Go to ...

November 25, 2017

GHOSTS OF WEST HOLLYWOOD


Share

GHOSTS OF WEST HOLLYWOOD

I was just a kid in the mid 80s when I first rode down Santa Monica Blvd, past La Cienega Blvd in the heart of West Hollywood’s Boystown. My stepfather was behind the wheel.

I felt a tiny quiver in my liver, cuz I KNEW this was a sissy town for funny folks who kinda/sorta felt like me. The rainbow flags were everywhere, and the pink triangles protruded out of every storefront advertising that it was gay owned or gay friendly.

I didn’t know anything about rainbow flags or pink triangles, but I was more than curious about the men walking up and down the streets in their dark orange tans and teased bleach-blond—I’m talkin’ FRIED bangs. Some wore hideous getups like tight mesh tank tops with bright tie-dyed Mc Hammer Dookie pants (waaay before Mc H touched this fashion no-no). It made my stepdad look around with disgust. “Joto Landia” is what he called this gay patch of land, meaning Faggot Land. My neck practically did a 360/180 while I tried to see what I could see. Hello West Hollywood!

People think I’m crazy, but I recall a West Hollywood sign, which was a mockup of a mini Hollywood sign that stood over the embankment of a parking lot somewhere on Santa Monica Blvd. I never forgot that sign as a kid. By the time I started hitting the mean streets of WeHo in the early 90s, the sign was gone. I didn’t dream it up! I think it protruded out of the embankment on the north end parking lot to the U-Wash Doggie, right next to the Ramada Inn, but I’ve yet to find a picture to support my theory..

WeHo was scary back in those early 90s when the town was full-blown gay. If you were caught anywhere between La Cienega Blvd and Doheny Dr, you were considered A Gay. The stigma of the town at the time had you pegged as A Gay with AIDS—it felt that way anyway. But that didn’t stop my friends and me from hopping on the Number 4 RTD bus (known as the Rough Tough & Dirty) and heading west.

We didn’t care that WeHo was mostly white, or that we were underage. After our parents found out that we were out of the closet, it didn’t matter who knew that we liked boys; it was important to be proud back then. A bunch of us were reduced to hanging out at coffee shops, even though we couldn’t afford a cup of Joe and we hated the taste of coffee. We were hungry for a gay connection. We wanted friends, we were desperate for love and romance and of course we were curious about a little casual sex, even though casual sex was scary and more trouble than it was worth back in those crazy dayz. Most of us would just promenade up and down Santa Monica Blvd (the Other Boulevard of Broken Dreams), looking longingly inside Mickys (ickys) and The Rage (The Rag)—“Travel,” I would bark at my friends to follow my lead up the street. “Travel, travel, TRAVEL!”

Then there were the early 90s WeHo fashions. I’m talkin’ about whoring it up in tight wife beaters, shredded cutoff jean shorts and construction work boots with white socks crunched around the ankles. Sometimes those cutoff jeans were so damn short that if you weren’t careful, your balls would burst out of your crotch without a warning. I witnessed more than my share of a pair of goat nuts dangling with the breeze like a pair of droopy earrings while unsuspecting guys strutted their stuff down The Blvd. EMBARRASSING!!

WeHo was not pretty back then. I remember the cracked sidewalks before they were sliced and diced and opened wide to accommodate the pretty trees that went up to give the street that oh so very contemporary aesthetic. There used to be potholes all over the road and you could break a heel on the protruding remnants of old train tracks that ran down the median which separates the north from the south side of Santa Monica.

Gay Porn was the City’s bread and butter and every little Rainbow Shop carried some form of pornographic paraphernalia–be they nudie mags, naughty greeting cards, or silly sex toys.

There was International Male that tried to pass women’s clothes for men’s fashion by calling them “European.” There was Studio One with its back lot where they featured live comedy acts like “The Campers”, but we mostly used it to make out with boys. I dubbed it The Kissing Booth. There was The Revolver video bar, and that restaurant owned by Christina Applegate, which went from Ruby Rosa, To Faulkners, back to Ruby Rosa, to Villa Villa Kulla, to LUA, to Dudes, before finally settling down as the tacky Fiesta Cantina that we see today. There was the nerdy Abbey Coffee Shop, before it became The Abbey Bar, with their $12.00 martinis. And of course there was the Sports Connection (Erection, Infection) Fitness Club back when it was an actual club mostly for gay men, and not the stale gym of the present tense where straight men are vain and look gay, while gay men swear they’re bi-curious in search of other bi-curious guys, while they pretend the girlfriend is away.

I guess change is good if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s good to integrate and coexists and share a way of life with a hetero culture that for the most part is more accepting. However, change brought the demise of all those little WeHo boutiques that sold the rainbow stickers, drag queen Teddy Bears, and other queer inspired crap.

We said goodbye to A Different Light Bookstore, while Icky’s stands strong selling booze next door—goodbye Six Gallery, Marks Restaurant, Revolver, Don’t Panic clothing store, the Yukon Mining Co., Baja Buds, Drakes, The Athletic Club, Tom Kat theatre, Beer Bust at Motherlode, Edge Magazine, FAB! Newspaper and the list goes on—I hear the Bodhi Tree Bookstore is also on its way out and rumor also has it that 24-Hour Fitness is closing down for “repairs.” The last gym to close for improvements in West Hollywood was the Athletic Club on the corner of Santa Monica and West Knoll next to Koo Koo Roo. It is still a boarded-up empty rat’s nest for hobos ten years later. I hate slumming it at 24-Hour Shitness, but a shitty gym is better than no gym at all. We shall see.

Anyway, West Hollywood is now just a city where people live and drink Starbucks Coffee, so WHY am I wasting beautiful blog space on the ghosts of this town, you ask? The movie Milk starring Sean Penn, which chronicles the life and times of Harvey Milk is in heavy rotation on HBO right now. Every time I see the depiction of a gay ghetto in San Francisco circa the 80s, I’m reminded of the gay ghetto that was once West Hollywood in the early 90s. I didn’t think much of it then, but in retrospect I’m kinda/sorta grateful that I got a taste of a real gay community in those early years, even if I only experienced the tail end of what was once a gay bubble where gay people gathered to be exactly that…gay.

Below are some cool pics that I found of what West Hollywood was like circa 1982, which was like waaayyy before my time (cough, cough). They are courtesy of someone with the screen name The New Mr Burlesk via Flickr.com.

Enjoy!

I forgot about that water & power building to the far right, which was later used for parking space – Photo The New Mr. Burlesk

Circus of Books 1982 – by The New Mr. Burlesk

Vaseline Alley behind GOld Coast…which ironically looks the same

The Wrong Side of the Tracks.

Gay Cigaret Billboard-back when smoking was cool – by The New Mr. Burlesk

A Roller Rink on Northwest Corner of Santa Monica Blvd & La Cienega (currently CVS) by The New Mr. Burlesk

This HAS to be the southeast corner of Westbourn Dr and Santa Monica, where 24-Hour Fitness now stands – by The New Mr. Burlesk

Ah, Motherload – by The New Mr. Burlesk

International Male was one of the first gay ships to go under – by The New Mr. Burlesk

Then there’s me, I think in 1992. My first gay pride. Don’t ask me what I’m wearing, cuz I can’t tell, but I look like trouble. I was mean. And trampy.

What do you remember most about West Hollywood? What do you wish you could forget?

Luv,

Me

Comments

Comments

Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses “GHOSTS OF WEST HOLLYWOOD”

  1. L.O.
    March 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

    You know what makes those pictures worst, is that they are black and white. So they seem ancient. It wasn’t that long ago really, ehem, ehem. 20 years? I think we are from the same decade, so I do remember all that crap except I did not hang around there, I just drove up on the weekends. I remember the crowds that spilled off the sidewalk and wondered where all those people came from. Except I came from that generation where nothing happened. Everyone was dying right and left so I was afraid to do anything. So when people ask me about my youth, I tell them I did not have any. I hid in academia, and I’m still doing it, except now it’s too late to have a real life, so I feel cheated.
    Oh well, Que sera, sera……

  2. Paulo
    March 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I remember those crowds at the end of the night!!! We called them Sidewalk Sales. It was a last minute desperate attempt to hook-up with someone before they went home on their lonely way. Walking through a Sidewalk Sale involved some serious crotch groping and nipple tweaking. You had to pretend like you hated that sort of thing while you backed into someone’s crotch.

    Kudos on hiding inside a book during those dark ages. Most of us took our problems to the dance floor, but all we found under that shiny disco ball were lines of coke, bumps of crystal, tabs of E and the empty bottom of an expensive cocktail glass. It wasn’t much of a life. However, it is never too late to live…

    Thanks for the comment.

    Luv,
    Me

  3. Emjay
    May 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    YAY~! I think I must have been in the same time frame as you there…only the female version…I just went there with all my boys who continually tried to hook me up with girls..and they were always SO wrong on the types..hahaha…but I was always spot on when I would point out a boy and say “what about him”….me and my best friend in particular were at Mickeys on Tues nights for 18 and over night and on Sundays at Studio One 18 and over night…we used to be soooo pissed off that Saturday and Friday were made for 21’s!! Many a time we would be separated and I would walk through the park to the lot there and would see his truck with a note on the window telling me that he didn’t leave me but met someone and would be there later…so I would walk back over to Greenwich with the rest of the after Studio crowd! I had the best times of my life there..I was going there when I was 17 using a friends ID but really started being able to go in 1990/91. Good story..I got 86’d from Studio for about a week because I was a bit intoxicated (I learned how to bite the bracelets off my over 21 friends without breaking the button and put it on my own wrist) and friends dared me to put ice down the dancers skivvies..Sam…he threw my ass off the stage and I got booted…I FREAKED…I lived for Weho and I was too recognizable a lesbo to try to sneak in…I always had a blazer and bustier or bra only on under it…they actually had my license pic up at the door..lol..but..I made it back in a week later and all was well..I actually saw Sam years later at a pride and apologized and he remembered and accepted…we became friends. 🙂
    Mike from the Campers used to pull me up on stage all the time or nod my way whenever one of their skits referred to girls or lesbians (Like the Golden Girls skit)….Oh was sooo much fun..I hear it’s way different now but I am soooo forever happy (and sad) that I got to experience it…I bet we knew each other 🙂
    Emjay

  4. Paulo
    May 7, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks for your very entertaining post. The scariest part about it isssss…I think I do remember you. The blazer and the bustier strikes a familiar picture in my mind’s eye for some odd reason. If you are who I think you are, then you were quite the Bar Star. I’m OMGing right now, cuz you totally reminded me of that stripper Jimmy (?) from Studio One. He was queen stripping BEE with his own little stage, even though all he did was smack his ass and do the step-touch from side to side with a few knuckle rolls. Anyway, I ran into him at a party once a good six years ago. He still looked fit. Of course I was like, “I remember you…” right there in front of everyone. His response was something snotty along the lines of my dollar helped him buy a house. I wanted to retort that he had his dollars confused, cuz my bills never EVER made their way down his white 80s thong; However, he brought back so many good memories that I could not muster the energy to be cutting. He’s like a good part of my history.

    Funny story: I went out with a guy who kinda/sorta looked like me and then I stole his drivers license (gulp). I pulled that card for a couple of years and then of course, I got busted trying to get in to The Rag, one week before my 21st birthday. I was with this other guy I had been dating for a couple of weeks who didn’t know I was under 21. Karma can be so mean—EMBARRASSING!!!

    I also got kicked out of Studio One for running amuck drunk in my underwear. Or so I’ve been told. I stayed away for a couple of months. No pictures were taken that I know of. We were there for my roommate’s birthday and he was livid, but not surprised which offended me to no end.

    Yes, those were some really good times. And I agree, they conjure up happy and sad feelings.

    Thanks again for the read, and for taking the time to write.

    Luv,
    Me

About Paulo Murillo,

Paulo has been writing for the gay media for over 16 years. He made his debut as a columnist for FAB! Newspaper. He has written for LA Health News, IN Los Angeles, Frontiers and The Fight Magazine. He has been featured in The Bay Area Reporter, XY Magazine, Bay Windows, Windy Times, and Press Pass Q, He has been quoted in the pages of Edge Magazine, Gay & Lesbian Times, Seattle Gay News, Fuges, and in a shitload of online news outlets and blogs, thanks in large part to Rex Wocker’s Quote on Quote – Wockner Wire.

QR Code Business Card