I always say that West Hollywood breathed life back into me. After getting sober, I didn’t know what to do. Honestly, I didn’t truly know how to live life without substances. But it was the wonderful people of the many recovery programs who brought me to where I am today and helped make me the man that I am.
I learned early on in recovery that a blessing is not a blessing unless it is shared. This concept has been a driving factor for the last seven and half years. It means I am so grateful for my life today and the opportunities that befall me that I have to keep giving back to others so that they, in turn, will have opportunities as well.
Part of that means helping others when I can. I first learned in the programs that there are countless ways to enjoy and engage in life without substances. It was like a whole new world. There were parties, dances, bowling events, camping trips, bingo games, drag shows, dinners, charity events, theme park outings, and so on and so on. And I made so many friends in the process. What was even more exciting was that I got to be of service and help create and produce some of these events. It gave me a new sense of purpose. That was a powerful realization for me. I could help make people’s lives better.
Part of that also means learning the treatment-to-care pipeline. One of those amazing friends I met along the way was Jimmy Palmieri, founder of the Tweakers Project. The Tweakers Project is an anti-meth campaign that focuses on meth education and promotes every type of method possible to stay clean from meth. In getting involved, Jimmy helped me to learn how to navigate the complex treatment-to-care pipeline that exists in Los Angeles County. Before long, we were helping people right off the streets and getting them into the appropriate treatment program. We saw men and women with substance abuse and mental health disorders, full blown HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, and knew we had to do something. We learned about the extensive social services that places like the City of West Hollywood offers for people that are homeless or struggling with these diseases. This was crucial in discovering that we still needed more work ahead. It wasn’t enough just to help people into treatment. We needed to do more.
And that meant creating safe spaces or alternatives for people to enjoy.
In my work at the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS), we strive to promote improved public health, public safety and quality of life. We know that alcohol and drugs are deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society. We wanted to create a social norms shift. The social construct needed to shift towards a realization that social activities don’t have to heavily rely on alcohol and drugs. This seems like an easy ploy. But for many people in the LGBT community, making it through Pride seemed impossible without a few drinks as social lubricant to ease some of that anxiety.
So, along with Mike Rizzo from the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Jimmy Palmieri, and IPS’ West Hollywood Project, we began developing new alternatives- social events where alcohol and drugs aren’t the focus. We created ‘#BOOM! – An Alcohol and Drug Free New Year’s Eve Extravaganza’ and ‘#SIZZLE! – A Carnival of Attraction!’. We realized that Pride and New Year’s Eve were two critical times when we saw greater amounts of relapse, suicide, mental health episodes and overdoses. We knew we had to continue making safer spaces for people to show that you can enjoy life and its many wonderful and scary aspects, without alcohol, should one choose to do so.
Thanks greatly in part to the City of West Hollywood, Los Angeles LGBT Center and Christopher Street West, these events have been hugely successful. People tell me all the time how they are alive today, healthy and able to enjoy life because of these events.
Our community is truly amazing. We represent all aspects of the social fabric that make up our great country. We try to build events and opportunities that are inviting for all people. And it is increasingly important that we continue to educate our community on the vast resource options that are available to them should they wish to live a life free from substances. It only takes an idea to start the process. And that first action could change the world.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as the old Benjamin Franklin axiom goes. And that is just what we set out to do.
You can enjoy a wonderful life free of drugs and alcohol and there are many excellent resources to guide you. Getting involved helped open my eyes to a bigger world. And I hope that it can for you too.
Upcoming sober events:
- April 21-23: CMALA Convention- a three-day celebration of sobriety free from crystal meth at Plummer Park, West Hollywood. www.cmala.com
- April 26: Alcohol-Free Mx-N-Mingle with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, My 12 Step Store and the West Hollywood Project. http://web.wehochamber.com/events/Mix-n-Mingle-on-the-Boulevard-1466/details
- June 9-11: #SIZZLE!- A Carnival of Attraction! Inside the LA Pride Festival produced by alcohol-free volunteers creating an exciting carnival experience for you. https://www.lapride.org
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Mama G plans wild Halloween celebration
Join Ariana Grande’s mom for music, costume contests, and more
By Susan Hornik | HOLLYWOOD – Want to attend an exciting, unique party for Halloween hosted by Ariana and Frankie Grande’s mom? Check out Diamond Dog Entertainment’s inaugural “Mama G’S Halloween Happenings 2021,” which takes over The Bourbon Room Oct. 28-31.
“I adore Halloween and have been known on the East Coast for hosting grand and wild Halloween parties,” enthused Joan Grande in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “After last year’s pandemic and cancellation of almost every holiday, we were all in desperate need for a Mama G Halloween event!”
The soiree is jam packed with intrigue, and will feature the world premiere of “Horror Camp: A Musical Massacre,” an abundance of live music and costume contests. Halloween-themed food and drinks will also be available for purchase.
“‘Horror Camp,’ is a 80’s and 90’s jukebox musical that spoofs the horror movies of the past,” she noted. “This year we are joined by the greatest cast of people known from Broadway and television: Marissa Jaret Winokur, Frankie Grande, Constantine Maroulis, Emma Hunton, YouTube’s Queen of Reactions, Maya Tomlin, and many other surprise veterans of song, stage, and TV.”
Mama G Grande thinks of Halloween as an “incredibly special” holiday.
“I love the rush and thrill of the unexpected scare, the music associated with Halloween, the strong tones, chords and orchestrations used to create that underlying feeling of fear and fright … sometimes you hear a melody and your hair stands on end, that is wonderfully fun for me,” she explained. I also love the feeling of being free to dress up in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t normally, whether it’s using a lot of makeup, putting on wigs and being in different characters.”
“Following the Musical, the party, which is hosted by Drag Queens greats Shangela and Eureka, continues, with performances as well as their judging our costume parties, with prizes totaling $1,500 each night,” she added.
“I am thrilled to work with Mama G and bring some HalleBOO to Hollywood!” Shangela told the Blade. “Anytime a Grande is involved, whether it’s a family party or a full-out function, I know it’s sure to be a good time!”
To win the cash prizes, plan on wearing a costume that will stand out.
“Each night is themed — with every costume contest, the main contributing factor for me is EFFORT…and SMART! I love a well thought out, complete costume…you know, no (grave) stone unturned!” she quipped.
Mama G’s son, Frankie Grande, a fan favorite during his time on CBS’ “Big Brother,” is thrilled that his mom has been working so hard on this event.
“I am so proud of my mom for all that she has achieved in her life as a mother and businesswoman and now she has this overwhelming desire to give back through the arts. I’m so honored to be her partner in Diamond Dog Entertainment. So come party with us this Halloween — we’ll have a gay old time!”
Another highlight of the event: a special midnight screening of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“I loved Rocky Horror from a very early age, because of my mother playing it for me as a child and seeing the Broadway show,” said Frankie. “The first time I dressed up as a character from the show was when I was cast as Frank N Furter in the LA production of ‘Rocky Horror.’ And of course ever since then, he is one of my favorite characters to dress up as.”
Even though they have been busy planning the event, Frankie and Mama G have found time to watch television, seeing Ariana make her debut as a judge on NBC’s The Voice.”
“I love everything about Ariana being on ‘The Voice!’ She is a brilliant musician, both technically and naturally gifted, with a heart bigger than the universe, which she doesn’t hesitate to share. I think that is why she is such a gift to the show.”
If you are headed to New York for Halloween, Mama G has activities for you there as well.
“We are producers for a pair of plays on Broadway. ‘Is This A Room,’ which just opened last week to rave reviews including The New York Times’ Critics Pick, and ‘Dana H,’ which opens this weekend. These two plays are about two extraordinary women and their harrowing experiences told in their very own words. I highly recommend that you see these shows when you are in New York City, they are glorious.” Tickets, which start at $39, and VIP packages are now available for purchase online here.
All guests must show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR COVID test within 48 hours. Masks will also be required when guests are not eating or drinking.
Lesbian Bar Project to the rescue
Founders complete second year fundraising campaign to save businesses
NEW YORK – The Lesbian Bar Project, a New York-based group founded by lesbian filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, raised $117,000 last year to help the nation’s lesbian bars stay in business during the height of the COVID pandemic.
Among the bars receiving financial assistance from the project was San Diego’s Gossip Grill and D.C.’s A League of Her Own. Owner Dave Perruzza said he and his staff were grateful to receive a $7,000 check from the Lesbian Bar Project early this year when the bar was closed under the city’s COVID shutdown order. There are no identified lesbian bars in Los Angeles that are part of the project.
The two women say their 2021 fundraising campaign for the project will raise well over $100,000 as part of their continuing effort to support the nation’s remaining 21 lesbian bars.
“Like a lot of things during COVID, we took a lot for granted,” Street told the Blade in describing how she and Rose reacted when their city’s three remaining lesbian bars – two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn – shut down like most other bars and restaurants during the peak of the COVID public health restrictions in 2020.
“Erica and I felt very connected to the bars there,” Street said. “And we started these discussions of, we miss our cherished spaces. And now they’re closed. Where do we go?”
With their filmmaking skills as a backdrop, and with the knowledge that the already diminishing number of lesbian bars across the country were struggling to survive under COVID, the two started a fundraising campaign for those bars called the Lesbian Bar Project. Among other things, they produced a video Public Service Announcement with archival scenes of lesbian bars and the women who patronized them.
With financial support from the Jagermeister liquor company’s Save the Night campaign, which was launched to provide financial support for nightlife businesses such as bars and restaurants, Rose and Street arranged for the production of a separate 20-minute documentary film about the role lesbian bars play in the lives of those who patronize them. Rose and Street are listed as the film’s directors.
Among those serving as executive producer and appearing in the documentary is Lea DeLaria, the lesbian comedian, actress and internationally acclaimed star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”
Also appearing in the documentary is Jo McDaniel, longtime D.C. lesbian activist and bartender and manager at several D.C. gay bars who helped Perruzza open that bar as the city’s first full-time lesbian bar since the closing of the famed D.C. lesbian bar Phase One nearly a decade ago.
McDaniel says she left her job as A League of Her Own’s manager last year to undertake, along with her life partner Rachel Pike, the start of a new D.C. LGBTQ welcoming bar called As You Are, which began operating online. McDaniel says she and Pike are actively looking for a storefront building in which to open As You Are as an in-person café and bar with a dance floor that will be welcoming to lesbians and the LGBTQ community in general.
The documentary, which helped generate support for the project’s fundraising efforts, can be viewed on the group’s website free of charge at lesbianbarproject.com.
Earlier this month, the national dating app called Hinge announced it was entering into a partnership with the Lesbian Bar Project and would make an initial donation in August of $50,000 to help the project support lesbian bars in need of financial aid.
The announcement said Hinge would educate all its U.S. users about the “importance of LGBTQIA+ establishments” and encourage its LGBTQ members to visit one of the bars for a date.
“The bars that comprise the Lesbian Bar Project are not only a safe space but an essential part of LGBTQIA+ culture,” said Justin McLeod, founder and CEO of Hinge. “Our hope is that this support will help these sacred spaces to stay open through this summer and beyond,” he said in the company’s statement.
The Lesbian Bar Project website provides a list of the 21 lesbian bars that the project has supported. In a notice on the website, Rose and Street note that their initial fundraising campaign for 2021 has been completed, and a financial statement with information on how much has been raised will be released around the time of Labor Day weekend.
Rose told the Blade that until she and Street decide the project’s next plan of action, they are calling on people to donate directly to one or more of the 21 lesbian bars listed on the website.
However, a notice on the website says three of the bars – Cubbyhole of New York City; Sue Ellen’s of Dallas; and Wildside West of San Francisco, “have graciously decided to opt out” of the 2021 pool of funds raised to allow for more contributions to the other bars in greater need.
“In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 200 Lesbian Bars across the country,” a statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website says. “These bars are disappearing at a staggering rate, and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout of COVID-19,” the statement says.
Rose and Street said the decline in the number of lesbian bars, which began long before the onset of the COVID pandemic, is due to a number of factors, including the overall success of the LGBTQ rights movement. The two said nondiscrimination protections in state and local laws and the landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, opened the way for lesbians and LGBTQ people in general to feel comfortable patronizing bars that were not specifically catering to lesbians.
They said that like its impact on gay bars in general, the rise of the Internet and online meet-up sites has also had the effect of enabling lesbians to meet each other outside of bars and other “brick and mortar” establishments.
“So, it’s like all of these factors combined with the pandemic are why many of these places are disappearing,” Rose said. “And that’s why Elina and I jumped into action. Our goal is always to raise awareness. The money raised is definitely a bonus,” she said. “We wanted to raise awareness and tell the stories of these bars. That’s going to make sure we remain indelible in our culture and ensuring our survival.”
Rose was referring to one of the themes of her and Street’s 20-minute documentary – that the in-person interaction offered by lesbian bars and LGBTQ bars in general provides, among other things, an important part of LGBTQ culture and the diversity of LGBTQ people that online and virtual venues cannot provide.
“We believe what makes a bar uniquely Lesbian is its prioritization of creating space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary folks, and trans men,” according to the statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website. “As these spaces aim to be inclusive of all individuals across the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, the label Lesbian belongs to all people who feel that it empowers them,” the statement says.
“Without space, we lose power, validity, communal safety and access to intergenerational dialogue,” the statement adds. “With the support of our community, we can make sure these bars receive not only the financial assistance they need but the reference they deserve. When our history isn’t protected, we must protect it ourselves.”
Following is a list of the 21 remaining lesbian bars in the United States released by the Lesbian Bar Project:
A League of Her Own — Washington, D.C.
Alibi’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.
Babes of Carytown — Richmond, Va.
Blush & Blu — Denver
Boycott Bar — Phoenix
Cubbyhole — New York City
Frankie’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.
Ginger’s — Brooklyn, N.Y.
Gossip Grill — San Diego, Calif.
Henrietta Hudson — New York City
Herz — Mobile, Ala.
My Sister’s Room MSR — Atlanta
Pearl Bar — Houston
Slammers — Columbus, Ohio
Sue Ellen’s — Dallas
The Backdoor — Bloomington, Ind.
The Lipstick Lounge — Nashville, Tenn.
Walker’s Pint — Milwaukee, Wisc.
Wildrose — Seattle
Wildside West — San Francisco
Yellow Brick Road Pub — Tulsa, Okla.
West Hollywood’s ‘Out On Robertson’ official launch
The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m.
WEST HOLLYWOOD – Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath, Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister, and city council members John D’Amico, John M. Erickson, and Sepi Shyne are set to celebrate the official launch and ribbon cutting of WeHo’s OUT on Robertson program May 1.
Because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses, especially restaurants, in August 2020, the City began its Temporary Outdoor Expansion Permit program, known as OUT Zones, by offering streamlined approval for businesses to use sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and private parking lots as areas to expand operations.
Starting Saturday, April 17, the City expanded that program with a ‘soft launch’ of OUT on Robertson, a pilot program that closes N. Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica Boulevard and north of Melrose Avenue to vehicular traffic each Saturday and Sunday, between 6 p.m. on Saturday and late-night on Sunday, in order to transform the restaurant/retail area into a pedestrian zone with COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Closing this highly trafficked and bustling stretch of Robertson will provide a pedestrian-safe space that allows for appropriate social distancing as the Public Health Department eases capacity restrictions while still monitoring the spread of the virus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John M. Erickson. “COVID is not over and we all must remain vigilant about protecting our own health, and the health of others. I’m looking forward to safely seeing you — at a distance and with your most fabulous masks on — OUT on Robertson!”
The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m.
OUT on Robertson will embrace, on weekends, what compact OUT Zones throughout the City have been offering for months: a place to enjoy sunny days and balmy nights while maintaining social distance, aligning with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s health and safety protocols, and supporting community businesses.
People exploring West Hollywood’s OUT on Robertson are reminded that the City of West Hollywood has a mandatory face-covering requirement and people are urged to be mindful of maintaining six feet of social distancing for dining, shopping, and personal care under the sun and stars
Plentiful parking is available in the five-story West Hollywood Park structure located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, adjacent to the West Hollywood Library. Additional parking is also available at 650 N. La Peer Drive. For those using rideshare services, the City has established Drop Zones at the corner of Melrose Avenue and N. Robertson Boulevard.
33 Taps Owner Ryan Floyd has Big Plans
33 Taps will now be a part of the official Silverlake gay bar crawl
WEST HOLLYWOOD Ryan Floyd signed the contract for his first restaurant after working for 10 years in LA as a finance guy. He said he hit the decade mark and realized, “I want to do something on my own.” He liked the industry, and knew the business side after working as CFO for a successful restaurant development and management firm. Now, after more than a year in lockdown, he’s got big things planned for his spot 33 Taps, and his next venture, Stache in West Hollywood.
In 2016, Floyd bought a storied beer bar and country diner once known as The Crest on Sunset, making him the third consecutive gay owner of the location. The Crest on Sunset had been running since the late-1980s, with a loyal local clientele – most of the staff was gay, most of the customers were gay. “A friend brought it to me and I thought, this could be a good step for me,” Floyd explained, “I bought the assets and license and rebranded it as 33 Taps.”
33 Taps formally opened in September 2016, and will celebrate its five-year anniversary in the fall. “The first year was really stressful,” Floyd remembers, “we were under capitalized. I lost money for the first six, seven months. It was scary.” The former investment banker had sunk all his own cash into the business, and it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that 33 Taps began to find its footing, and its niche.
Floyd credits his team for the longevity of the spot, and for helping keep the business open during its first year and all the years that followed. Many of the employees had even been at that location before the sale – the general manager at 33 Taps, Peaches, has been working at the address for more than 30 years.
Before the pandemic hit, business was good. “Seventy-five percent of our patrons are local,” Floyd said proudly. “We’ve really established ourselves as a place where people love to watch LA sports — the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Rams. And we also have a huge Drag Race following.” The bar finally returned to its weekly Drag Race viewing parties just in time for the grand finale episode last Friday. According to Floyd, more than a third of the clientele is LGBTQ.
As Los Angeles slowly begins to reopen, and businesses and bars can welcome back customers, 33 Taps is greeting the post-COVID world with some new changes. “During the pandemic I had entered the liquor license lottery.” For businesses hoping for a budget break, the State of California holds a yearly liquor license lottery in which restaurants and bars can try their luck at a discounted license. “The state will issue however many licenses they think the market should absorb. You can buy those licenses for $15,000, which is a full liquor license — a type 47. Whereas on the open market, prices go from $100,000-$120,000.” It was his fourth year entering the lottery, and his first time winning. It took the state months to process the license, but it finally issued 3725 Sunset Blvd. its first-ever liquor license. It’ll be the first time in 40 years that the location will have a full bar.
A numbers man, Floyd explained an added benefit of a liquor license kicking in now. “Beer and spirits go through cycles. Beer had a very long, 10-year run. In 2005, there were 300 breweries in the United States, and now there’s over 5,000.” Floyd recites these statistics with a sportscaster’s excitement, “beer had this huge run, but now spirits have taken the lead again.” With the city’s reopening looking more and more optimistic, and more and more people wanting to celebrate big after a year in their living rooms – the new liquor license could not be better timed. “We want to program our Friday and Saturday nights. We’ve never been open beyond 11 o’clock, now we can stay open until 1 a.m. and actually have a bar crowd.” He’s lining up a slew of parties, bringing some much needed queer nightlife programming to the Silverlake scene.
33 Taps will now be a part of the official Silverlake gay bar crawl, for all those on their way to dance at Akbar or a party at The Eagle. It rounds out the trio, offering its own flare – a modern neighborhood restaurant and sports bar.
Each spot brings something different to the table. Akbar is beloved for its brand of queer punk quirk; the also beloved Eagle offers its loyal leather-clad following the gritty gay bar of years past. 33 Taps is the grad-school jock of the group, a lovable charm and an always here for a good time attitude. Floyd offered the elevator pitch: “You can listen to great music, drink from a full bar and also have some great food.” The 33 Taps food menu has always been one of its strongest assets, offering customers a chef-driven menu of craft burgers and fries. A top-notch bite at a gay bar is hard to come by, and the plates at 33 Taps put most bar menus to shame.
He teased a few details of his highly anticipated new venture: Stache. Coming to West Hollywood this summer, Stache is lucratively situated across the street from Beaches and TomTom, and down the block from Weho heavy-hitters, Rocco’s and The Abbey. “Stache will also be a full restaurant and full bar, with a nightlife component as well,” Floyd shared. While he can’t reveal plans just yet, he promises big monthly parties, disco and drag. The new website, stacheweho.com, describes Stache as, “an all-inclusive social house for every form of self-expression.” The site also attributes the mustache in the name and logo as a symbol of resilience in the gay community, honoring those lost to the AIDS epidemic.
After the closing of so many iconic LA gay bars during the pandemic, Ryan Floyd’s Stache is a welcome addition to the WeHo strip.
Lance Bass set to open WeHo mega nightclub
Rage closed its doors permanently in September of 2020, after a near four decade run
WEST HOLLYWOOD – Former NSYNC boy band member Lance Bass, 41, announced last week his latest venture – opening the biggest gay club in the United States. Bass signed the lease to rent 8911 Santa Monica Blvd, moving in to the space formerly occupied by the 37-year old Rage bar.
Bass’s company has yet to release the name, and no official opening date has been announced, however a minimalist website titled WeHoMegaClub.com promises that the new club will be “the biggest gay nightclub in the USA”.
Bass’s new bar is the most recently announced in an exciting new string of Weho bars. The glittering lineup includes Stache, from the charismatic founder of the Silverlake beer bar 33 Taps, and the rebirth of of Covid-casualty, Gym Bar, which will be neighbors with Bass’s new Mega Club.
The news of Bass’s new venture comes just two years after the launch of Rocco’s Tavern, the successful restaurant and bar he co-owns with three other partners. Complete with a wrap around outdoor patio, enviably large stage and food that’s….passable, Rocco’s opened to instant popularity in May of 2019, and became a go-to watering hole.
Sitting at 8900 Santa Monica Blvd, replacing a dilapidated Bank of America, and breathing new life into one of most lucrative corners of the ‘Boystown’ bar crawl. Roccos’s became known for its buzzing Sunday afternoons, lively drag performances and raunchy go-go dancers.
Recently re-opened after conducting a full scale makeover of their back lot, you can reserves cabanas and tables online for ‘Rocco’s Paradise’ (aka brunch). Since its opening, Rocco’s has operated at maximum capacity, its crowds providing a stark contrast to those across the street. The purchasing of the old Rage bar certainly makes for a convenient commute for Bass. Rocco’s and the now-closed Rage sit across the street from one another, two households both alike in dignity.
Rage closed its doors permanently in September of 2020, after a near four decade run. Opened in 1983 by Robert Maghame and Saeed Sattari, neither LGBT identifying, Rage catered to a wide variety of customers and served as the neighborhood’s only 18+ club. Yet during the pandemic they stated in a press release that they were unable to negotiate a lease renewal.
In an interview with local tabloid the WeHo Times, the longtime general manager at Rage, Ron Madril, said “I knew it was happening with us being closed for so long, not having any income and the rent being very high. The building is owned by West Hollywood’s ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, notoriously unforgiving landlord Monte Overstreet.”
The inflexible Overstreet is the man behind the closing of many of gay LA’s mainstay. In the past year, he has shut down three decade old favorites. In August of 2020, Faming Saddles, the wildly popular cowboy themed dance bar, was the first to close up shop. In the following months
Overstreet closed Gold Coast, a 40 year old classic with a loyal clientele, and Oil Can Harry’s, a 52 year old Studio City institution, were also forced to shut their doors by Overstreet. Each of the bars cited issues with the landlord and pricey rental renegotiations, rumors even floated of Overstreet raising prices during the pandemic.
Yet the closing of Rage surprised little. In the past several years Rage fluctuated in popularity, failing to draw any sort of a crowd most nights. Though they kept a consistent following on some theme nights, Rage mostly sat as if it were a showroom of chairs and tables.
But Rage bar’s 37-year run is nothing to be scoffed at, it was founded when its location’s new owner [Bass] was 4 years old.
After 37 years another WeHo nightclub will ‘Rage’ no more
Third nightlife business casualty with rumors of more to come
WEST HOLLYWOOD – Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic emerged Tuesday as social media and some blogs reported that Rage Nightclub, a beloved institution on the Santa Monica Boulevard strip in West Hollywood, would close permanently after 37 years.
The club was known for its DJ-fueled dance floor and drag shows for the Southland’s 18 and over crowd.
Rage was opened in 1983 by Robert Maghame and Saeed Sattari who were unable to negotiate a new lease with WeHo real estate investor magnate Monte Overstreet. The current lease is set to expire in November.
The closure is yet another in a series for West Hollywood’s LGBTQ business community as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Flaming Saddles, a country-themed bar also on the Santa Monica strip, closed after its owners Jacqui Squatriglia and Chris Barnes were unable to negotiate back unpaid rent and other considerations with Overstreet.
In July, the GYM sports bar also closed its doors.
The financial losses and difficulties came as a result of the impact of restrictions imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, which initially closed bars and all indoor nightspots. The orders were later modified to allow limited reopening with certain restrictions, however most bars have remained closed.
On Facebook, Ron Madril, the former General manager for the Rage nightclub wrote: “My employment since May 1997. It’s almost a lifetime! The good times will always be cherished, as will the staff…past & present! It’s been a journey meeting sooooo many AMAZING people! So many! Thanks for all the memories, friendships and love!”
The folks commenting on the thread that followed Madril’s post universally expressed dismay and sadness over the loss of the beloved nightspot, some commenting that more closures are to come.
West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath told the Los Angeles Blade views protecting legacy business as critical: “It is incredibly upsetting to know that, despite the City’s many efforts to keep our legacy businesses going during COVID-19, there are some landlords who are simply unwilling to do their part in this time of crisis,” she said. “While at least one of these iconic LGBT bars will be able to successfully relocate in West Hollywood’s Rainbow District, it’s going to take a commitment on all sides to keep our hospitality community alive through this global health pandemic, including support from the state of California which has authority over commercial rents.”
Queery: Erick Velasco and Jose Resendez
When Clubs Cobra and Chico Co-Owner, Marty Sokol, conceived the idea of creating a podcast that would be an extension of his clubs and provide a voice for Gay Latinos particularly from neighborhoods that were traditionally underrepresented, it didn’t take long for him to choose who he wanted to lead it. Erick Velasco also known as the Homo Homie from the East Side of LA was the perfect face of the brand and truly represented how Chico in Montebello had come about in the first place.
Velasco, an LA Native and a frequent nightclub attendee realized this would be a great thing for the Gay Latino community as well as the LGBTQ+ Latino community overall. He knew he needed a strong co-host with experience in media and pop culture – enter Jose Resendez, a recent Miami transplant who was no stranger to the world of podcasts, social media and how to get a great interview out of a guest. Where Velasco provided that LA flavor from the community, Resendez brought the business expertise.
The two colleagues kicked off season 1 of the successful podcast in October of 2019 and released new episodes through February up until sheltering in place was put in motion.
From episodes ranging from Gay Dads, Fitness, Entertainment, Politics,Transgender and Undocumented issues to even a JLO themed episode, these co-hosts were able to tap into different slices of the Latino LGBTQ+ community and brought the education, laughter and tears along the way.
But when Covid-19 hit, not even these two heroes of our community were immune. Resendez contracted the virus shortly after they had gone on hiatus. What started off to being a 3- month break turned into a 6 month break. He is now fully recovered and back at work gearing up for the rest of the year.
With a break under their belt and a library of a first season podcast episodes currently available to binge, the duo is now ready to launch season 2 and is looking forward to bringing in new faces from the community from all walks of life to further show our diversity. I caught up with the Homo Homies to get a little more insight of what makes them tick and how their identity and passion truly reflects the Latino LGBTQ+ community – a community that doesn’t just follow trends – they SET them.
Los Angeles Blade // Queery Q&A
The Homo Homie Podcast (@TheHomoHomiePodcast)
Host: Erick Velasco (@TheHomoHomie)
Co-Host: Jose Resendez (@TheJoseResendez)
Who’s your LGBTQ hero?
There’s so many to choose from! But during these revolutionary times for social justice, we would have to say Ashlee Marie Preston — a passionate Black transgender woman who’s making her voice heard & who we really hope to have on The Homo Homie Podcast one day! Ashlee advocates for the LGBTQ+ community by using her platform to bring awareness & believes that we can’t heal what we don’t reveal — such as addressing anti-Blackness within our own queer community.
Who’s Your Latino or Latina Hero?
We have to give it up to mami y papi. As proud Latinos we’re raised to honor our ancestors, elders, & parents! They teach us the importance of family, knowing we can count on them to be there for us. They help us understand you can have a lot with so little. They show us how to earn & give respect. To take pride in our heritage & where we come from, to continue to speak Spanish, to recognize the power in being bilingual. (Erick is Mexican, Jose is Guatemalan & Mexican.) And we can’t forget our modern-day Latinx hero, AOC — we love powerful mujeres that are always reppin’ our barrios!
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
The Homo Homie Podcast’s first season was all recorded at Club Cobra in North Hollywood, so that was our spot! LA has such a diverse offering when it comes to safe queer spaces — we tend to go where everybody treats you like family & where the atmosphere is off the hook. When it’s safe we say to check out Club Chico in East LA & Trunks in WeHo — we know the staff there, they welcome us with open arms, have great music & good a** dranks!
What non-LGBTQ issue are you most passionate about?
Well, we take into consideration many to be honest. We’re passionate about women’s equality, immigration reform, & fighting for the Black community. We stand by the Black Lives Matter movement & will continue to help amplify Black voices on The Homo Homie Podcast as well. We acknowledge that every issue coincides with LGBTQ+ rights, because where one progresses, we all progress.
What historical outcome would you change?
Jose would say the tragic loss of Selena Quintanilla, however we would definitely change the outcome of our last presidential election. We’d take back that day real quick! We highly encourage all of our podcast listeners to help us vote Donald Trump out of the White House this year. Remember to register to vote now & help us make history together!
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment in your opinion?
Probably the JLo & Shakira halftime show at the Super Bowl — we didn’t know it back then but it was pretty much the closing ceremony for the end of the world at this point! But in all seriousness we want to highlight the moment Britney Spears shaved her head, especially now that the #FreeBritney movement has gone mainstream — the light that has been shed on mental health & human legal rights due to her conservatorship is invaluable. Another memorable pop culture moment is when Ricky Martin came out as a proud gay man, that was big for Latinos around the world!
Who in the Media or Journalism field do you admire?
We admire Anderson Cooper. Always has his facts straight (no pun intended), knows how to gauge a conversation, is not afraid to call out a guest & has been a voice of reasoning lately for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Did we mention he’s super sexy with that silver hair? Anderson has been an influential LGBTQ+ staple in our community & has represented us so well in the media industry.
On what do you insist?
Testing! Voting! We insist on many things. Getting tested for HIV/STI & knowing your status is responsible, we insist you reach out to your local resources for help such as the LGBT Center, Reach LA, & Out of The Closet locations. We insist that you do your part in voting & educating yourself on all the candidates — this year is so important for POC. Also, we insist you subscribe to our podcast to learn more about ways to get involved, be active in your community, whether via social media or by physically volunteering, it takes a village!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Erick’s book would be called “A Jack of All Trades & Master of None” because he has so many tricks up his sleeve & is such a curious type of person that loves to continue to always learn in life! Jose’s book would be titled “Amigas y Rivales” after an iconic Mexican soap opera or maybe “Mean Girls” — do we see a pattern here? Feels like our lives are shaped by the people around us, from friends & family to non-supporters alike.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
We’re both big on energy for sure! Erick is more spiritual, believes in the after life, the supernatural, the paranormal & loves watching Ghost Adventures. Jose is more of a science guy, has to see it to believe it! Either way, it’s fascinating to know that we are not the only ones here…right?
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
To stop and really analyze the way they try to get their points across to others. There’s always more than one way & they must take the time & patience to put themselves in that person’s shoes In order for them to understand.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
We both immediately said a million dollars, ha! Erick will walk across hot coals for family, it shows strength & courage for them. Jose says for world peace, period.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Probably when people seem to think all gays went to beauty school in the womb & can do hair/makeup. Gays in media & entertainment are usually portrayed as the hairstylist, the makeup artist, the fashion designer, the flamboyant vanity person, which there’s nothing wrong with being that person, but the reality is that gay men hold it down in boardrooms, sports fields, military, on stage & in classrooms — we’re everywhere!
What’s your favorite LGBTQ+ movie?
For Erick it has to be Quinceanera — watching it was the first time we saw urban gay Latin representation that really hit home with cultural roots; nothing is better than a movie that you can relate too & actually see yourself in. Jose can’t decide between The Bird Cage & Moonlight — both taking place in Miami where he moved to LA from.
Who’s your favorite female pop star?
Right now it has to be Cardi B, okurrrrr! An artist that truly defines making it from the bottom to the top. She’s unapologetically herself no matter what, isn’t afraid to speak her mind, has broken barriers, created chart topping hits, is a proud Afro Latina & is literally bringing back Pu**y Power.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
For some reason this always ties back to money! Learning at a young age what it is to establish credit, how to invest into real-estate, understanding stocks, & probably avoiding student loans if possible. There’s many scholarships out there to help aid in financing your education, especially when it comes to diversity & inclusion.
Why Los Angeles?
LA is a place you can always call home — it’s a place with vast cultural diversity. For Erick, born & raised in LA has shaped him to be the man he is today. After living in Texas & Florida, Jose now calls LA home, a place he hopes to continue establishing himself as an entertainment communications pro in the US Latin market. The Homo Homies hope to run into you all in LA soon!
Flaming Saddles bar becomes the latest casualty on Santa Monica Boulevard
More boarded up storefronts along Santa Monica Boulevard
BREAKING: As the Covid-19 pandemic escalates into a prolonged financial crisis for the world, local businesses in the Los Angeles area are reeling under the burden of public health rules designed to stop its spread.
The latest major closure, Flaming Saddles (8811 Santa Monica Boulevard), falls closely on the heels of the July 5, 2020 closure of Gym Bar (8737 Santa Monica Boulevard).
Without inbound cash-flow, neither bar was able to negotiate continued occupancy of their space with their landlords. The owner of 8811 Santa Monica Boulevard is listed as Monte Overstreet, according to PropertyShark.com.
In an August 16, 2020 post on Facebook, Flaming Saddles management and owners announced that after 5 months of closure it was impossible to keep the doors open:
I hope that this email finds everyone in good health and good spirits.
I am writing today to give an update on Flaming Saddles WeHo…
It has been a very long 5 months, very long indeed.
Through out these months Chris and I have chosen to stay positive. We were watching the science carefully as well as city and state regulations. We wanted to make sure it was as safe as possible before we attempted to re open our doors.
With the heaviest of hearts, We are sad to say that Flaming Saddles WeHo will not be reopening at 8811 Santa Monica Blvd.
I would like to thank you all for your hard work and dedication. We had become a force to be reckoned with in WeHo and I could not be prouder of the brand and all of you.
Covid-19 has reeked havoc globally, and with a better national strategy here in the U.S. perhaps things would of been different. With the rules as they stand today there is no way we could of fulfilled our fiscal obligations that were presented to us at this location.
We however stand proud. We did our best and rose up… spun on poles, swung on ropes , poured great drinks and danced our way to the top. No one did it better… We are proud of all of you, the best managers, bartenders, servers, barracks, security, Dj’S ,dancers and drag queens … We thank you.
Flaming Saddles will march on!!!
We are grateful and we wish you all much success in the future…
Jacqui and Chris”
Kevin Spencer, a former Flaming Saddles bartender who organized WeHo Nights, an online fundraiser for West Hollywood nightlife employees, said Saddles was an integral part of his LA experience, “both behind the bar as an employee and as a regular guest as well.”
“There was nothing like it on the boulevard,” he said. “I’m grateful that Jacqui and Chris were able to bring their unique experience to our community and I’m very sad to hear it was the usual story of landlord greed that got in the way of their ability to weather this crisis.”
A patron, Heyse Aquino’s reaction summed up what many other community members said on Facebook: ” Noooo!! ?? This has broken my heart into a million pieces. Flaming Saddles was the place to go! It was the spot to be at, I remember going in the first time and seeing the amazing dancers on the poles or swinging from one end to the other, the vibe was always positive everyone was always happy and energetic, the bartenders were always on point, and the music was the best! I’m sad and I will miss this place, there will never be another like Flaming Saddles.”
Some blamed West Hollywood for not doing enough to assist businesses and require more tolerance from landlords. Doug Stichler wrote, “The City should be ashamed for not stepping up and helping.”
The City has urged landlords to work with businesses but the eviction moratorium it extended can not be applied to commercial leases.
Flaming Saddles, like many bars and other businesses in West Hollywood, received a Small Business Administration forgivable loan on April 30, 2020, for an amount between $175,000 and $350,000 dollars. The money allowed the bar to cover operations and employee payroll expenses.
But without the ability to operate, except for a brief period of time in June, many businesses like Flaming Saddles that have no additional revenue streams are in dire jeopardy.
Bars that serve food have been able to successfully transform their businesses and survive by operating as sidewalk restaurant.
Other notable businesses that received Small Business Administration loans under the Covid-19 emergency program include Grindr and The Abbey, which each accessed more than $1,000,000 to cover their operations expenses and employee salaries through the end of August.
Rocco’s accessed more than $150,000 in SBA covid relief funding.
Flaming Saddles in NYC, located at 793 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, remains in operation.
Jeff Consoletti honored with inaugural Pat Rocco Award
Honor bestowed by LA Pride and Los Angeles Blade
Last Thursday’ Los Angeles Blade Best of LGBTQ LA event was special for a lot of reasons, but one moment that deserves to be singled out was the presentation of the Blade’s first annual Pat Rocco Award. The inaugural award was presented to Jeff Consoletti.
The award is named for Pat Rocco, a pioneering filmmaker and activist who passed away at 84 in 2018. Besides producing a body of work, ranging from gay erotic short films to documentaries of the early gay rights movement, he was a pioneer in the local LGBTQ community who, among other leadership roles he took on, co-organized the very first LA Pride parade. Los Angeles Blade has designed the honor to recognize an individual who has elevated the community while honoring the history and legacy of West Hollywood and LA Pride. “The most important thing we can do is kick off the run-up to Pride every year by remembering where the event came from and honor those who are carrying its traditions forward,” says Los Angeles Blade Editor Troy Masters.
As the first recipient of the honor, Consoletti was being acknowledged for his game-changing efforts as the producer of LA Pride.
Founder and principal of the events production company JJ|LA, he has worked with LA Pride for 10 years. He told the Blade last year, “In 2010, I approached LA Pride with a suggestion for a contract position to help them with their special events, entertainment booking and sponsorship as they began planning their 40th Anniversary, and they bit.”
The gig was the birth of JJ|LA, and since then he has built a roster of clients, from big brands to nonprofits and across multiple industries, and is known nationally for the events he executes. He now has offices in LA, New York and Boston.
When he first came on board, LA Pride was struggling, suffering from problems with corporate sponsorship engagement, lagging ticket sales and a lackluster entertainment program. Nevertheless, his efforts shone through it all, and when the new LA Pride team of President Estevan Montemayor and Executive Director Madonna Cacciatore took the festival’s reins, Consoletti was there as an indispensable and seasoned hand.
“We revamped the guest experience to create a clean, accessible and inviting event with eye-catching design and decor that got guests excited,” Consoletti told the Blade. “We took a deep dive into the entertainment program, identifying supportive allies and out and proud artists that could help to drive ticket sales and publicity opportunities to the shows. As audiences grew, so did corporate engagement. We looked to on board brands that wanted to showcase their support toward the LGBT community rather than billboarding, by encouraging immersive, guest-facing activations that got consumers excited.”
The result was a 2019 Pride that left a lasting buzz at LGBTQ events throughout Los Angeles and online that it had been perhaps the best ever, and pulled an event that appeared near collapse back from the financial brink to make it one of the world’s most well-financed and successful Pride organizations. It was for his contributions to that remarkable turnaround that Consoletti was being honored Thursday night.
On a deeper level, though, it was also an expression of gratitude – a heartfelt “thank you” from a community that has been raised higher by his work. It was a sense of community that permeated the entire evening, and it seemed to reach its peak when he received the award.
Fittingly, it was Montemayor and Cacciatore who joined Masters for the presentation of the award to Consoletti. The pair were met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd before launching into their introduction.
Montemayor spoke first:
“Madonna and I have been getting a lot of credit the last few years, for the changes that you’ve seen here on the Boulevard, but there has been one person specifically that has been an unsung hero in making West Hollywood and LA Pride such a beacon of hope for so many people, and that’s our friend Jeff Consoletti. Jeff has, for the last ten years, been the foundational change that has made LA Pride such a significant event in LA County and throughout the country.
“Jeff is not just our producer, Jeff is not just our friend – he’s our family. And if you’ve seen the lights out on the Boulevard that the City of West Hollywood copied from Jeff, you can be very proud that this creative mind probably is going to one up everything this year, this June.”
Cacciatore then took the mike, beginning her speech with a joke. “I call Jeff every now and then, I say, ‘Hey Consoletti, it’s Cacciatore,’ and then we say Italian things and then we yell at each other.”
Then she went on:
“He is an amazing human being. I love him because he’s a passionate, incredible man who cares so very much for our community, and for making LA Pride the best it can be. Jeff Consoletti, nobody deserves the Pat Rocco Award but you. You’re getting the very first Pat Rocco Award, named after a man who documented our history and whose work continues to live at One Archives, and in our hearts.”
Then Masters offered some remarks of his own:
“Pat Rocco’s work is all over the place in here [Rocco’s Tavern]. He documented LA Pride in the early days, and he actually ran the organization like Estevan is running the organization now, and helped found this community, and helped found West Hollywood. And what Jeff is doing is elevating everybody, and for that elevation he deserves the connection with Pat Rocco.”
Masters later commented to this reporter, “When I first approached Rocco’s about partnering with us on this event, we had a lot of fun discussing how proud Pat would be to know a bar was coincidentally named after him on this location, a location that has always been the gateway to LA Pride.”
When Consoletti came to the stage he was met with cheering and applause from an audience who knew him as one of their own.
When handed the cup-shaped trophy, he quipped, “Is there a cocktail in this?”
He then gave an acceptance speech:
“Wow, thank you to my dear friends from Christopher Street West and LA Pride, thank you to the LA Blade for recognizing me. It’s not often that work as an event producer, and someone who is behind the scenes, creatively directing things that are happening and hopefully orchestrating them in a really good way, is getting recognized, so I appreciate this. I think what makes it more important for me is that, I’ve lived in this community for a long time, I’ve had a voice behind the scenes for a long time, I’ve really tried hard to make my community proud as I’ve grown as an entrepreneur, I’ve been really fortunate to travel the world and make a lot of change – but to come home and feel that my community is proud of what we are doing right here, is probably the best thing that I can be grateful for. I really look forward to what we get to do in West Hollywood every year – thank you for coming out and supporting LA Pride and being very visible in the community.”
He ended by thanking his new husband, Rob (the couple were married in November), and his team at JJ|LA, joking to the audience that if they ever saw a JJ|LA event, “just tell them you know Jeff, you’ll get in.”
It might have seemed an extravagant promise, but given the overwhelming feeling of camaraderie Consoletti engendered with the rest of the people in Rocco’s Tavern that night, and the lengths to which he strives toward the betterment of his community, it felt like a personal invitation that he had every intention of honoring.
Ring in the New Year with the GlamCocks
For an out-of-this-world experience on New Year’s Eve, queer Angelenos can count on the GlamCocks, who are ready to help us all blast off into 2020 with “Launch Sequins – An Interstellar NYE Bash!”
The GlamCocks are “a group of close friends and family who live all over the world,” according to the group’s Facebook profile, who “come together every year to create a theme camp at Burning Man.” Their camp is renowned as a popular highlight of the annual desert happening, thanks to their stated goal “to create spaces that are welcoming, fun, whimsical, glamorous, transformational, and memorable for all.”
They don’t just do it on “the Playa,” though. The group works year-round to design and construct interactive structures and inclusive experiences that invite participation and self-expresson, dedicated to meeting new people, sharing experiences, and “expanding their roost.”
For New Year’s Eve, they are bringing their special brand of fabulous to the iconic Catch One on Pico, and anyone who has been to one of their events will tell you it will be a party to remember.
The official invite reads:
T-Minus 5….4….3…2…1. Qweenz, Get Ready to Blast-Off!
LA…Earth is SO 2019, so this New Years, get ready to rock out of this world with the hottest party extravaganxa in all of the space-time continuum! We’ve touched down on Earth for one night, with one mission and one mission only: TO PREPARE FOR LAUNCH SEQUINS! And this time, we’re going where no man has gone before: With 3 spaces, 2 Dance Floors, all in 1 amazing venue, we’re going BIGGER, and BETTER than ever!
We’re sliding into your DM’s faster than those aliens sneaking outta Area 51, so pull out your most super(nova) sequin singlets, or paillette party gear, and get ready to dance the house down space boots all the way into 2020! Whether you’re serving something EXTRA (terrestrial that is), or (launch)padded for the GAWDS, it’s going to be the party of the MILLENIUM!
Don’t know what to wear? The GlamCocks suggest you “THINK… SPACE,” and “shine bright in Supernova Sequins” for “Gay Galaxy Realnessss.” They’ve even provided a “Lewk Book” to inspire you as you plan your party drag.
And if you’re worried that you won’t fit in, don’t be. The group’s official philosophy states, “Inclusion and respect are the foundations of who were are as a camp… We strive to create a fun, energetic, body-positive, open-minded, and pro-LGBTQ space for everyone who wants to participate.” In keeping with this, the GlamCocks stress that racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of discrimination will not be tolerated. All restrooms are gender inclusive, and everyone is free to use the restroom that best fits their gender identity or expression.
The party starts on Tuesday December 31 at 10pm and scheduled to continue until 5am on New Year’s Day, at Catch One, 4067 W. Pico Blvd. Tickets are still available and can be purchased through Eventbrite.
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