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A well-traveled friend of mine once remarked, “Truly great cities don’t have to constantly tell you how great they are.” That observation comes to mind when I think about Los Angeles, the city I’ve called home for the last 29 years. L.A. is fine if you show up thinking we’re all about shallowness and smog and silicone because then we get to blow you away with our ever-evolving array of sights, smells, tastes, sounds and yes, guy candy.
The times I most often find myself thinking, ‘This could only happen in LA,’ are the special film screenings that happen all year-round all over town. I’ve seen Flashdance in the company of Jennifer Beals; Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta; Singing in the Rain with Debbie Reynolds; and earlier this year, Showgirls with Nomi Malone herself. That’s right, kids; freaking Elizabeth Berkley was in the house — well, the cemetery — and touchingly thanked the gay community for embracing the movie when the rest of the world turned against it. What a moment! It was like my Stonewall.
Hotel: The Redbury
Conveniently located near the Pantages Theater and the Red Line subway, this 57-room, Boho-styled boutique hotel houses my favorite restaurant in the city, the Middle-Eastern shared-plate paradise Cleo (order the brussels sprouts and thank me later). The Redbury also happens to be where they shot several scenes for the award-winning 2012 gay film “I Do.”
Though this intimate charmer is right in the heart of West Hollywood, it’s rarely crowded, the food is delicious (I alternate between the salmon scramble and the breakfast quesadilla) and the star-spotting ain’t bad either. There are only like 10 tables in the whole place, and there’s usually a famous face like Drew Barrymore, Jason Gould or Greg Berlanti at one of them.
Outdoors: Runyon Canyon
For a challenging hike and breathtaking photo ops of the Hollywood sign, downtown and on a clear day, the ocean, it’s hard to beat Runyon Canyon. It’s right in the middle of the city but you feel like you’re in the boonies and the shirtless hottie parade will have you repeatedly asking the time-honored L.A. question, ‘Is that dude a gay guy, soap star or both?’
Cocktails: Casita Del Campo
Delicious Mexican food, strong drinks and a sexy Silver Lake crowd make Casita Del Campo my pick for the spot tourists don’t know and locals love. After dinner, venture downstairs to the Cavern Club Theater, where irreverent gay favorites like Jackie Beat, Nadya Ginsburg, the Nellie Olesons and Chico’s Angels have been delighting crowds since the ‘90s.
For me, this deejay-accompanied, hip-hop workout is a cross between a dance party and church because I always leave sweaty, spent and totally uplifted. Whether you’re an experienced dancer or a beginner, you’ll feel right at home thanks to the no-attitude crowd and infectious spirit of GROOV3 founder Benjamin Allen whose motto is Dance Sweat Live.
Hidden gem: NOHO Arts District
I’m thrilled to report that North Hollywood, my neighborhood since 1989, has gone from ‘How can you live there?’ to ‘How fabulous!’ in the last few years. Casual coffee hangouts like Tea Pop and the Republic of Pie have popped up alongside hip eateries like the barrel-shaped Idle Hour, which was restored to its 1940’s splendor earlier this year after decades of disrepair and endangerment.