THE GAY PRIDE PARADE & FESTIVAL
Christopher Street Liberation Day took place on June 28, 1970, exactly one year after the Stonewall riots. The first Gay Pride march in U.S. history was in New York's Central Park and simultaneously in Los Angeles on Hollywood Blvd. Due to the tense relationship with the Los Angeles Police, the parade was moved to the unincorporated portion of Santa Monica Blvd in 1979 and has continued there ever since. Come to the next West Hollywood Gay Pride which now attracts half a million visitors. Gay visitors are attracted to West Hollywood because they can hold hands and kiss their loved ones in public, being completely open and free of condemnation.
HALLOWEEN IS HUGE IN WEHO
On the evening of October 31, Santa Monica Blvd. is shut down and half a million visitors descend on the city for the West Hollywood Halloween Street Party. There's something fun for everyone to see including gays enjoying their one night a year in fabulous drag, amazing group costumes, costumes poking fun at pop culture, and thousands and thousands of other costumed visitors. It's a magical night where you can feel the positive energy of gays & straights together reveling in a bizarre fantasy world that could only happen here, in Gay West Hollywood.
While the Lesbian Nightclub scene has exploded here recently with Lesbian clubs happening almost every night of the week; Gay West Hollywood's original Lesbian bar closed in 2013. Read the history of "The Palms" in this L.A. Times Article.
GAY BARS Over the years, gay life in Los Angeles has consolidated along the one mile strip of Gay West Hollywood. This has brought an astonishing amount of traffic and business to the area resulting in continued investment into the gay nightlife scene. Flaming Saddles, Revolver, Rage, Here, Micky's, The Abbey, and The Factory have poured millions and millions of dollars into developing their properties into world class gay entertainment venues. This investment inspired 69restaurants to also locate along this profitable strip of Santa Monica Blvd.
THE NORMA TRIANGLE
The residential area behind the Pavilions grocery store is known as "The Norma Triangle" due to its triangular shape on the map.
It is composed of mostly gays & lesbians living in 20's and 30's vintage homes. Dorothy Parker's last home in West Hollywood was at 8983 Norma Place. John Morgan Wilson popularized the area in his series of mystery novels set there. His first in 1996, "Simple Justice" won him an Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It's an accepted myth that the Norma Triangle is tied to Silent Movie star Norma Talmadge, but actually there is no connection to her whatsoever. She never worked here or lived here. The streets: Norma, Lloyd, Cynthia, and Dicks were supposedly all named after silent screen stars of the 1920's, but two historians claim they were really all named after spouses or children of the upper executives of the Los Angeles-Pacific Railroad Company who built the streets. In 2006, residents tried and failed to rename Dicks St. to Dickson St. claiming they were being traumatized by snide, rude remarks.
90069 ZIP CODE
Is it really just a coincidence that Gay West Hollywood's zip code is 90069? We don't think so. Legend has it that at the time postal zones were first assigned, post office employees choosing the numbers figured 69 was appropriate for this emerging gay city, and this peculiar number was chosen just for us. What began as LA-69 later became 90069 once zip codes were invented.
$34 MILLION TO BEAUTIFY THE CITY
The new city of West Hollywood was visionary and took advantage of their new status. Almost immediately, ugly power lines along Santa Monica Blvd. were torn down and moved underground. In 1999, a massive $34 MILLION public revitalization project removed 15,000 feet of railroad tracks, widened the sidewalks on each side of Santa Monica Blvd, and planted 1200 trees. The project was completed in 2001 and resulted in the city completely owning the gay strip of Santa Monica Blvd. The Russian community on the east side of the city taught proved the value of walkability which was bought also to the west side. Watch a KCET video with John D'Amico and Heidi Shink describing the city's walkability. The gay bars, shops, and restaurants flourished on this beautiful pedestrian-friendly street which in 2011 was named One Of Ten Great Places In America and The Most Walkable City in California! The revitalization caused property values to rise, so it's been a challenge to keep gay residents and business in the city, but the West Hollywood government has gone out of its way to preserve the city's gay heritage through a variety of innovative programs that appear to be working. The Pacific Design Center has spent millions of dollars to add a world class red building to the existing blue and green buildings.
You may know that Judy Garland is a popular gay icon, but not understand how exactly that came to be? It happened in an
epiphanal moment for the gay community.
Diva icon Judy Garland, loved by gay men, died Sunday June 22, 1969 from a drug overdose. Her funeral was Friday, June 27, 1969. During a painful evening of mourning Judy's death, police unconstitutionally raided a gay bar called "Stonewall" in New York City while patrons were allegedly listening to Judy Garland songs on the jukebox. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Sad, angry, and fed up with gar bar police raids, this time the drag queens took center stage, and along with the 200 other gay bar patrons they fought back. When the police told them to get out, they said "No, we are listening to our music." A spontaneous and violent riot broke out at 1:20am Saturday morning, June 28, 1969. Judy Garland was instantly cemented in the minds of all gay men as one of the reasons the Gay Pride movement began.
The famous movie star Marilyn Monroe lived at 7 locations in West Hollywood:
In 1947 at 8941 Fountain Ave.
In 1950 at 8573 Holloway Drive
In 1950 at 1309 N. Harper Ave
In 1951 at 611 N. Crescent Heights
In 1952 at 1121 Hilldale Ave
In 1954 at 1424 N. Crescent Heights
In 1961 at 882 N. Doheny #3, an apartment compex that was later consolidated into a house owned at one point by gay club and Palm Springs White Party promoter Jeffrey Sanker.
Boy was she onto something. Now practically every A+ celebritiy hangs out in West Hollywood for partying, clubbing, dining, and shopping!
In 2013 Lady Gaga surprised everyone at The Abbey showing up Sunday, August 11 to party in the middle of the afternoon (VIDEOS), then again Monday evening, August 12th at Micky's to create the lyric video for her song "Applause" (VIDEOS).
THE CREATIVE CITY
Due to the vibrant, creative, and diverse residences and businesses, "The Creative City"
was chosen as West Hollywood's official motto. In 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation chose West Hollywood as one of America's 12 distinctive destinations.
Moses H. Sherman created an electric railway called "Balloon Route" to connect downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica beach. In 1898, a rail yard for his company, "Los Angeles-Pacific Railroad" was built at the location where the Pacific Design Center now stands. The area became known as "Sherman." Bars and gambling halls sprung up around the small homes built for the conductors, ticket men, engineers, accountants, and freight sales men.
In the 1920's, Jewish immigrants created the movie industry in Hollywood. Profits were used to build rows and rows of apartments in Sherman to provide affordable housing to movie actors and the extended families of the immigrants.
These Sunset Blvd. clubs allowed performers to bend gender and sexual roles, something not tolerated in the other nearby incorporated cities.
I'M A FRIEND OF DOROTHY Many believe
that "Dorothy" refers to Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz". However, more likely, this Dorothy was really Dorothy Parker.
The story begins at West Hollywood adjacent Garden of Allah, built at 8150 Sunset Blvd. by obnoxious lesbian actress Alla Nazimova. In the 1930's, Dorothy Parker, a writer, satirist, and wisecracking partier had a large following of gay men in her famous social circle. It became common for gay men to use the code phrase, "I'm a friend of Dorothy" to indicate they were invited to Dorothy's wild parties held in Garden of Allah's exclusive celebrity villas. The phrase morphed into a secret code all across the country to indicate one was gay. That's right, the phrase was invented right here, in Gay West Hollywood!
The Garden of Allah was shut down in 1959 to make way for what is now McDonalds & El Pollo Loco. Some say Joni Mitchell was referring to The Garden of Allah in her hit song "Big Yellow Taxi", when she sings "They take paradise, and put up a parking lot", but it is likely a rumor.
SHERMAN BECOMES WEST HOLLYWOOD
As cars became popular and more roads were created, automobile and oil companies became very powerful. The electric railways over time disappeared. Real estate in Sherman became more expensive. (Some original rail house employees homes are still standing at Betty Way.)
Sherman was renamed "West Hollywood" to take advantage of the popularity of Hollywood. The West Hollywood Sunset Strip was America's adult entertainment destination until Las Vegas took over that role in the 50's.
HIPPIES AND MORE GAYS ARRIVE
In the 60's, hippies came to visit the clubs "Whiskey A-Go-Go" and "The Troubadour" which remain popular to this day.
In the late 60's "Ciro's" which was now a Rock and Roll club, started Sunday gay nights which were the very first gay Tea-Dances known to us as a T-dance. Gay men were allowed to dance together which was tolerated in West Hollywood even though at the time it was illegal.
Once Ciro's closed, gays started opening bars and clubs in the 70's since this unincorporated area of Los Angeles offered freedom from the heavy-handed law enforcement regime of the Los Angeles City Police. The booming television business created work for hundreds of young actors and stagehands, many of whom were gay. West Hollywood's gay clubs, rows and rows of apartments, and low rents attracted many of these men to the city. In the late 70's and early 80's most of West Hollywood's gay and lesbian sports teams were founded. Additionally many anti-gay laws that prohibited dancing (see LAPD Rule No. 6) between two persons of the same sex were repealed.
Since the area was still unincorporated Los Angeles county, in the 80's the growing largely gay community motivated by rent control, voted to incorporate to secure greater power over the direction of the city.
IT LOOKS LIKE A KEY, BUT IT'S A MAP West Hollywood was incorporated as an independent city on November 29, 1984 and became the first city in America to have a majority of gays & lesbians on the city council. The city logo may look like a key, but in reality it's a map of the mishmash shape of the city which includes the portion butting up to Beverly Hills, a small chunk above Sunset brimming with ultra-high-priced homes, the Sunset Strip, and a 3 mile strip of Santa Monica Blvd which connects West Hollywood into Hollywood.