When I was growing up I dreamed of going to Hollywood to become a star. All these years later that ship has sailed. (Hell, that ship has sailed, been put in drydock, and sold for scrap!) Anyway, when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to celebrate my birthday this year, my first choice was Hollywood. Although I’d been to California before, I hadn’t been to the movie capital and as a lifetime movie buff I decided it was about time. I wasn’t disappointed.
While Sir Steve was in Florida for the winter, I made all the travel plans. We got on the plane at BWI on Tuesday, April 17th and six hours later my dream of visiting Hollywood came true. I was very pleased with my selection of the Grafton on Sunset as our hotel. Located in the heart of the famous Sunset Strip near all the iconic attractions, it was also a short walk to the LGBT bars of West Hollywood, or “WeHo” as the locals call it. After our complimentary welcoming cocktail in the hotel’s bar, it was time to hit the gayborhood. Our first stop was the Gold Coast Bar (8228 Santa Monica Boulevard), the Leon’s of WeHo. Opened in 1981 this dive bar has a popular happy hour with $2.50 beers and $3 well drinks from 5 to 8 pm. We also enjoyed the relaxing lounge atmosphere and friendly all ages crowd at Trunks (8809 Santa Monica), right next to the popular cowboy bar Flaming Saddles. In fact, WeHo has so many bars that I am not going to list them all. I am happy to note that even on a Tuesday night each bar was lively.
When you are looking for leather in Los Angeles, three bars top the list. The Eagle LA, which was located at Santa Monica and Fairfax closed in 1995. In 2006 the Eagle LA reappeared at 4219 Santa Monica in the Silver Lake neighborhood in a space with a long leather history. This unassuming building was The Shed from 1968 to ’72, Outcast from 1972- 83, and Gauntlet II from 1983 – 2005. In fact, when the owners of the Eagle LA planned to open on April 1st, 2006 they thought that they would have a little fun with the date and ran ads advertising “Silver Lake’s newest and sassiest boy bar / dance club: Club Cup Cake.” Many in the leather community were outraged that the Gauntlet was becoming a Twinkie bar jamming the phones and sending scathing emails. When the LA Eagle opened on April 2nd, most got a good laugh at a well-played April Fool’s joke.
Famous for their afternoon beer bust each Sunday starting at 2 pm, the Faultline (4216 Melrose Avenue) has been popular with the leather community for 24 years and is also housed in a building with a long history having previously been the location of The Stud and Griff’s. Recently celebrating 20 years, the Bullet Bar (10522 Burbank Boulevard) in East NoHo (North Hollywood) also has a Sunday beer bust from 4 to 8 pm with $2.25 drafts, complimentary BBQ, and no cover. What’s a vacation without a little shopping? While bar hopping in WeHo be sure to stop in 665 Leather (8722 Santa Monica) and Chi Chi LaRue’s fun store at 8932 Santa Monica. Yes, WeHo is so gay that you will find rainbow flags down the middle of the street even when it isn’t Pride month as well as crosswalks painted with the rainbow.
As much as I enjoyed the gayborhood, I also had to spend at least one day in Hollywood as a real tourist. I felt just like Lucy when I saw John Wayne’s footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and took a bus tour of the movie star’s homes. I almost bought my bus tour tickets in advance. Expedia was advertising a tour for $79 a person and since that was a “must do” for me, I almost clicked on it. Don’t! When we got to Hollywood Boulevard there were several barkers selling tours. We were getting ready to stop in a bar for some lunch when we were approached about tour tickets. When we replied, “Maybe later,” we were told we could board the bus now for $25 a person and we did. It was a wonderful tour and we saw everything from where Richard Gere climbed up the fire escape to propose to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and where Nightmare on Elm Street was filmed to celebrity homes ranging from Bela Lugosi’s villa complete with a gargoyle-topped entrance gate to Justin Bieber’s all-glass hilltop residence. Unfortunately, I couldn’t complete my Lucy in Hollywood tour at the Hollywood Brown Derby with William Holden in the next booth since the famous restaurant closed in 1985 and William Holden died in 1981, but I came close. After a day of sightseeing we had dinner at the Saddle Ranch Chop House (8371 Sunset Boulevard), where Miranda rode the mechanical bull in “Sex in the City” and I almost died when Bruce Vilanch came in and sat in the booth facing me.
After Hollywood we continued to that other playground of the stars, Palm Springs. Located in the desert about 100 miles from Los Angeles. When I was there years before we had purchased the gift basket from Southern California Mr. Drummer and had lots of gift certificates. Palm Springs has many gay resorts and we stayed at three of them: The Columns, The Black Palm, and Chaps Inn. We liked all three. When I was planning this trip, I noted that The Black Palm is no more, the Columns has changed hands, but Chaps Inn is still going strong complete with a poolside sling and St. Andrew’s cross. I ended up making reservations at INNDulge mainly because it was a short walk to the popular Palm Spring’s leather bar the Tool Shed. Again, I was very happy with my hotel selection. INNDulge is a clothing-optional gay men’s resort and is extremely well managed. The place is kept spotless and has a large swimming pool, 12-man jacuzzi, and a complimentary continental breakfast and evening poolside cocktail hour with food and drink.
We walked to the Tool Shed (600 East Sunny Dunes Road) on Friday and Saturday nights and had a great time. This fun dive bar had changed very little from when we were there years ago. Sir Steve enjoyed his cigar on the smoking patio and as the evening progressed there was a line to get in at both the front door and back door. We met friendly people, enjoyed good music, and since we were walking could take real advantage of the inexpensive drinks!
On Sunday the leather bar to visit in the area is The Barracks (67625 East Palm Canyon Drive) located not in Palm Springs but in neighboring Cathedral City. Their Sunday afternoon beer bust fills their large outdoor patio. I had a great time with $2 drafts served at several bars, hots dogs, DJs, and even a few east coast transplants. I was so happy to see ShipMate club brother Bob Joel and former Centaur MC member Skip Mlaker. Plus, it was a real surprise to run into Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015 Daddy David Gerard, who will soon be moving from Connecticut to Palm Springs. As you may recall MAL 2015 was the one I judged so running into David was extra special for me.
Yes, there is leather in La La Land and even in the desert heat of Palm Springs. In fact, on October 25th to 28th you will see lots of leather at Palm Springs Leather Pride. When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would know so many leather folk and after all these years I finally made it to Hollywood!
- Rodney is originally from Hagerstown, Maryland and for many years has lived in Baltimore. In April 2017, Rodney was sworn in for his 10th year as the President of the ShipMates Club of Baltimore. He has been involved in the leather community for many years, but often denies that he sold Jell-O shots at The Last Supper. He has been writing THE LEATHER LINE for the BALTIMORE OUTLOUD newspaper (Baltimoreoutloud.com.) for over fourteen years. He has produced the Mr. & Ms. Baltimore Eagle Contest and the Maryland LeatherSIR/Leatherboy Contest. In 2001 he was proud to serve as Maryland Mr. Drummer 2001. Rodney also does stand-up comedy and in 2013 was thrilled to perform at Philadelphia Leather Pride Night. He has been nominated multiple times for a Pantheon of Leather Award, was selected Leather Man of the Year in 2013 by COMMAND M.C. and by the Baltimore Leather Association of the Deaf in 2006. The 11th annual 12 Days of Christmas benefit show was dedicated to Rodney and his partner Sir Steve. He has been twice selected as ShipMate of the Year. He has judged Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2015, Atlantic States LeatherSIR / Leatherboy and recently judged Mr. Eagle NYC 2018. He is delighted to be able to bring news of his beloved leather community to his readers every issue.