Gay nightlife in Los Angeles might seem like it's separated into two distinct camps — WeHo on one side and Silver Lake on the other — but the truth is, plenty of queer and queer-loving crowds hit both, thanks to promoters offering parties on both sides of town.
Cliches about the Westside being superficial and too twinky/queeny, or the East being all inked-up bear types, might be valid some nights, but there's so much going on these days, and so much cross-pollination of preferences, that the generalities don't hold up so much anymore. There are tons of fun, gay, bi, polysexual parties that happen all over town (Mr. Black and Tigerheat in Hollywood, A Club Called Rhonda and Mustache Mondays downtown). There ain't much difference between a gay “bar” and gay “club” in Los Angeles. After all, dancing, drinking and cruising goes down at both, so the following venue list includes a mixture, though super-big clubs were left out.
And speaking of mixtures, all of the following — especially the establishments near the top of the list — are homo hubs that also happen to be fairly straight-friendly, on most nights. Indeed, inside these lively L.A. hangouts, “gay” usually does mean happy.
10. The Faultline
Hairy is hot and big is best at the Faultline, but despite these preferences, the guys here don't really discriminate. The self-proclaimed “leather bar” offers parties with name likes “D.I.L.F.” (Dads I'd Like to F***), Ruff Haus and Big Bad Wolf, to name a few. Mario Diaz (a name that will appear on this list a few times) hosts a bodacious buff-boy bash called Brutus and Sundays serve up the bar's infamous, ball-buster beer busts.
9. The Oxwood Inn
Off the beaten path in Van Nuys, the Oxwood Inn is an old lesbian bar with an unpretentious energy and almost surreal quality that's worth checking out. Transgendered gals have taken to the seasoned spot in recent years, as have mostly butch, older gals on weeknights, which are generally pretty slow. Weekends you'll find a more vivacious vibe, with a sprinkling of vampy valley girls — well, ladies — who actually know what Sephora is. “Ladies Night” Fridays see dancing and attempts at romancing by a very motley mix, all heightened by cheap drinks and backdropped by cheap decor.
8. Three-way tie: The Abbey, Rage, Micky's
These three are markedly different in decor, but they all sort of epitomize the madness and mojo of WeHo, for better or worse: attractive patrons, drag-queen shows, snazzy cocktails and vivacious atmospheres. The Abbey has great food and a fun outdoor patio. Rage and Micky's both host highly entertaining drag shows starring former RuPaul's Drag Race contestants. But these days, many gays are seeking alternatives to the blaring Britney Spears remixes, cute and cliquey boy-toy crews and DayGlo cocktails, which are also a big part of the scene at these spots.
7. Mother Lode
Mother Lode is a great example of a more laid-back West Hollywood spot. The warmly lit place has a Cheers-y feel: relaxed yet lively, friendly and unpretentious but not divey, with brass touches throughout. The cute bartenders will often strike up a conversation if you're open, though when it gets louder later that can be more difficult. The soundtrack is usually just the kind of music you want to hear while imbibing (a mix of pop and rock, mostly) and since the crowd is generally there for that purpose, even the karaoke nights are fun to groove to. Vocal ability may be another matter, but few are self-absorbed enough to care.
6. The Palms
Known for its popular dyke-dance gatherings, The Palms has been a female favorite for more than 40 years. Girls' girls of all sorts congregate here: biker babes, power-suit sistas, model-ish beauties, tatted riot girls, even celebs (Ellen D. and Melissa E. have been known to pop in). The diversity of patrons and potent female energy in the place makes for a less pick-upy vibe than you might expect from West Hollywood's best known lesbian spot. Still, those who go the Palms intent on finding lady love usually have a good shot … if only for the evening.
5. The Roosterfish
Providing a place for the homosexual community who live beachside for 32 years now, Roosterfish is mostly a locals spot, but all are welcome. Though the two original owners have passed on, the bar lives on via their friends who now run it. Decent greasy grub, DJs and a mix of surfer boys and older gents who like them frequent the amiable dive-ish space nightly. The moniker may imply a double entendre but the place was, in fact, named after a species of game fish the first owners encountered on their many boating trips to Mexico.
4. The Gold Coast
Gold Coast's somewhat run-down, old (wo)man-ish interior provides a stark contrast to Santa Monica Boulevard's more bodacious hot spots, and that's what people love about it. It's a dive-y diamond amidst a slew of flashy rhinestoned ragers. The drinks are cheap, the crowd is a mix of casual, young and old gays and random transsexuals, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Like any good dive bar, the potential for bizarre encounters with local characters is fairly high here, but that's what make the place nightlife gold.
Entering MJ's, formerly Woody's on Hyperion, is an extra-sensory experience. Though it's on the small side, the place packs in a lot of exciting elements: dance floor, inviting bar, go-go platforms, video screens (usually playing porn) and flashy lighting. Being in Silver Lake, the crowd is fairly fashionable. Club nights such as Tuesday's Rim Job and Fresh Meat Fridays have been attracting long lines outside for years and newer parties — a “tranny” event on Mondays and a performance art-driven shindig on Wednesdays called Whore — keep MJ's busier than the Trader Joe's parking lot next door.
The fact that “Fubar” stands for “F'ed up beyond all recognition” is fitting, because this little WeHo bar is definitely a den of debauchery and liquor-infused revelry most nights. The pumpin' dance place meshes the audaciousness of other locales along Santa Monica Boulevard with a more creative, almost punk-rock sensibility, as seen in Silver Lake and haps in Downtown. Gay party names aren't known for subtlety and Fu's fetes are no exception: Fingerbang on Wednesdays, Mario Diaz's Big Fat Dick on Thursdays and Friday's Dance Bitch! are as immodest as their names imply. Bottom line (no pun intended), though, the parties and people at Fu are always fu-n.
Akbar continues to top gay and straight bar-hoppers' lists nearly 16 years after it opened. The exotic spot always has great music pumping, whether it be from top-notch DJs in the dance room or the killer jukebox in the loungey bar area. Cool staff, potent cocktails and a central location (plenty of parking in the neighborhood — no valet here!) make it a spot of choice for promoters (drag diva Miss Barbie-Q's Shhhh!, Mario Diaz's Full Frontal Disco and Selene Luna's Dog & Pony Variety show) on weekends. Packed to the gills with femme-y fellows and suspendered butch boys, or smattered with breeders boozing during happy hour … it doesn't matter. This Sunset Junction gem has a keep-it-real zeal that brings people together, and keeps them coming back.