Out & About :: The History of Gay LA
From then until now...
Alongside the oodles of historical facts and little-known landmarks (the street where Cary Grant and Randolph Scott shared a home as ’bachelors?’) on the tour, Anzide wanted to feature the current gay community, so that the tour focused not only on the past, but current gay culture as well. One way he does this is through stops in El Pueblo in downtown LA - where the city was born - as well as places like The Other Side in Silverlake, which is one of the last piano bars still in operation. Not only do these stops allow tour-goers to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, but allow for great interaction as well. Some of the regulars (including Michael, who assisted Anzide on the tour that day) even provide a bit of entertainment, taking to the mic and belting out a song or two.
Anzide is aware of the risk that local businesses took in letting the Out & About tour make a stop and come through their establishments. "The Other Side is thrilled, and (guests on the tour get to see) the clientele that hangs out on a Saturday and Sunday. We didn’t want it to be like a petting zoo, like, ’Here are the octogenarian gays that have been here since 1968!’ [laughs] Everyone was totally amendable to it."
As the news spreads about the tour, Anzide is ready to embrace (and be embraced by) other local businesses.
"We’re always looking for new businesses and new friends in all the pocket neighborhoods that [the LGBT community] go to."
Like any thriving business, Anzide is always looking to the future and is already implementing changes based on guest feedback and financial feasibility. For example, the double-decker bus that was originally used for the tour has been replaced by an air-conditioned bus with comfortable seats, a video screen, and a space intimate enough for Anzide to effectively quiz participants on information presented during the tour- with candy prizes for offering the correct answers. The quiz is a small part of a terrific group camaraderie felt throughout the tour- a testament to the fact that Anzide has tapped into something that links the past to the present, helping to bring the gay community closer.
A recent addition to the Out & About Tour is the Sun-Gay Brunch, headed off - in appropriate celebratory fashion - with appetizers and mimosas at Mexico Restaurante y Barra in West Hollywood. Other bits of food and drink throughout the tour help the juicy Golden Age of Hollywood gossip go down easy.
"The Sun-Gay Brunches are just the beginning of some of the upcoming changes," Anzide said. "Towards the end of 2010, we’ll split into Hollywood, downtown and Silverlake, and keep those separate. Surprisingly, West Hollywood doesn’t really demand that sort of thing. It actually has the least amount of history than any part of the city, which is kind of bizarre because it’s like the gay mecca."
And why not take advantage of being in Hollywood, where more than a few celebrities have a connection to the gay community?
"We are also going to start a Celebrity tours in March, as well... [the tour will include] an LGBT celebrity or friend/ally of the community, and the proceeds will go to a charity of their choosing. [Those tours will also include a Q&A with the celebrity, as well."
While Out & About Tours is still in its infancy, there are surprises to be had not only by the participants on the tour but by Anzide himself.
"One thing that continues to surprise me is how little everyone knows; [people] who have been in the community for so long. I am always surprised by that. I don’t want that to sound [like I’m an expert]; I was in the same place. I thought I knew a lot about the city and then once I opened my mind it was like, ’Wow! I really knew nothing about all of this history.’"
The overall message, however, is that the Out & About Tour is not just a way to kill three hours on a Sunday afternoon; bigger things have been known to happen.
"The other part," Anzide shared about the surprises, "is how overwhelmed and changed people feel by it. I get comments days after the tour like, ’I couldn’t stop thinking about this particular part, and it really sort of fascinated me to do something more and find out more about our culture and the city.’ That’s always a great thing."