Best Of :: Hollywood/East Hollywood
Best Weirdo Glam Store: Glitter Death
If you'd rather get mauled by wolves than go into an actual mall, Glitter Death is a unique alternative, a badass buyer's and browser's paradise hearkening back to the trash-tastic early days of Hollywood. Owner Rio Warner might be a stylist to the stars (Ariana Grande and Rihanna are among her clients) but her store caters to anything but mainstream pop style-mongers. Selling groovy vintage clothing and freaky fashion plus custom work for nine years now, she devotes a lot of space to alternative designers (Nikki Lipstick, Indyanna, Laser Kitten) and crazy accessories (giant pentagram earrings, hologram chokers, lip-shaped sunglasses, unicorn cellphone cases ... you know, the essentials). An impressive vinyl and retro rock tee selection, plus tons of art and ephemera ('90s Furby dolls, campy old signage), adds to Glitter Death's eye candy and must-have-it appeal. Collectors, young punks, glam-rats and normies looking for to explore their weirdo wild side will all find something to die (and sparkle) for here.
While the folks at Hollywood Forever are no strangers to promotion, with their popular outdoor movie screenings on the Fairbanks Lawn, the Masonic Lodge, a darkly ornate Spanish Baroque former Freemasons' meeting place just a gravestone's throw from the crypts of the famous, is now one of the most talked-about concert and cultural venues in town. In recent years it has hosted appearances by everyone from Dawes and Depeche Mode to Joyce Carol Oates and Roxane Gay (the lodge also hosts literary salons, in partnership with PEN Center USA). With its lugubrious trappings, it's a kind of Transylvanian Troubadour. Other recent performances have included Hurray for the Riff Raff, Ty Segall and Bad Religion's Greg Graffin. Lately more and more Southland concertgoers have awakened to this hip space, which may also have awakened the nearby dead.
When the Houston Brothers closed down their restaurant/bar Butchers & Barbers last year to reinvent the space, it was safe to assume they would launch another themed bar — that's what twins Mark and Jonnie are good at, after all. Good Times at Davey Wayne's, Breakroom 86 and No Vacancy each have their shtick, and Black Rabbit Rose does, too: the whimsical world of old-school magic. Just inside its doors, a dimly lit, wood-paneled bar greets you with velvet booths and leather stools. Murals of magicians like Chung Ling Soo adorn the exposed brick walls as you munch on Chinese and Thai small plates (from next-door takeout window Crying Tiger) and sip craft cocktails. There's even a Zoltar fortune-telling machine in the lobby. But this is not just another "themed" bar. The other half of the building is the Black Rabbit Rose Theater, a small, speakeasy-esque showroom that runs a top-notch variety program showcasing burlesque, comedy and sleight-of-hand magic that will blow even the biggest skeptic's mind. Think of it as an intimate Magic Castle, one you don't need a membership to attend.
A red-tiled, flashing vestige of Hollywood's seedier, stickier past, the Tiki Theatre is the best porn theater in L.A. by default. Alas, it is the last of a dying breed to exist within the city limits. Wedged between the darkened windows of a holistic health botanica and a 99-cent discount store, it is open 24 hours. For a $14 fee handed to the peevish cashier behind the bulletproof glass, you too can push through the turnstile and take a padded seat among the silent, silhouetted heads in a darkened theater. Admission pays for a four-hour stay, and judging by the smattering of theatergoers dozing in unseasonably warm flannel shirts — unroused by the muted chorus of grunts and groans from a speaker mounted on the wall — the Tiki could double as the city's best deal on a four-hour nap. Misspelled house rules prohibit drinking, smoking and unzipping. The XXX on offer here is a simultaneous double feature: one film projects on a drop-down screen, a second flashes on a TV in the corner, like keeping two tabs open on the browser. A furtive third drama plays out in the exits and entrances of the audience.
Gold Diggers was transformed from creepy strip club to cool scenester hub earlier this year, but its owners have been relatively low-key about the takeover until recently, letting the space find its groove organically. Melanie Tusquellas (of the now-shuttered El Chavo) and Dave Neupert (Short Stop, La Cita, Footsies) have turned the once dingy and sad dive bar into a gilded grotto that spotlights the space's original allure; they stripped the walls inside to reveal gorgeous flocked wallpaper from decades ago. There's more to come at the legendary space, which once was home to Plan 9 From Outer Space filmmaker Ed Wood's studio, as its stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard evolves, possibly including recording studios and a hotel. The stripper pole may be gone but Gold Diggers still offers a unique mix of sexy, sketchy neighborhood ambiance enhanced by stiff drinks and hot DJs spinning everything from metal (every other Saturday) to international funk and disco (Fridays).
In July 2016, the Pack Theater opened on Santa Monica Boulevard with a seven-hour improv comedy marathon called Pack Con. It was the comedy school-slash-theater's big debut and it certainly was big, featuring legends like Bob Odenkirk and Adam McKay. Founder Miles Stroth, who studied under improv king Del Close, set out to open a theater that's set apart from iO, Second City and UCB by the specific lessons taught to students. Last year he said, "The [Pack's] underlying philosophy is that comedy should be constantly evolving. ... Take risks, be bold, be weird, be you and, whatever you do, don't be boring." From a patron's perspective, the theater has succeeded, with its schedule jam-packed with weekly improv showdowns and quirky monthly fare like Bill & Ted's Excellent History Report. The pay-what-you-can price structure is pretty bitchin', too.
Despite the fact that Hollywood Boulevard is a place where many people find themselves stumbling around drunk late at night, until now we would have been hard-pressed to heartily recommend late-night food to help with that drunkenness. But all of that changed earlier this year when Crying Tiger opened a takeout window on the side of Black Rabbit Rose, the new nightclub from the Houston Brothers. Crying Tiger is operated by the same folks who own Luv2Eat Thai, one of Thai Town's best restaurants, and they bring the same level of heat and funk to the food here. For $9, you can get an order of drunken noodles that are exactly the sticky/sweet/spicy thing you need at 1 a.m. after a few too many Manhattans at Musso & Frank. Dumplings, fried rice and papaya salad are all excellent, cheap and fun to eat while standing on the sidewalk among your fellow revelers. If more of Hollywood was like this, we'd drink there far more often.
Runner-up: Harvard & Stone
Runner-up: Arclight Hollywood
Runner-up: The Teragram Ballroom
Runner-up: ETA Highland Park
Runer-up: Casa Bianca
Runner-up: Culver City Municipal Plunge
Runner-up: As the Record Turns
Runner-up: Santa Monica Rep