Goodbye To The Spotlight Bar: Reminiscing About "The Last Gay Bar on Earth"

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Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 9:34 AM
click to enlarge Peter Palladino's famous picture of The Spotlight - PETER PALLADINO
  • Peter Palladino
  • Peter Palladino's famous picture of The Spotlight

It's been a couple of weeks since Hollywood's oldest gay bar, the Spotlight, closed its doors for good. Having done the Cahuenga shuffle a couple of times since then (including on our way to Freak City), we must say that the street feels different.

Many considered The Spotlight "Cahuenga's ugly sore thumb," as we noted in our book Los Angeles' Best Dive Bars. But for others, it was a boozy beacon to individuality on the nightlife scene.

Rumors of the bar's imminent demise circulated for years, but it finally happened on Monday, September 5. There was weekend of wild goodbye parties beforehand, including the birthday bash for former club promoter Jeffrey Hilbert, who is currently working on a documentary about the place, tentatively titled The Last Gay Bar on Earth.

"I started doing research on the Cahuenga corridor gay bars of yesteryear last summer," Hilbert tells us. "Using The Spotlight as a jumping off point, I want to show how gentrification and queer homogenization are killing off the last of the gay bars, [which are] longtime refuges for outsiders."

Owner Don Samuels, who could usually be found sitting on a stool at the "delightfully crummy place" (as it said on his business card), had vowed to never vacate, but according to an employee the building's owner tripled the rent. Hilbert says Samuels is seeking a new venue for the bar, and hopefully it will find a new home. Still, there was something about the dichotomy of its trendy locale that made it special. While velvet ropes, glitzy clubwear and lots of cruising make the Cahuenga corridor a self-conscious clusterfuck, at The Spotlight the vibe was slower. Maybe it was sleazier, but it was welcoming to all.

click to enlarge Goodbyes and well wishes...
  • Goodbyes and well wishes...

"Everyone was always so nice there," says Ginger Coyote, singer for punk band White Trash Debutantes. "People would say mean things about it, but most of them never even went inside."

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