By day, Los Angeles thrums with creative energy and showbiz deal-making. At night, the city turns into the West Coast hub of lesbian nightlife. GO explores L.A.'s daytime dramas and after-dark happenings.
La La Land, Tinseltown, City of Angels: The name conjures a dreamlike city of limitless possibility, celebrity glitz and a hint of Chandleresque menace. As the epicenter of the global film and television industries, Los Angeles has often been called the “creative capital of the world”—and though it might hurt New York City’s ego, the facts seem to support that claim. The Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region, published by L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design in 2010, found that one out of every six Angelenos was employed in a creative industry, from actors and film directors to animators, interior decorators and apparel designers. The combined impact of revenues, spending and economic activity from the creative sector amounts to an incredible $286.3 billion per year. The entertainment and fashion industries make up the majority of the creative mass (42.7 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively).
Adding to that energy: L.A.’s cutting-edge arts institutions. The jewel of the Los Angeles Music Center, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (135 N. Grand Ave., 213-972-7211, musiccenter.org) became an instant landmark in 2003 due to architect Frank Gehry’s undulating titanium design and its unsurpassed acoustics. The Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr., 310-440-7300, getty.edu), perched on a scenic hilltop 12 miles northwest of downtown L.A., displays a world-class collection of Western art spanning 700 years, while the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd., 323-857-4702, lacma.org) represents the city’s diversity with memorable collections of Latin American, Asian, European, American and contemporary works. The Museum of Contemporary Art (250 S. Grand Ave., 213-620-8674, moca.org) exhibits the interplay of traditional art forms like painting and sculpture with fashion, music and video in an angular red stone gallery.
Even the city’s natural attractions—cited so often by sun-starved East Coasters—exhibit a certain palm-shaded glamour. Lace up your Gucci sneaks and go for a morning run in Runyon Canyon (2000 N. Fuller Ave., laparks.org) where you'll encounter the gamut of Tinseltown types: hippies, yoga enthusiasts, cute girls walking their dogs and starlets on the walk of shame. Its proximity to Hollywood make Runyon Canyon a more reliable bet for celeb-spotting than those ubiquitous star maps.
Like Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr., laparks.org) is recognizable from the movies—the scene with James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause is certainly the most famous. At more than 4,000 acres of greenery and wildlife, in the middle of Los Feliz, it's one of the largest urban parks in the country. The Griffith Observatory (2800 E. Observatory Rd., 213-473-0800, griffith
observatory.org) and the Astronomers Monument sit on the south slope of Mount Hollywood, commanding panoramic views of Hollywood, Downtown L.A. and the Pacific Ocean. The Art Deco building, completed in 1935 and restored in 2006, features a planetarium, galleries and scientific exhibits. Replenish your strength at the on-site Cafe at the End of the Universe, a bistro operated by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
When one dreams of southern California, the vision usually includes a beach—for good reason. The stretches of sand skirting the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice have their own character and only-in-L.A. denizens. L.A.’s semi-official gay shore, Will Rogers State Beach (17000 Pacific Coast Highway)—or Ginger Rogers, in local dialect—fronts almost 2 miles of Santa Monica Bay in Pacific Palisades. It’s where episodes of Baywatch were filmed, but you’re more likely to find ordinary swimmers, surfers, volleyball players and cyclists than Pamela Anderson in an orange swimsuit.
Not surprisingly, considering its artsy provenance, Los Angeles is one of the world’s meccas for the lesbian partying population. In the past few years local promoters have blazed new trails through the after-dark scenes, while stylish boutique hotels and restaurants continue to cater to the fabulous and female. The menu of dusk-to-dawn doings is giving L.A.’s east coast competitors a run for their money (blame it on The L Word).
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that West Hollywood is gay central. The 1.9-square-mile community is crammed with LGBT clubs, restaurants, hotels, theaters, high-class shops and super-fit, well-groomed residents. The Pleasure Chest (7733 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-650-1022, pleasurechest.com), opened in WeHo in 1975, rode that decade’s crest of gay liberation; it’s still the go-to spot for sex-positive toys and info.
Every June, the annual L.A. Pride (lapride.org) parade rolls up Santa Monica Boulevard from Crescent Heights Boulevard to Robertson Boulevard, culminating in a Pride Festival that envelops the entire neighborhood in rainbows.
Another annual LGBT event, Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (outfest.org), is the oldest continuous film festival in Southern California—a place not lacking in movie-related events. Lesbian-focused highlights of the 29th festival include the award-winning Iranian drama Circumstance; the rockumentary Hit So Hard, chronicling the highs and lows of Hole drummer Patty Schemel; and The Perfect Family, a tragicomedy starring Kathleen Turner as a churchgoer out to win a Catholic of the Year contest despite her sexually unconventional children. This year’s collection of LGBT films screens from July 7 to 17; check the Outfest Web site for showtimes and festival passes.
There are usually more guys than girls on WeHo’s streets—a 2002 City of West Hollywood survey pegged the percentage of gay male residents at 41 percent. Lesbians are drawn to Los Feliz and Silverlake, to the northeast and east of WeHo, for the more bohemian, less bitchy attitude. The latter community was the site of one of the earliest gay rights demonstrations—two years before the more familiar Stonewall rebellion. On New Year's Eve 1966, plainclothes police officers arrested gay patrons for kissing at the Black Cat Tavern at 3909 West Sunset Boulevard; the following February, hundreds of people protested the raid. Today the low-slung stucco building, designated a L.A. Historic-Cultural Landmark in 2008, houses a laundromat and a Latino gay bar, La Barcito.
Nevertheless, the gay-friendly hotels and nightlife tend to center on West Hollywood. For lodging near the action, but quiet enough to guarantee a decent night’s sleep, check into Le Parc Suites (733 N. West Knoll Dr., 310-855-8888, leparcsuites.com). The European-style boutique property is just around the corner from Melrose Avenue’s upscale retail row; if you shop ‘til you drop, sink into the cushy beds and call the 24-hour concierge for delivery. There’s a heated rooftop pool and lighted tennis courts for your morning workout.
The Andaz (8401 Sunset Blvd., 323-656-1234, westhollywood.andaz.com) offers the best of both worlds: a trendy, upscale look without the snooty attitude to match. Despite the vivid color scheme and eye-catching panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills and the Sunset Strip, the museum-like accommodations have a relaxing vibe (and a rooftop pool). Foodies will love their close proximity to Michelin-starred chef Sebastien Archambault’s contemporary French restaurant, RH, in the hotel.
Stay in the literal epicenter of Tinseltown—right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in fact—at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 310-855-1115, thompsonhotels.com). Across the street from the landmark Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Roosevelt is a storied hotel offering trendy-luxe digs with touches spanning 1930s Art Deco to mid-1980s decadence. Rooms come with WiFi, top-of-the-line linens, cushy robes and toiletries by Kiehl's.
Chances are, though, that you won't be spending much time cocooned in your room, no matter how gorgeous the surroundings. L.A. is made for people-watching, so get out there. Down a drink at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel’s windows lounge (300 S. Doheny Dr., 310- 273-2222, fourseasons.com/losangeles) for discreet celeb-spotting, then fill ‘er up at one of L.A.’s gourmet-to-go food trucks. Try the Kogi Korean Taco Truck (twitter.com/kogibbq), Nom Nom Truck (twitter. com/nomnomtruck) for Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, and the Grilled Cheese Truck (twitter.com/#!/grlldcheese truk) for their title specialties like the Brie Melt with double cream brie, homemade fig paste and smokehouse almonds. Follow them on Twitter to find their up-to-the-minute locations.
Bite into a high-end burger at the Los Feliz branch of Umami Burger (4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz, 323-669-3922, umamiburger.com/um ami-los-feliz), a chainlet serving blinged-out beef with house-made pickles, salads and old-fashioned fountain drinks. Spend the afternoon window-shopping or hanging out at a coffee shop in this lezzie-heavy locale—stake your claim at the corner of North Vermont Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard for the best views.
Locals recommend WeHo’s stylish O-Bar (8279 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-822-3300, obarla.com) which puts the Pac Rim treatment on American staples like pistachio-crusted yellowtail tuna with potato-leek puree and tomato-caper relish or grilled pork porterhouse with white cheddar potato gratin and whiskey stewed prune-date chutney.
West Hollywood tends to attract the male of the species during the day, but around dinner time, there’s always a mixed crowd at the Abbey Food and Bar (692 N. Robertson Blvd., 310-289-8410, abbeyfoodandbar.com), WeHo’s—and possibly the world's—best-known gay bistro/ bar. Nibble the warm chicken salad and one of the bar’s famed martinis while watching the sausage parade. Sundays afternoons bring a more chick-friendly crowd before evening events begin.
Come nightfall, lezzies have at least two or three options per night for getting their party on during the second half of the week. Start the weekend off right with Legendary Bingo at Hamburger Mary's (8288 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-654-3800, hamburgermarysweho.com) around 9pm—be sure to get there early to snag your table and cards. There are celebrity callers, amazing prizes and an enthusiastic audience every Wednesday, and the proceeds always go to worthy charities.
The party continues at gb2 (girlbar.com) at the Abbey, a new Wednesday night incarnation of the L.A. lesbian mainstay Girlbar. Take advantage of the Abbey’s brand-new menu and cabanas circling the freshly renovated dance floor and drink in the sounds of DJs Dawna Montel, Beau and Mike Bryant. You're practically guaranteed to run into a star from The Real L Word as you nosh on a $3 taco or sip a signature cocktail.
On Thursdays, host Shannon K’s Platinum at East/West (8851 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-360-6186, eastwestlounge.com) attracts a sophisticated segment of the lesbian population. Hundreds pack into Kyss (kyssclub. com) at WeHo’s Here Lounge (696 N. Robertson Blvd., 310-360-8455, herelounge.com) for a Thursday night fix of hip-hop, R&B, electro and pop mash-ups. Since January 2010, resident DJs Lezlee and Asha have welcomed guests like Spinderella of Salt n’ Pepa to keep the party anthems fresh. When you hear the Kyss theme song, grab a free shot from Charlene “Switch” at the bar.
Asha and Lezlee recently teamed up with The Real L Word’s party girl Whitney Mixter for the monthly bash Juicy at The Factory (652 N. La Peer Dr., factorynightclub.com), held every first Saturday of the month. Booby Trap!’s Kim Anh and Truck Stop’s Brynn Taylor have guest-starred behind the decks.
PYT Productions—that’s short for People You Trust (facebook.com/PeopleYou Trust)—recently launched its new Friday night extravaganza at WeHo’s swanky celebrity magnet Villa Lounge (8623 Melrose Blvd., 310-289-8623, villaloun ge.com). Mid-week, follow PYT’s directive and Sext Your Ex every Wednesday at Haute (665 N. Robertson Blvd., 310-855-9232, haute-la.com), where $20 buys access to an open bar all night and tunes from celeb DJs like Saratonin, Kyss’ resident DJ Lezlee and Josh Peace. CD, movie and magazine release parties are in the works.
Friday's legendary party Truck Stop (facebook.com/truckstopgirlz) at Here is so popular, promoters Fuse Events have expanded to New York while keeping the L.A. original fresh. With nearly a decade’s experience and a crowd-pleasing mix of pop, electro and dance rock from DJ Brynn Taylor, it's just as dirty-glam as you'd expect. When the siren sounds every 45 minutes, get ready for the Truck Stop Girlz to do their little turn on the catwalk, er, the bar.
Ladies Touch Entertainment (ladiestouch ent.com), founded in 2006, was inspired by a need for more diversified events in the L.A. lesbian community. Events blend style, street culture and community consciousness. Ladies Touch hosts Sabor every second Friday of the month at The Gabah (4916 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood) with resident DJ Irma Covarrubias spinning salsa, merengue, bachata, rock en Espagnol and more. A new summer series, Ladies Touch on the Rooftop, takes over Kress (6608 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood) on the first Sunday of the month with hip-hop, R&B and more from DJ Syrehn.
Weekends have a chameleon-like personality, with roving monthly parties holding sway. The kitschy-cool monthly Booby Trap! (clubboobytrap.com), still going strong after two solid years, pairs stylish women and alternative music at emerging, off-the-beaten-path locales, Booby Trap! went bicoastal with its NYC debut in 2009. Hosts and resident DJs Kim Anh and Anon spin a mix of disco, house and punk that draws as many as 750 creative-types to the dance floor. But it’s not all mindless fun: Booby Trap! hosts voter registration drives and fundraisers for LGBT organizations too.
Check LosAngelez (facebook.com/Los Angelez) for updates; promoters post their info on this local Facebook page. The West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau (visitwesthollywood. com) provides insider tips on L.A.’s gayest nabe, while the L.A. Convention and Visitors Bureau (discoverlosangeles.com) offers a gay guide to the entire city. n