When I first came to LA on my first big trip from "home" Detroit, Michigan I went to West Hollywood. I didn't go to Culver City, Pomona, Westwood or Santa Monica. Back in 1977 I went to West Hollywood. I was coming to terms with being gay and it was the only place I knew I would feel more "at home".
It may have not been the "Gay Camelot", but places like the San Vicente Inn and Rage would not have been welcome in other parts of the city when they opened for business. That's a fact. I still remember cars going down Santa Monica Blvd., with the distinct purpose of screaming out "faggot" because even they knew it was a gay city. That shocked me. So much so, I screamed out for one of those cars to come back and say it to my face.
They did turn around. And instead of running away, I did something they didn't expect 'a fag' to do. I ran towards them. I commenced attacking their car. Right in the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica Blvd. Cars were stopping. I had my cowboy boots on and proceeded to kick up to the passenger side window to break it since they wouldn't get out. I kept at it. I called them pu**sies and told them to go down to Compton and scream the 'N word' to see what would happen to their punk asses. But they felt completely ok calling out the word "faggot" to people walking on the street. They never did get out of the car. They left and went back to Covina or wherever the hell they were from.
I guess it was just me being narcissistic expecting not to be called a pejorative walking down the street minding my own business….in a predominantly gay city with gays living in it and gay businesses openly operating on the street. We didn't have that in Detroit because we COULDN'T. I was essentially a non-person there.
Ryan Gierach is a bit off mark with saying WeHo wasn't a gay Camelot and italicizing that it never existed. But people knew where to go to get 'the gays'. So what do we call it? It was gay SOMETHING and I knew it was more accepting of gays than Westwood or anywhere else at that time. Gierach gets too caught up on semantics when this has nothing to do with that. It turns out it wasn't gay Camelot, it certainly was a "Gay Magnet" if you will. The entire country knows that.
After 'my incident' the black man selling jewelry across from me on the sidewalk said he "had my back". No one else did. To ignore the gay history of WEHO is remaking what was the reality of the past. I got no back up from anyone else. This is only the third time I've shared this incident. Oh, btw, this incident would have happened back home in MI. Things were way worse there. Those people in that car were the ones I was supposed to be getting away from.
The "city that could not support itself" was, like many places gentrified by gays. That's also a fact. Gays do that everywhere….and everyone knows it, and it can't be dismissed or linked to of all things rent control.
How the flag sit on City Hall as he asserts in the US Senate and state Rules on the placement of the American flag is also easily remedied by doing a doesy doe with sticking a pole above all of them, putting the Federal flag on top, and making sure the state flag is part of the lower rung with the others in proper order. That whole going into the Senate and state laws is not a NASA puzzle. It's easily remedied.
Mr. Gierach in the very first line of his article describes Larry Block in what supposed to be interpreted as a compliment….that backfires. "Larry Block, a natural, guy-next-door and tell-it-like-he-sees-it Chris Christie-like merchant running for a city council seat earlier and harder than anyone in the city’s history, has made the hanging of the rainbow flag and the degayification of WeHo his cause célèbre."
So when if Block loses, WeHo gays watch out. WeHo doesn't have a George Washington Bridge to close down as revenge for those who didn't vote for him, but worse yet may have even dirtier tricks up his sleeve. Yep, a "politician's politician"…..just what we need. One more dirt bag….like Chris Christie…really? Christie is not someone a politician should be trying to emulate especially with all the subpoenas being served out to his staff members and aides. Too bad it's too late to change that first line, but thanks for the heads up!
As far as his grading of James Duke Mason, as a 'C', I would tell James to find a more proficient professor. Anyone who's gone to college know that students don't just pick classes, they also pick professors with good reputations.
That is where my disagreement with Mr. Gierach ends. All this ballyhoo is because of one thing universal. This 'controversy' didn't happen 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. It's happening now for a reason. The universal truth is change. It’s everywhere, inevitable and has already occurred in West Hollywood.
I remember when The Abbey was an asphalt covered patio that just served coffee on wobbly tables to gay clientele. Now it’s a multiplexed restaurant bar owned by a straight man, and is more mixed than it ever was.
I remember when West Hollywood Park had no kids or families. If one needs more proof that Weho is more diverse than ever, now there are kids, families, and other playing and using the park.
Change is sometimes painful and uncomfortable, that’s just part of the human existence. I think keeping the gay flag on the City Hall is simply paying homage to the past….which does not change, nor can it be reinvented for convenience for campaign purposes.
Gays now live openly in other parts of the city and many have moved East to gentrify places along with the artists and the bohemians. I speak with the perspective of an ex-New Yorker who once lived in the East Village…and that has changed. I ended up in NYC before LA.
So I guess the identity of the city is really what is at issue here, and not ‘special rights’, but acknowledgment and respect for the past history. With that in mind it’s time to move on. The gay Camelot or magnet may have moved Eastward and beyond, but there still are plenty of gay businesses that pay plenty of tax revenue to the city. The LA Gay Pride Parade occurs smack in the middle of West Hollywood for a reason as well.
There is still a sizable gay contingency there, so Block is off mark if he thinks remaking or ‘rebranding’ the city away from that is the way to go. It should be inclusive of that. Because to many younger gays, it still is like when Harvey Milk met his future campaign manager on the street.
My personal most memorable part of the movie “Milk” because it speaks to my memories as a young gay man, and younger gay men like James Duke Mason have a voice too. Let’s not ignore them….I see me in them, and in this scene from the film, especially the dialogue: THX Dustin Lance Black!