L.A. Plays Itself
Before you plan a visit to Los Angeles, according to promoter Cody Bayne, you must ask yourself: "Are you an East Side or a West Side kind of gay?"
The East Side (Silverlake and Los Feliz) is gritty, experimental, and unpretentious, sort of the SoMa of SoCal. The West Side, on the other hand, is as if the Castro and the Marina had a baby; glittery, preening, and intent on impressing.
The epicenter of LA’s gay tourism, you must carefully pick your West Hollywood destination to avoid the homogenous tourist traps. But there’s still weird sexy fun to be had if you know where to look.
Your first stop should be Musical Mondays at Eleven Bar & Nightclub [8811 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 855-0800. www.elevenla.com], where musical clips from stage and screen play on the monitors. Regular patrons leap into semi-spontaneous dance-alongs when their favorite clips come on, and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a flashmob perform "Defying Gravity" from the musical Wicked.
For a more traditional hang-out, clubs like Rasputin strip away the pretention of the West Side [Saturdays, 665 N. Robertson. (213) 621-4051]. And for drag shows, check out the showstoppers at Rage on Dreamgirls Tuesdays night [8911 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 652-7055. www.theragenightclub.com], or at Hamburger Mary’s, where you can also enjoy brunch, burgers and other tasty middle-brow cuisine. Just watch out for the bachelorette parties [8288 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 654-3800 www.hamburgermarys.com/weho].
For an unusual cruise option, you can browse the racks at the city’s inexplicably plentiful all-night underwear emporiums.
Fortunately, WeHo’s brunch scene is far more casual. Chow down at Saint Felix [8945 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 275-4428. www.saintfelix.net] or Kitchen 24 [8575 Santa Monica Blvd. (424) 777-0959. www.kitchen24.info]
Ladies, head over to The Standard for Booby Trap, where 70s disco and 80s dance meets 90s kitschy-cool [8300 Sunset Blvd. www.clubboobytrap.com]. And the gals at Truck Stop on Friday night blend pop, hip-hop, booty pop, and glam rock [www.truckstopgirlz.com]
Locals can be found at neighborhood institutions like Gold Coast [8228 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 656-4879. www.goldcoastweho.com] or Fubar [7994 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 654-0396. www.fubarla.com] A gritty neighborhood dive, Fubar’s home to raunchy fun like Saturday Night Slut, Latin-themed Rebelde on Fridays, and an insane Thursday night party for horny homos known as Big Fat Dick.
For something more otherworldly, don’t miss Evita at Blok in Hollywood. Costumes and ostentatious outfits are recommended, and expect to see some RuPaul’s Drag Race girls [1650 Schrader Blvd. (323) 785-0011. www.bloknightclub.com].
East Side Story
Over on the East Side, anyone who’s anyone attends A Club Called Rhonda at Club Los Globos. "They’ve perfected the polysexual thing," says nightlife photographer Gabe Ayala, whose company Rolling Blackouts documents the debauchery [3040 West Sunset Blvd. www.rhondasays.net].
And keep an eye out for Cody Bayne parties, such as redhead appreciation night Ginger at the Eagle LA, the cruise-tastic leather bar [4219 Santa Monica Blvd. (323) 669-9472. www.eaglela.com].
Trannyshack LA regularly invades Echoplex, one of many stops where San Francisco drag empresario Heklina takes her show on the road [1154 Glerndale Blvd. (213) 413-8200. www.theecho.com].
Silverlake bars like MJ’s [2810 Hyperion Ave. (323) 660-1503 www.mjsbar.com], Faultline [4216 Melrose Ave. (323) 660-0889. www.faultlinebar.com], and Akbar are a guaranteed good time any night of the week [4356 West Sunset Blvd. (323) 665-6810. www.akbarsilverlake.com].
Ayala throws a dapper new party at Faultline called John that he describes as "prohibition gay brothel, or like the Haunted Mansion." The Faultine’s third Thursday Furr Trade attracts the hairy set, and lures them in with beary gogo guys.
And for something even spicier, look up the Boulet Brothers. "We try to push naughtiness and fetish and dress up," says co-founder Jamie Boulet. Their newest party: Black Unicorn, which evokes a dark, decadent twist on Burning Man. "Less fur on the boots," says Boulet, "and more black diamonds." [www.facebook.com/bouletbrothers]
Silverlake’s also home to some amazing shopping, with a charming farmer’s market and nifty boutiques around Sunset Junction. Stop by LA Glaneur for some jaw-dropping 80s vintage couture [4557 Santa Monica Blvd. (260) 602-1830].
Outside of the east-west rivalry, Downtown LA is coming back to life with evening art walks, anything-goes parties like Mustache Mondays [at La Cita, 336 South Hill St. www.mustachemondays.tumblr.com] and can’t-miss parties like Summertramp.
And out in the valley, you can slide into some leather and visit The Bullet [10522 Burbank Blvd. (818) 762-8890. www.bulletbarla.com], or go country line-dancing at Oil Can Harry’s [11502 Ventura Blvd. (818) 760-9749. www.oilcanharrysla.com].
Formerly known for his mega-drag-bash Dragstrip 66, legendary DJ Paul V. just launched a North Hollywood party called Mash Up that promises to reinvent the soundtrack of your life. [www.facebook.com/pages/DJ-Paul-V/153210308057861]
And finally, a word of warning about LA Pride: It’s not what you’re used to. It’s $20 just to get in, and it’s super-crowded and pretty predictable. Skip the official event and look for alterna-pride parties in Silverlake, or head down to Long Beach Pride instead for a more friendly, authentic experience.
And of course, the best way to find good events in LA is to ask a local. Fire up Grindr and make contact. You’ve never seen so many waxed torsos in your life.