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WeHo kicks off annual One City One Pride- and honors Lady Gaga

The 2021 theme for One City One Pride is For the Record – LGBTQ stories of the past that have often been hidden or undocumented

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'Born This Way' street art in front of the Abbey on Robertson Blvd. (Photo credit: Hans Beimler)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Each year the City of West Hollywood celebrates Pride with its One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, which runs from Harvey Milk Day (May 22) through the end of June Pride month.

The City of West Hollywood’s Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath officially declared May 23 as “Born This Way Day” in honor of the album of the same name by Lady Gaga in a small ceremony in front of The Abbey Sunday, also kicking off the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.

To commemorate and recognize its cultural impact, the City of West Hollywood is celebrating with a street painting on Robertson Blvd dedicated to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year. The album shattered records around the world in sales and streaming and has had significant cultural impact as a quasi-anthem for LGBTQ people around the globe.

A crowd had gathered in front of the Abbey to witness Mayor Horvath, other city officials, and the owner of the Abbey, David Cooley greet Lady Gaga as she looked over the street painting. Mayor Horvath also presented a Key to the City to Lady Gaga Sunday with a note of thanks: “Thank you for encouraging us to love ourselves and be proud!

Photograph: Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath hugging Lady Gaga as the Abbey owner David Cooley looks on in the background. (Photo courtesy of Mayor Horvath)

When it was originally released in 2011, Born This Way shattered records around the world. To date, the album has more than 5.8 billion global streams, 5.2 million physical albums sold, and 31 million digital tracks sold. Born This Way was Lady Gaga’s first #1 album and it debuted at #1 in 25 countries. It was named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and is Certified 4X Platinum in the U.S.

Concurrent with the unveiling of the colorful street painting is the kickoff of Pride season in West Hollywood with the annual One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. The 2021 theme for One City One Pride is For the Record – LGBTQ stories of the past that have often been hidden or undocumented. One must read between the lines to find stories hidden behind “beard” marriages, coded language, and erased or destroyed evidence. This year, One City One Pride looks at some of these previously hidden stories.

In order to prioritize health and well-being, One City One Pride 2021 is taking place virtually/in a socially distant manner for 2021.

A partial list of some of the upcoming events and programs for the 2021 One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival includes;

Love Note

Sat, May 22, 20215:30 PM  Wed, Jun 30, 202110:30 PM, presented by Rogue Artists Ensemble.

Free. No RSVP Needed. Experience online or as a self-guided experience at Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard West Hollywood, CA 90046

Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Love Note is a free, interactive, solo audio expedition of your heart, taking place in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, where audience members can activate sonic narrative experiences at eight unique stops throughout the park. Using only your cell phone and headphones, you’ll discover and listen to stories about romance, compassion, and connection, leading to a secret phone line, where you are invited to share your own love story that will become part of the project’s archive.  The community-contributed stories recorded during the run will be then woven back into the experience to create an ever-evolving tapestry of voices calling out for love and belonging.

Love Note is a collaborative creation exploring the transcendence of love beyond identity, boundaries, and definitions. Significant contributions and performances are contributed by members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Meringue

Sat, May 22, 2021 6:30 PM  till Thu, Jun 30, 2021 7:30 PM

Outdoor exhibition on traffic median at Santa Monica Blvd. and Doheny Drive

Meringue is a temporary public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck. Meringue’s sensual curves invite touch, and the artist intends it to feel like a portal to travel without moving—that you travel when you come in contact with it, not physically, but in the imagination. The translucency of Meringue lets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. The exhibition will be lit up in rainbow colors for the duration of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.

Pride Publics: Words and Actions

Fri, Jun 4, 20216:00 AM  till Wed, Jun 30, 202111:59 PM

Presented by ONE Archives Foundation

Outdoor temporary art exhibition on the construction fence at 687 Robertson Boulevard and other sites in the Los Angeles region.

ONE Archives Foundation presents “Pride Publics: Words and Actions,” a multi-site outdoor exhibition that examines the intersection between pride and publicness and examines themes central to queer public life while highlighting trailblazers and their visions. With free and accessible outdoor installations plus a digital guide, this exhibition aims to give visibility to LGBTQ life in the public through the lens of history, community, and activism.

This exhibition is curated by Rubén Esparza, a multidisciplinary artist, activist, and independent curator based in Los Angeles. Installations will be on view for the months of June (West Hollywood) and October (Los Angeles County) in 2021. 

“Pride Publics: Words and Actions” provokes questions central to queer public life: Who have been the LGBTQ movement leaders and trailblazers? What have they said? What have they done to advance the wellbeing of LGBTQ community? What key moments of change that have contributed to the public health, safety, education, rights, identity, and social belonging of queer life.

This exhibition is organized by ONE Archives Foundation. This program is supported by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division as part of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.

You can view all 2021 events as a list here. Follow at www.facebook.com/wehopride or www.instagram.com/wehoarts to stay up to date.

One City One Pride is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division. If you have additional questions about One City One Pride please email Mike Che, One City One Pride coordinator/City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator at [email protected]

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West Hollywood

One City One Pride, LGBTQ Arts Festival Continues through June 30

All festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City’s efforts to prioritize health & public safety

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OUT on Robertson painting honoring Lady Gaga's Born This Way Album 10th anniversary (Photo Credit: City of West Hollywood)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The 2021 theme for One City One Pride is ‘For the Record LGBTQ Stories’ of the past that have often been hidden or undocumented. One must read between the lines to find stories hidden behind “beard” marriages, coded language, and erased or destroyed evidence. This year, One City One Pride looks at some of these previously hidden stories.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, all festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City of West Hollywood’s efforts to prioritize health and public safety. A select few programs can also be experienced as self-guided solo walking tours or outdoor exhibitions.

More detailed information about the following City of West Hollywood One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival events is available at www.weho.org/pride.

Forthcoming events of the 40-day festival include:

  • Pride Poets Poetry Hotline presented by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace & the Pride Poets from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, June 11, 2021 to Sunday, June 13, 2021. Free. Call in to get a custom poem for you or a loved one based on the topic of your choice, written by one of the team of LGBTQ+ Pride Poets standing by at the remote Poetry Hotline from June 11-13, marathon-style from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. Poems will be written on-the-spot and callers can choose to have copies of the poems emailed or mailed to them. Poetry hotline: call (202) 998-3510 to speak to a poet.
  • LGBTQ History in Comics — A virtual panel with readings from creators presented by Prism Comics. Launches Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 6 p.m. Free. View the panel at: http://www.youtube.com/wehoarts and www.prismcomics.org. Join Prism Comics, moderator Justin Hall (No Straight Lines; Associate Professor of Comics, California College of The Arts) and a diverse, talented group of creators as they explore our queer past through comics. The panel and readings will remain online for viewing after the premiere date. More information is available at www.prismcomics.org.
  • Secret Lives, stories, music, and original writings by LGBTQ seniors watch party presented by NewStages, a program of Oasis Theater Company at 7 p.m. on the first four Tuesdays in June. Free. RSVP by calling (323) 860-5830 or by email at [email protected]Secret Lives will explore the stories of remarkable seniors as well as many historical figures who had to keep secrets to maintain their careers, their families, and their place in society. Archived events available at www.weho.org/pride.
  • WeHo Reads: Legacy and Lineage and the Lost Generation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Free. RSVP to get a reminder: https://wehoreadsrajivjubidare2021.eventbrite.com. As part of the City’s WeHo Reads series and One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, poets read and discuss works by mentors they’ve never met alongside their own work. Streaming at www.weho.org/wehoreads.
  • Shaped By Sylvester: Tiki Spills the Tea podcast organized by Steven Reigns. Free stream at https://www.stevenreigns.com/appearances from Wednesday, June 23, 2021 to Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Listen to tales of growing up black and trans in 1960s LA with a good friend that soon became a disco superstar.
  • West Hollywood Pride Play Reading Festival presented by The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021, and Sunday,  June 27, 2021. Free. https://www.facebook.com/groups/laplaywrights. The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP) annual West Hollywood ALAP Pride Reading Festival features staged readings of six one-act plays on Saturday, June 26, 2021 and one featured full length play on Sunday, June 27, 2021.
  • QueerWise presents Queer/Women+ Discussion at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Free. Join the woman-identified people of Queerwise for an exploration of gender where it gets tricky – where gender touches race and class and desire. Livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/queer.wise.
  • Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour — A collection of short films to be released on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 9 a.m. Free. Originally written by acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons and produced/directed by Jason Jenn, the tour first dazzled audiences in 2015 as part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation in November 1984. The project is both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person performance event. For 2021, the tour is being recorded as a collection of short films hosted indefinitely in the City of West Hollywood’s WeHoArts YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/wehoarts.

Additionally, these programs are available to view through June 30, 2021:

  • Dear Harvey: Stories of Harvey Milk byPatricia Loughrey. Extensively researched and beautifully constructed, this documentary-style ensemble play recounts the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best … the real-world figures whose lives were forever altered by Milk’s too-short career. This performance will be available to watch for the duration of One City One Pride through June 30, 2021 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShX27kXqwBg and there is a special welcome from Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk.
  • John Elgin Woolf: Master of the Hollywood Regency (Trail and Short Film) presented by Friends of Residential Treasures: LA. Free. Experience online or as a self-guided walking tour. Take this self-guided architectural trail curated by filmmaker and journalist Matt Tyrnauer, or watch a short film exploring the interior of the Seiter House — an important early work that John Elgin Woolf designed for himself and his same-sex partner.
  • Love Note presented by Rogue Artists Ensemble. Free. No RSVP Needed. Experience online or as a self-guided experience at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Love Note is a free, interactive, solo audio expedition of your heart, taking place in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, where audience members can activate sonic narrative experiences at eight unique stops throughout the park. Using only a cell phone and headphones, participants will discover and listen to stories about romance, compassion, and connection, leading to a secret phone line, where participants are invited to share their own love story that will become part of the project’s archive. The community-contributed stories recorded during the run will be then woven back into the experience to create an ever-evolving tapestry of voices calling out for love and belonging. This experience is free and open to the public during park operating hours. The experience contains some mature themes and is not recommended for children. A travel map is available for download at the Rogue Artists Ensemble website for audience members to use for their story expedition in the park. Can’t make it to Plummer Park? Visit the Rogue Artists Ensemble website at www.rogueartists.org/lovenote to create your own experience from the comfort of your home.
  • Meringue, a public art exhibition. Free. Outdoor exhibition on traffic median at Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Doheny Drive. Meringue is a temporary public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck. The translucency of Meringue lets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. The exhibition will be lit up in rainbow colors for the duration of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series presents: Breaking Fast. Free.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speaker Series and One City One Pride LBGTQ Arts Festival present Breaking Fast: Exploring the Intersection of Faith and Sexual Identity, an open panel discussion of the feature film, Breaking Fast, and its themes related to navigating the difficult conversations and real-life impacts of faith, sexual identity, and community. Archived event video available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmSvpTBPzkI.

  • Walking Amongst the Rubble: Undocuqueer Pride Queer Poetry Reading Series presented by Influx Collectiv. Free. More information and the online podcast is available at https://www.influxcollectiv.org/podcast.
  • Pride Publics: Words and Actions presented by ONE Archives Foundation. Free. ONE Archives Foundation presents “Pride Publics: Words and Actions,” a multi-site outdoor exhibition that examines the intersection between pride and publicness and examines themes central to queer public life while highlighting trailblazers and their visions. With free and accessible outdoor installations plus a digital guide, this exhibition aims to give visibility to LGBTQ life in the public through the lens of history, community, and activism. More information is available at https://www.onearchives.org/pridepublics. This exhibition is organized by ONE Archives Foundation.
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West Hollywood

Gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker dies at 65

The 65 year old West Hollywood resident had built his company and reputation on hosting large scale parties in exotic places

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Jeffrey Sanker, owner of the Los Angeles based White Party Entertainment (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Sanker dot com)

LOS ANGELES – Gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker, owner of the Los Angeles based White Party Entertainment company, died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital with family members in attendance after a long battle with liver cancer.

The 65 year old West Hollywood resident had built his company and reputation on hosting large scale parties in exotic places, including Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco, Mexico, Las Vegas, Nevada and Miami, Florida although his trademark extravaganza, White Party Palm Springs, had evolved into the nation’s largest gay dance music festival, attracting more than 30,000 attendees from every corner of the globe. 

As word of his death spread on social media late Friday, tributes to Sanker flowed in. In a text to the Blade, former West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran noted, “Jeffrey was a long time friend. He was an iconic figure in gay history with his creation of the White Party. For many gay men, he created a space for them to find their tribe and sexuality. While he had his critics – he loved his gay community and left a lasting mark.  So many of us found a place to belong because of his vision“

LGBTQ political activist James Duke-Mason told the Blade, “I heard [about Sanker]. Horrible news. Some of the best times of my life at White Party. Jeffrey was a great friend to me and to the community. Devastating loss.”

Sanker moved to Los Angeles in 1987.  His innovative technique of using landmark venues for trend-setting themed events was credited for breathing new life into the Los Angeles gay entertainment night scene.

In addition to hosting superstar entertainment events, which included Lady Gaga, and other celebrities over the years, Sanker is credited with launching the careers of many new up and coming performers.

According to his biography, Sanker’s events featured high caliber DJs/producers, including: Dave Aude, the late Peter Rauhofer, Junior Vasquez, Victor Calderone, Freemasons, Manny Lehman, Rosabel and Tony Moran.

Sanker also staged and produced fundraising events on behalf of numerous charities and community organizations, including Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH), The Trevor Project, and Desert AIDS Project.

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West Hollywood

On a wing and a prayer, a WeHo landmark survives

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WEST HOLLYWOOD – The Abbey is one of the most well-known gay bars in the world, its fame and endurance owes everything to the business savvy and ambition of its founder, David Cooley. The nearly 30-year old Weho institution began as a cake shop and cappuccino bar in 1991. After withstanding the brutality of the AIDs epidemic and the instability of the 2008 recession, the economic impact of the Covid crisis almost shut down the LA landmark for good.

Its owner, David Cooley, sat down with the Blade reflecting on the difficulty of the past year and the excitement of the years to come. 

Once upon a time in the 90’s, Cooley was working at Wells Fargo when one of his clients came in and told Cooley about how he had started a coffee shop. “I studied his business and thought, ‘I can do the same’” Cooley said. He bought a small dry cleaning joint, appropriately  called Pride Dry Cleaners, starting off with an espresso machine and a few cakes.

He stayed there for three years, establishing his presence in the neighborhood and becoming friends with the surrounding businesses. It was then that the landlord across the street, a friend and fellow gay man, asked if Cooley would like more space to expand his coffee shop. The new building is what is known today to be The Abbey.

Over the years, Cooley’s new coffee shop added beer and wine, then a full bar, and then a dance floor – constantly evolving, growing and improving. Like a game of Monopoly, Cooley steadily bought more and more square footage, and then finally bought the real estate. In 2017, he added the very popular sidebar, The Chapel as an expansion of The Abbey. Now in 2021, he oversees The Abbey, The Chapel, The Abbey Within (a chic new sidebar, with an intimate feel) and Out on Robertson – his latest venture with the City of West Hollywood. 

The Abbey (Blade file photo by Noah Christiansen)

Out on Robertson transformed a block of Robertson Boulevard into a pedestrian zone, giving the surrounding businesses a boost. The block between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue will be closed to cars each weekend. It’s been a big success for The Abbey and many of the neighboring spots, with long lines in front of every business.

Cooley was instrumental in making the new project happen. “I waited 6 hours at the City Council meeting to give my support for Out on Robertson” he said. Robertson is one of several West Hollywood street blocks under construction right now, with a new park opening up in September. 

One of Cooley’s reasons for launching Out on Robertson was “to beautify the neighborhood. I’m staring at construction, I’m staring at boarded up buildings and nothing is going on,” he said. Cooley told the Blade he had considered semi-retirement before the joint project, but the possibilities brought on from Out on Robertson re-sparked his appetite. 

The Abbey is an institution, in many ways it’s a small city. Pre-Covid, with dancers and security, there’d be well over 300 employees on any given weekend night. These days, not including dancers or live performers – who were only recently allowed outside – there are at least 180 people on the payroll.

He credited his staff as the reason for The Abbey’s success, and its strength during these difficult months. “We run our business as a family business,” Cooley explained, “my average staff person has been here for almost 20 years. It’s difficult to know your employees are not working since so many rely on their tips. It’s challenging not having the unknown known.”

The past fifteen months have kept Cooley and his employees on their toes, they’ve opened and closed four times, sometimes with only a few hours of notice. “Twice I didn’t think The Abbey would make it. I didn’t think we would make our 30th anniversary, and that hurt me a lot,” he reflected.

Thanks to the astounding strides The Biden Administration has made in issuing vaccinations, Cooley and some of the other WeHo businesses are at long last allowed to breathe a bit easier.

Like many others in West Hollywood, Cooley optimistically listed the exciting new developments around town. “It shows life,” Cooley said, “people are so excited to get back on the dance floor.”  Updates arrive almost every hour from go-to gay bars such as Motherlode, Trunks and Revolver, to new spots on the strip like Stache or Lance Bass’ untitled mega club.

Cooley’s thoughts on Lance Bass, and Bass’s own game of Monopoly? “I’m proud of him. And I’m happy to see signs say ‘leased’ not ‘for lease’.” By the fall, perhaps The Abbey will be able to return to once again throwing some of the most lavish parties in West Hollywood. 

(Photo courtesy of David Cooley)

The Abbey celebrates its 30th Birthday this September, it’ll be a party to remember.

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