L.A. to Gays: And You Can Walk!
By OUTTraveler Editors
L.A. Tourism has partnered with Out & About Tours in celebration of Gay Pride Month to organize an LGBT-inspired Car Free tour of downtown Los Angeles. Out & About Tours, which operates "Hollywood's first & only gay bus tour," is helping pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation users explore historic landmarks that have shaped Los Angeles's LGBT community in conjunction with Car Free LA, an eco-friendly initiative of LA Tourism.
All the locations planned are in downtown Los Angeles, spanning from Fifth Street to Sunset Boulevard - about 1.5 miles in total. They include the Biltmore Hotel, not only the site of a gay-friendly bar during both World Wars but also the scene of the Gay Liberation Front's confrontation with the International Psychologists & Psychiatrists in 1971, and L.A.'s oldest bathhouse, Turkish & Electric Baths (now KLYT), hosting many closeted stars of classic Hollywood. See the full itinerary below.
Downtown L.A. is in the midst of a renaissance with dozens of new restaurants, bars, and parks opening up, all patronized heavily by gay and lesbian hipsters (there's even a TV show about the scene, DTLA). Make sure to check out Spring Street and Main Street (between Third and Seventh streets), and transit is also easy in DTLA, with direct subway and light-rail connections to Hollywood, Universal City, Koreatown, Pasadena, Culver City, Long Beach, East Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California (and soon Santa Monica and the San Gabriel Valley).
LA TOURISM’s NEW GLBT CAR FREE ITINERARY
El Pueblo – 200 N. Main Street LA, CA 90012
It’s no secret that LA has a heavy Spanish influence – we were Mexico until 1850, but did you know this area was first called Yang Na and that its people were LGBT friendly? Its first tribes, The Tongva, who inhabited this area believed in gay marriages, transgender lifestyles and that homosexuality was determined in utero. The Tongva celebrated homosexuals as “two spirited” people. Thinking of them more as gifted then defective. See if you can find the plaque on the ground in the plaza area for Yang Na!
Merced Theatre – 420 N. Main Street LA, CA 90012
Out & About Tours uncovers LA’s more seedy side of life, as guests tour past The Merced Theatre - LA’s first porn theatre from the 1880’s. The theatre was originally built for family entertainment but had to close in the 1877 because of the smallpox. When it re-opened near the end of the century, Victorian Sex Clubs were the only organizations that could afford the rent.
City Hall – 200 N. Spring Street LA, CA 90012
Whether you recognize it as LA City Hall or The Hall of Justice – it’s one of the country’s most iconic architectural images. Aside from being a stomping ground for our mayor and local politicians, it also served as a home for the first pro-LGBT political fundraising outfits in the world. MECLA (The Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles) was the first group of checkbook activists to take up space in the building to combat the evil Briggs Initiative. If you don’t know what that is, rent the movie MILK starring Sean Penn!
Turkish & Electric Baths (now KLYT) – 132 E. 4th Street LA, CA 90013
If it’s more dirt that you’re looking for, walk down to LA’s oldest bathhouse that still operates today and has hosted many a closeted movie star. Most men only bathed once a month at the turn of the century. LA never funded public bathhouses, so the private sector swung into action. You can still see the broken neon sign proclaiming BATHS high above the doorway.
Biltmore Hotel – 506 S. Grand Street LA, CA 90014
At the base of Bunker Hill rose LA’s third grand hotel. Aside from having a very gay friendly bar through both World Wars, it later housed the meeting of the International Psychologists & Psychiatrists in 1971. They were meeting to declare electroshock therapy as the “cure” for homosexuality. Weren’t they surprised when a little group called the Gay Liberation Front foiled their plans and effectually forced one of the first dialogues between the mental health professionals and the gays? Despite decades of stigma and official misclassification, “homosexuality” was removed as a mental disorder in only two short years because of the GLF’s brave assault on the conference.