Everything about LA is iconic, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to historic Union Station in all its art deco glory. Behind the doors of some of LA’s most remarkable landmarks are the works, histories and contributions of gays and lesbians from every generation. You’ll also find some beautiful venues, both indoors and outdoors, that appeal to gays and lesbians as well as their straight counterparts.
For a guided gay tour of LA that will leave you enlightened in your loafers, (and if you take the SunGay Bus tour, possibly tipsy), check out Out & About Tours. Theirs, the first and only gay tours of Hollywood, will wind you through LGBT history that lies just below the surface.
Some not-to-be-missed LGBT highlights include:
The One Institute National Archives
An unassuming brick building on USC’s campus holds the world’s largest research library dedicated solely to LGBT history and study. Packed with the past in books, periodicals, one-of-a-kind documents and photographs, the two-story time capsule also hosts exhibitions and art shows, successfully ensuring a vibrant and diverse future. www.onearchives.org.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
In seven buildings on extensive lush grounds, right next door to the La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA houses the most extensive encyclopedic collection of art west of Chicago. You can experience the works of ground-breaking gay and lesbian artists including William Burroughs, Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Robert Rauschenberg and of course, the inimitable Andy Warhol. www.lacma.org.
The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center
Founded in 1971, the center was originally denied nonprofit status by the IRS, who alleged its mission was “neither benevolent nor charitable,” as they served “homosexuals.” The center appealed and in 1974 became the first organization in the United States with the word “gay” in its title.
Since its earliest days, the Center has provided critical health and human services to LGBT people of all ages as well as played a pivotal role in the ongoing battle for civil rights and equality both statewide and nationwide. June 2008 marked the 10th anniversary of the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza.
A dream for many years, these buildings provide a stable place for the cultural and social contributions of LGBT people. You name it, the Center still does it. From providing social services to community gatherings, senior bingo to stage shows, it’s a one-stop shop for all your LGBT needs. www.lagaycenter.org.
Metropolitan Community Church
Lift up your voice and sing! In 1968 Rev. Elder Troy Perry felt the calling to create a diverse and inclusive ministry for LGBT people and their allies. Outcast by the Pentecostal church for being gay himself, he realized a pressing need in his community and began the first of what are now more than 300 MCC congregations in 22 countries. Always active on gay and lesbian issues, the Reverend was one of the plaintiffs in the 2008 California Supreme Court Case that briefly opened the doors for same-sex marriages statewide. Check the Web site for specific service and event information. www.mccla.org.
Up for a hike? The not-too-shabby 130 acres of Runyon Canyon Park offer amazing views both scenic and social. Perhaps only in LA will you find a “see and been seen” hike like this one. If you can make it up the fairly steep trails, you’ll be on the favored stomping grounds for celebs and hot, fit LGBTs looking for a date.
You may have seen these hills before. In episode #201 of “The L Word,” Alice and Dana jog down a memorable path when they finally admit their attraction to each other, then develop the foolhardy “Rules of Un-attraction” to counteract the inevitable. Check out maps and info.
The Wiltern Theater
An art deco masterpiece, this beautifully renovated theater stuns inside and out. Originally geared towards vaudeville acts, The Wiltern has had many lives and now plays host to some of the hottest acts around. Rufus Wainwright, The Pet Shop Boys, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Prince, The Pixies, Peaches, James Brown, the list goes on and on and on. These aren’t all explicitly LGBT acts, but neither is The Sound of Music.
The masterpiece building made a guest appearance in “L Word” episode #213. Remember? Tina’s water breaks, Alice and Dana have a relationship freak out, Gloria Steinem intros the classic hit rock band Heart, and Jenny cries on her bus ride home. Pack it in ladies, pack it in.
A progressive company of performers, Celebration focuses its work on the exploration of LGBT people in relation to themselves and society at large. Stunning productions of works including The Children’s Hour and Beautiful Thing are complemented by re-imaginings of historical works such as Euripides’ The Bacchae. For information on current season offerings, visit their Web site. www.celebrationtheatre.com.
In the heart of the bustling gay enclave of Sliver Lake stands the site of a seminal LGBT protest. On New Year’s Eve in 1966, The Black Cat brought gay and lesbian patrons out of the woodwork to celebrate the ringing of the midnight bell. Police in plain clothes innocuously mixed with merrymakers. When the corks popped at twelve, friends and lovers kissed. The police then unleashed a brutal raid that resulted in hospitalizations and multiple arrests. Six of the arrestees were tried and convicted of “lewd conduct.”
On February 11th, 1967 LGBT activists and supporters congregated on the nearby corner of Sunset and Sanborn. The ensuing protest, sometimes called a riot, predates Stonewall by more than two years, and for Angelenos, marked a tipping point in LGBT history. It was time to stand up and be counted, to band together and fight against their second-class citizenship. Organizations tracing their roots to this event include The Advocate and The Metropolitan Community Church.
To commemorate the bar’s cultural status, the site of the Black Cat, now Le Barcito, was designated City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #939 in November 2008, making it the first LGBT-related official landmark in Los Angeles.
The Egyptian Theater
Designed during the craze that erupted nationwide after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the historic Egyptian Theater is nothing if not over the top. The spectacularly renovated 1922 cinema plays home to many Outfest programs, including the weekly “Outfest Wednesdays.” While the main LGBT festival kicks off every summer, Outfest’s commitment to year-round LGBT programming met its mate in the Egyptian, and they have been together ever since. www.egyptiantheatre.com.
Will Roger’s State Beach aka “Ginger Rogers”
LA’s unofficial gay beach has plenty of sizzling sand to go with the gorgeous gym primed bodies of its visitors. Though quiet during weekdays, weekends at the seaside LGBT hot spot are packed with shirtless volleyball players, swimmers and voyeurs of all of the above. It’s been a go-to destination for LGBT beach lovers since the 1950’s, hence it’s nickname, “Ginger Rogers.”
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