L.A. Scene is a monthly column that chronicles lesbian nightlife and events of interest in Los Angeles. Sarah Witness, an East Coast transplant and obvious femme, has been navigating the snark infested waters of Hollywood since 2001. Although she’s an NYU trained actress, she prefers sipping vodka and making idle chit-chat at really gay nightclubs.
Out and About Bus Tour
Los Angeles is rife with traffic congesting tour buses overflowing with sunburned out-of-towners. I’ve certainly never been inspired to hop aboard one, that is, until I heard about Out and About Tours. Recently started by actor and director Jim Anzide, the gay history tour/party bus is open to 21 years and older people of all persuasions.
Photo credit: Simon Gluckman
We gathered in the exhibit area of the One Gallery and Archives in West Hollywood for a champagne send-off. The auditorium was being used for an AA meeting, whose members were no doubt thrilled when our bus arrived. Nametags were handed out and we each sported the name of someone critical to Los Angeles gay history. One person was randomly selected to be the tour Queen, in our case a man who had the will but not the hair to affix his crown.
The bus was an old-fashioned British double-decker adorned with rainbow tinsel. “I’m Coming Out” blasted from the speakers. As we drove down Santa Monica Blvd., the main stretch in WeHo, Jim pointed out important landmarks. Two onboard actors reenacted important scenes from gay history. I thought I was a WeHo expert. Not so much, it seems.
Actors from Out and About Tours
Photo credit: Simon Gluckman
For example, I learned that the IHOP restaurant that always seems like a good idea around 3:00 a.m. is a lesbian landmark. In the 1970’s they booted out a lesbian couple for holding hands. The next day, the lesbians returned with twelve other lesbian couples who staged a kiss-in.
It was, apparently, effective, and now we are all free to get some action with our pancakes.
WeHo is the current gay area of Los Angeles, but the tour proved that this wasn’t always the case. We saw the site of the first Pride Parade, right in the middle of super-straight and touristy Hollywood. It began at 7 p.m. when “the children were safely in bed” and was led by a lesbian on horseback.
Speaking of "Pride," did you know that the term stands for "Personal Rights In Defense and Education?" Neither did I.
We headed downtown, where we learned about the Native American tribes who were settled there. A number of the tribes not only acknowledged, but embraced homosexuality. They saw gays as more enlightened, and even allowed gay marriage!
A huge amount of information was doled out, and we were periodically quizzed, and rewarded with candy. The bus finally came to a stop at The Other Side, an old-school gay piano bar in Silverlake. Everyone was given a complimentary hot pink cocktail, and then encouraged to get up and sing.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I hit The Other Side with some frequency, and was thrilled when they gave us coupons for our next visit. In fact, I’ve already used mine. WeHo is great and all, but sometimes what you really need is a gaggle of gay grandpas and some show tunes.
The tour was fantastic and I’ll be subjecting all of my out-of-town guests to it, including you, Mom. Their website provides all the info.