By David Andrusia
Once a resident; now, a voyager. After an extended hiatus from West Hollywood—arguably, the gayest city in the word—I returned to the “Creative City” to find an urban legend starrier and sexier than ever before.
WeHo’s transformation hasn’t come without a heavy price. When the city council voted to widen Santa Monica Boulevard, they proffered a sparkling plan: a West Coast Champs-Elysées, with all the attendant allure. The reality, alas, was different: years of traffic troubles, bankrupt businesses (how to access shops under scaffolding?), and backlash on many fronts.
Today, after rocky formative years, the vision is complete—and WeHo is a wow. At night, especially, the Boulevard beckons with nighttime lights, busy bars, and a sense that anything is possible in the GLBT capital of the country.
West Hollywood’s renaissance isn’t just seen at night. The Pacific Design Center (also known as the “Blue Whale”) will soon be joined by a 400,000-square-foot “Center Red.” And the once-sleepy library has enjoyed a $64 million renovation; the result is not merely a refurbished community nexus, but a modern information center of note.
SLS BEVERLY HILLS, at the southern foot of WeHo, is a Philippe Stark palace that’s buzzy and bold. On expense account or a trust-fund, darling? Head to the SLS hotel for the address of the moment, a short cab ride away from the Boystown action. (Don’t miss The Bazaar by José Andrés, a modern Spanish restaurant and Iberian idyll for gastronomes and scenesters alike.)
CHAMBERLAIN WEST HOLLYWOOD boasts an ‘80s retro-chic décor that recalls our glorious youth. (We half expected the cast of “Less than Zero” to stumble on set at any moment.) The rooftop pool’s a charm: 360-degree views of the city and white chaise lounges are breathtaking at night. We hear The Bistro’s California cuisine, now under the direction of superchef Emilio Noselolt, is rumored to be that rare hotel restaurant that rocks.
LE PARC SUITES is a hop, skip, and pump away from the main SaMo drag. The former garden apartment complex is more kitsch than camp, but the hotel is a favorite for music industry types on extended stays in town. We like the balconies, recently redecorated suites, and easy access to all of WeHo’s goings-on.
RAMADA WEST HOLLYWOOD has long been the Boystown budgeteer’s choice. Location, location, location: if you’re carless, no hotel is more central to the bus routes that converge at Santa Monica and La Cienega Boulevards. The staff is chipper and rates—especially if you’re a Ramada regular—can’t be beat.
LUCQUES is New American that escapes the fusion fussiness so typical of this breed. Opt for the patio and rub shoulders with who-knows-who.
GORDON RAMSAY shows why the TV curmudgeon got where he is. Impeccable California-Continental-Asian fusion in a setting that’s gagalicious.
JINPACHI serves up sensational sushi right on the SaMo strip. Don’t expect to leave for less than a C-bill unless you’re Mary-Kate Olsen.
COMME CA is delightfully archaic French slang for “gay.” The food here is archaic, too, in the best possible way: classic French bistro fare sans silly fusion updates, with waiters so cute even Kim Cattrall would approve.
AGO has Robert De Niro’s as a partner; enough said? This is one trendy trattoria whose food is anything but: chef Agostino Sciandri serves up classic Tuscan fare with a master’s touch. The patio’s the place; if you can’t book there, try the terrace, and don’t miss the handsome wood bar, always a scene.
A few short years ago, Santa Monica Boulevard seemed sorry at night, a mere shadow of its showy self. Now, Boystown bustles after dark. A widened main drag that invites strolling and a revitalized club scene all but shouts, “This is the place.” Best Boulevard bets:
REVOLVER morphed into the moribund East/West a few years back; three cheers for its new fabulous self. Spiffier than ever, a fashionable young crowd has found its way home, and the shows (young lovelies lip-synching Rihanna and Lady G., mainly) sparkle.
THE ABBEY is more than a destination; it’s your whole gay life. Once a daytime café (it still is), it’s now the nighttime destination of note for gay men and woman of all stripes. Rated the best gay bar in (gasp!) the world by LOGO, Abbey recently launched a Gay Walk of Fame. (Christina Aguilera was the first inductee.) Fab factoid: the Abbey was Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite place for a sip.
MICKY’S wallflower days are officially over. Once everyone’s sloppy seconds, the long-running club is all glitzed up—and everyone goes. Supersexy go-go boys abound—as do ladies’ bathrooms, so this is the place to take the girls out for a spin.