag­ine the waiter looks like a young En­gel­bert Humperdinck only with more hair, in front of you is a pool scene that gives Hock­ney’s A Big­ger Splash a run for its glam­our, and you’re sev­eral sheets to some­one - any­one’s - wind. Es­pe­cially that guy three sun loungers down with the vin­tage sunglasses and a twin­kle in their re­flec­tion. This is West Hol­ly­wood, sat­u­rated in colour, glam­our, great looks and a good ol’ dose of in­sin­cer­ity.

The lat­ter is a cliché borne out of fact but over­looked be­cause who the hell cares when you’re hav­ing so much fun? Plus it’s catch­ing, as you’ll find out when you’re Have A Nice Day-ing at ev­ery­one from the kids at McDon­ald’s to the dogs at ev­ery­one’s favourite hik­ing spot, Run­yon Canyon, over in the Hol­ly­wood Hills, where any mutt who is any mutt is walked.

Back to the ba­con. I’m sat by the pool at the Stan­dard, the first of the new breed of West Hol­ly­wood ho­tels to put its oomph on mod­ern and sexy, and some­where I stay more of­ten than my par­ents’. I keep com­ing back – as do a lot of the Brit me­dia pack – be­cause it’s just a whole bunch of cheeky, quite-but-not-quite-So­hoGyms gays, the beds are big enough to swim in, the break­fasts are mor­eish (hence my ex­tra or­der of ba­con) and, re­fresh­ingly, it’s re­ally quite af­ford­able, es­pe­cially bear­ing in mind ev­ery­thing I just said. And you can’t top the lo­ca­tion, slap bang in the throb­bing heart of West Hol­ly­wood.

So let’s get our bear­ings. WeHo is a square of very gay fun. And peo­ple re­ally do call it WeHo. Sounds a bit, you know, “in the know”, but it’s just a lazy, hazy way of say­ing West Hol­ly­wood and what bet­ter rea­son is there than that?

A mix of bars, top-notch ho­tels, cutesy streets with even cute­sier houses and most of the right restau­rants (Nobu and Cec­coni’s are the ob­vi­ous ones, Tor­tilla Repub­lic and Marix are the Mex­i­cans with a big gay fol­low­ing), WeHo has pretty much ev­ery­thing else you need so as never to go any­where else in LA. Apart from the beach. Or par­ties in places like Lau­rel Canyon where peo­ple like Joan and Jackie San­tan­gelo make cameos.

It’s also where LA Pride throbs into ac­tion dur­ing the first week of June. New York et al may beg to dif­fer but it’s the most fun Pride in the States, at­tracts almost half a mil­lion of the up-for-it kind, and you ought to book your ho­tel room now.

Skimming the top of that fun, gay square is Sun­set Boule­vard, which we guess needs no in­tro­duc­tion. It’s the glit­ter­ing axis of not only WeHo but the whole of Los An­ge­les and houses a heady col­lec­tion of hot ho­tels – the Stan­dard of course, Sun­set Tower, Chateau Mar­mont and Mon­drian – as well as ratty and in­fa­mous mu­sic venues like the Viper Room and Whiskey A GoGo, but we’ll leave those to the rock­ers and teenagers. There are also a cou­ple of strip malls, nail bars, tan­ning sa­lons and lots and lots of bill­boards, big­ger then you ever did see, ask­ing you to “con­sider” the year’s big movies for your Os­car votes. See­ing as they asked nicely…

So from Sun­set (drop the Boule­vard bit to sound, you know, lo­cal) and its spec­tac­u­lar views of down­town LA, WeHo takes a dip, lit­er­ally, to­wards Santa Mon­ica Boule­vard (again, drop the Blvd if the mood takes) which is where all the gay bars and clubs are. WeHo fin­ishes up at Wil­shire Boule­vard, home of the LA County Mu­seum of Art, a be­he­moth of a place, up­dated and en­larged a decade ago by Renzo Pi­ano and, last time I went, show­ing David Hock­ney’s York­shire Land­scape Videos. So none of your tat.

Our western bor­der is Robert­son Boule­vard – home to high-end bou­tiques in­clud­ing Chanel as well as one of the LA restau­rants, the Ivy (try the fried chicken washed down with their su­per-strength vodka gim­lets) - and to the right WeHo turns into Hol­ly­wood or Mid­town at around La Brea Av­enue.

At first glance, Santa Mon­ica Boule­vard – or at least the bit we’re in­ter­ested in - isn’t up to much. Big­ger than an A road but smaller than a mo­tor­way, by day it doesn’t look much dif­fer­ent from a street in The Simp­sons – al­beit with pro­tein shake bars and shops sell­ing shiny short­yshorts – and at night is the lat­ter just all lit up and twin­kling. But this is LA, so there are palm trees and ev­ery­thing is bathed in glam­our, and those

“There’s never know­ingly not a happy hour some­where, AND THE ( MOSTLY) GREAT weather means you can loi­ter out­side with as much in­tent as you can muster”

twin­kles are cour­tesy of among the jump­i­est, most fun bars, restau­rants and clubs on God’s gay earth.

And the (great) thing about the scene in WeHo is that it’s dirty. The kind of dirty you spell with three r’s. The go-go dancers re­ally go for it, of­ten with X-rated gusto, there’s never know­ingly not a happy hour some­where, and the (mostly) great weather means you can loi­ter out­side with as much in­tent as you can muster.

Most places you’ll want to be are bars-cum-clubs, the most popular of which are the Abbey (very swishy, very showy, very busy), Micky’s (some peo­ple call it a strip bar, I call it my favourite place in WeHo), Moth­er­lode, which at­tracts a slightly older crowd and is known in the business as a “dive bar”, Re­volver and Eleven (two popular haunts right op­po­site each other that look like they came right out of the Gay Bar Cat­a­logue) and, just a lit­tle off the beaten track, Fubar. A tad left-field for WeHo, in that you could be in a bar in Shored­itch, Fubar is where you’ll find the Big Fat Dick com­pe­ti­tion, ev­ery Thurs­day, which is ev­ery­thing you think it is. Take part if you think you’re big enough, etc.

Oh, and while we have you, Lisa Van­der­pump de­serves her own segue here. She needs no in­tro­duc­tion to those who watch The Real House­wives of Bev­erly Hills. For those fools who don’t, she’s the ex-pat Brit, a classy Sharon Os­bourne if you will, who used to own Soho’s Shadow Lounge and is now pretty much the queen of Weho with her glit­ter­ing em­pire of restau­rants and bars that in­cludes the won­der­ful Sur and the almost-open P.U.M.P. Lounge.

The only ir­ri­tat­ing thing is that ev­ery­where – and I mean ev­ery­where – closes at 2am, which is why you need to make friends and in­flu­ence peo­ple and go to their after-hours house par­ties.

Speak­ing of which, there’s this idea that LA is im­pen­e­tra­ble, but that de­pends on how hard you try. And boy, do I try.

Be­ing gay helps. Who knew, right? And LA is very gay-friendly. That thing about the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try be­ing run by gays and Jews is pretty ac­cu­rate so far, and the for­mer are easy to meet if you, well, try hard enough down on Santa Mon­ica.

With­out go­ing all Wikipedia on your ass, LA vies with San Francisco and New York for be­ing the gayest city in the US. And West Hol­ly­wood is the re­ally gay bit of that gay city. Can you imag­ine?

But it’s not a weird, six-pack-gaz­ing ghetto of fancy shops and fancier restau­rants, it’s just a lovely place to be your­self and be seen. There’s very lit­tle at­ti­tude in spite of what peo­ple might tell you, and that Brit ac­cent of yours still goes a long way in a city that has tons of Brits.

A haven of glam­our and gays, fun and free­dom, all the stars that never were re­ally are park­ing cars and pump­ing gas, and work­ing as go-go dancers at the clubs down on Santa Mon­ica.

You’re in love al­ready, right?

CLOCK­WISE FROM FAR LEFT: LOOK­ING OUT OVER WEST HOL­LY­WOOD; THE ABBEY BAR; TEND­ING BAR AT THE ABBEY; THE GAYEST PART OF THE GAYEST CITY IN THE USA; SUN­SET STRIP

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