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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Lovin' West Hollywood
Arts & Entertainment
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Lovin' West Hollywood

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

West Hollywood, California is synonymous with hot tan-skinned boys sipping martinis at the Abbey on Santa Monica Blvd. It is where you can dine with a porn star and watch a drag show in the same night. Pricey? Sure. Pretentious? Maybe. Do we love it? You bet your sweet ass we do!

When it comes to traveling, we single Gays rarely need an excuse to board a plane and camp it up in Gayville. My excuse came in the form of a birthday invitation. It had been two years too long since I had last walked down Santa Monica Blvd, and I was ready to revisit the Gay days of my early 20s. I had my West Hollywood cherry popped back in 2003 when I was a 23-year-old twink. I soon became one of those out-of-towners who visited so frequently that locals began to think I was one of them. My friends and I would rent a room for the night at The Holloway Motel (8465 Santa Monica Blvd) and proceed to bar crawl and club hop well after last call.

In 2009, I had the opportunity to revisit my old stomping ground and found it to be a shadow of its once-vibrant self. When the Great Recession hit, West Hollywood (more commonly referred to as WeHo) felt it from the top of its tiara down to its ruby red slippers. The local Gays still went out, honey, but it was the twink tourist and his closeted, married business executive sugar daddy who stopped booking flights to sunny California. Tourist dollars all but dried up. WeHo's makeup was flaking. Still, the show must go on. And nobody knows how to 'chins up, boobs out' better than West Hollywood. WeHo is back, and sexier than ever.

In order to maximize my three-day descent into all things Gay, I enlisted the help of some very important co-conspirators: the West Hollywood tourism office; famed Vancouver, B.C., drag sensation Joan-E; and my dear, dear friend and all-around hottie Jason Gallaher, a local. We set about to invent the perfect quick trip for the 'Oh my God, I just turned 30' Gay: Me.

According to my friends at the WeHo tourism office, I would find my two-story loft suite at the Ramada Plaza Hotel Suites West Hollywood (8585 Santa Monica Blvd) to be a perfect fit. They were right. Nestled between quaint shops, near the Gay gym, and steps away from all the major bars and clubs, my accommodations were ideal. This is no ordinary Ramada. The décor is bright, colorful, and eccentric. The rooms have a modern flair and are comfortable. The two-story layout of the loft suites gives more of an apartment vibe than cookie-cutter hotel chain found in most tourist meccas.

Are you a bargain traveler? (It's 2011. I think it's safe to say we all are.) Like most of my like-minded peers, I wanted little to do with food and more to do with dancing, drinking, and boozing. The 'main drag' - no pun intended - of Santa Monica Blvd is littered with a plethora of restaurants ranging from Subway sandwich shops to 'How the hell did that cost me $100?!' eateries. I chose my first WeHo meal to be served up by an old favorite of mine, Greenwich Village Pizzeria (8937 Santa Monica Blvd). Good old-fashioned pizza by the slice, buffalo wings, Caesar salad, and much more can be found on the menu. Other dining choices (that won't break the bank) are Yoshi's Sushi (8274 Santa Monica Blvd), trendy stargazing at Hugo's (8401 Santa Monica Blvd), the healthy alternative Eat Well Café (8252 Santa Monica Blvd), and the popular and fun Fiesta Cantina (8865 Santa Monica Blvd).

Fiesta Cantina is a gem. The bar staff is absolutely gorgeous, and the food and drink specials are perfect. Daily specials - like Sunday's burrito and a beer for $7 - keep the restaurant that doubles as a cantina, which turns into a nightclub with a rooftop bar at night, full from open to close. No WeHo experience is complete without a visit to the hottest little spot on the Boulevard.

I would be remiss if I didn't recommend Trunks Bar (8809 Santa Monica Blvd) as a pre-funk joint. Trunks is very old West Hollywood. Sleazy, cruisey, and just plain authentic, I absolutely love slumming it at this rentboy landmark. Trunks is a great place to hang out with friends, play some pool, and converse with the great bartenders and staff. Trunks Bar is basically a less crowded Mother Lode (8944 Santa Monica Blvd) minus the piss trough.

If you've never been to WeHo - which is highly unlikely - then you should most certainly check out the main bars and clubs that have made the city a Gay magnet for decades. For the best martini you will ever taste in your life (served by some of the hottest 'I'm only bartending until I'm discovered' bar help in the world), you must pop into The Abbey (692 N Robertson Blvd). In the mood for some sugar? Skip on over to Rage Nightclub (8911 Santa Monica Blvd) for the good ship lollipop. If go-go dancers and the like are more your style, then Mickey's (8857 Santa Monica Blvd) has got jockstraps and gyrations for days.

By far, the best new club with the hottest guys and gals in the city is Eleven Restaurant and Nightclub (8811 Santa Monica Blvd). Operating out of a historic 1922 building (once a recording studio used by Prince, Donna Summer, and Cher), Eleven is a beautiful space that includes a stage for live entertainment, a state-of-the-art EAW Sound System, a rig for aerial performances, 10 high-definition plasma screens, two stories of dancing, and everything else one might need to have an unforgettable WeHo party experience.

Hooking up in WeHo can be as easy as you want it to be - or as tedious and expensive. Like most major metropolitan cities, West Hollywood has its fair share of spas and bathhouses to meet your primal needs. If I'm feeling particularly randy, I prefer Studs Theatre (7734 Santa Monica Blvd), formally Tomcat Theatre, where for a minimal fee you can view porn in a multi-theater setup. If you're a voyeur or a tried and true cruiser, you will love the seedy and cavernous Studs Theatre.

I wanted to experience true Hollywood. Joan-E said she knew just what I needed: the Chateau Marmont Hotel and Bungalows (8171 West Sunset Boulevard). It had been a dream of hers since she was a little drag queen to sip cocktails with the filthy rich and famous Hollywood elite. And so we did. There is the famous Bar Marmont (attached to the great castle on the hill) where you can drink and dine in style. But the real party - which by some miracle Joan-E and I crashed - is inside the famed hotel's intimate dining room and garden terrace. Cocktails will cost you around $25, but you will be able to walk away and say you downed a martini in the very same garden terrace as Greta Garbo. I fell in love with the place.

West Hollywood remains one of my favorite travel destinations. Call it cliché, but there is just something wonderful about donning your favorite pair of shades and strolling down the Boulevard with the sun on your back and a hot guy on your arm. WeHo has a little something for everyone. Whether your goal is to be naughty or nice - or both - the city is at your beck and call. There are few cities in the world that you can just be your out and proud Gay self - and West Hollywood is one of them.

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