April 20, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Is WeHo Getting Less Gay?

Of all the breakout stars given to us by the Reality TV multiverse, perhaps the least problematic is Lisa Vanderpump, the woman who spreads cheer and charity work across L.A.’s West Side, from WeHo’s PUMP and Sur restaurants to the pet rescue organization Vanderpump Dogs on Melrose. Vanderpump has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community throughout her tenure on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” as well as her spinoff show “Vanderpump Rules,” a distinction that has earned no shortage of accolades, including a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame and the title of Grand Marshall at last year’s Long Beach Pride Festival.

When it comes to Vanderpump’s relationship with the rapidly-changing landscape of West Hollywood, she has her detractors.

Last week, news broke that Vanderpump’s third West Hollywood restaurant TomTom is slated to open in June. Located deep in the heart of Boystown, the Nick Alain-designed restaurant will offer a variation on what Sur and PUMP give to the community: A place to eat, drink, and spot the occasional Reality TV star. The fact that TomTom’s location originally belonged to Showtime, a clothing store targeted, according to WeHoville, at a “specifically gay male audience,” raised a few eyebrows, but nothing more. Since Showtime has moved south rather than closed altogether, TomTom’s opening isn’t being viewed by the community as any kind of an affront. On the contrary: The hotly-anticipated TomTom has been publically in the works for years. However, next to other citywide developments, such as the current screening process for cannabis license applications and a controversial Metro extension in the works, residents are beginning to wonder whether the specific type of gentrification facing smaller L.A. cities like West Hollywood is starting to pick up speed. After an article about the TomTom opening went live on WeHoville.com, residents wasted no time expressing their concerns in the comments section:

“West Hollywood has always been considered a superficial destination when it comes to bars and clubs,” wrote one commenter. “Now, with Reality TV it’s going to be super-superficial.”

“City planners can limit the number of bars in one immediate area. Why have a long succession of bars and restaurants in one immediate location without breaking it up with other establishments whether its a coffee shop of a fast food place or retail store or office/apt complex. The fact is that VanderPumps restaurants and bars mainly attract 21 yr olds from West Covina who love her reality sh*t show and tourists on the TMZ tour bus screaming and vomiting from the bus,” wrote another commenter. “Her lowbrow reality TV status clearly influences the type of people you are getting coming into the city. Its just becoming like another Hollywood Blvd. I’ve live just up the street and have been here for 15 years and I think this pollutes the whole area – or at least that section on Santa Monica Boulevard.”

Another voice chimed in: “Times have changed – West Hollywood is not a ‘gay’ city, but an exciting global destination point with residents from all walks of life. That is, if you can afford to live here.”

“Gay city” or not, the conversation about commercialization in West Hollywood is not a new one. Looking back, one can find articles dating from 2010 and 2011 about WeHo losing its gay “mojo.” An L.A. Times article from 2014 already began to lament the turning of the dial towards a more heteronormative audience, stating: “West Hollywood has seen a development boom that has made the city a more hip, but not necessarily more gay, address. While the city’s gay population has remained at about 40 percent for some time, the commercial scene is changing. The city’s last lesbian bar,  The Palms, was razed last year because the property owners wanted to develop the site, where an upscale supermarket has been proposed.”

A Vice article from last year, by Peter Moskowitz, the author of “How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood,” pinpoints another concern: “…part of what makes cities good for gays is simple economics. Queers comprise a relatively small portion of the American population, making it hard to have a “gayborhood” without density. Any given suburb likely doesn’t have enough LGBTQ people living within it to support multiple bars and stores, or nonprofits, or other aspects of queer culture – arts, pride events, and the like – that make for vibrant communities.”

In times like these, when anti-LGBTQ+ laws are being passed in the middle of the country, cities like WeHo are all the more important as oases for gay folks to flock to in times of crisis. However, they’re also cities, with a need to support and sustain business and progress. For a small city like West Hollywood, a step forward in terms of city planning, such as the expansion of the Metro Line, or even a helpful boost to commerce, such as the granting of more recreational cannabis licenses, will always be viewed as a great way to bring money and tourists into the city while serving to alienate the people who actually live there and hold memories of a simpler, gayer WeHo dear. So what does WeHo’s future hold for its actual LGBTQ+ residents? Realistically, a lot of change, and an ever-changing, complex economic upturn that some will praise, and some despise.

Related Posts

West Hollywood Celebrates National Poetry Month

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month in April with a variety of events and exhibitions honoring...

Pride Poets’ Corner: Penetrate By Terry Wolverton

March 21, 2021

March 21, 2021

In honor of Women’s History Month The Pride Poets’ Corner, curated by West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace, wished to...

Ivy Bottini – WeHo Icon & LGBTQ Advocate Dies

March 14, 2021

March 14, 2021

Ivy Bottini an artist, mother and a legendary activist, devoting over 50 years to the feminist & LGBTQ  struggle for...

WeHo Lesbian Speakers Series

March 11, 2021

March 11, 2021

The City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian Speakers Series will celebrate Women’s History Month with a panel of dynamic lesbians and...

Free COVID-19 Testing Sites Including WeHo

March 6, 2021

March 6, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that Los Angeles County has announced that it is expanding...

Gaga Confirms She Will Pay Dog Walkers Medical Bills

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Lady Gaga has confirmed that she will pay all of her dog walkers medical bills which amount to almost $100,000. ...

WeHo Helping Small Businesses With Tax Cuts

February 28, 2021

February 28, 2021

The City Council of the City of West Hollywood, at its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, approved an...

Lady Gaga’s Dog Walker Shot And Her Dogs Stolen

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga’s dog walker, was the victim of a brutal robbery in West Hollywood Wednesday night.  30 year...

WeHo Warns Of Pandemic Scams

February 21, 2021

February 21, 2021

The City of West Hollywood has announced its plan to co-host a “Senior Scam Stoppers” panel to educate the community...

WeHo’s Partial Ban On Tobacco Smoking In Apartments /Condos

February 18, 2021

February 18, 2021

The West Hollywood City Council, in a 4-1 vote,  approved a partial ban on smoking tobacco in apartment and condominium...

WeHo Off-Leash Dog Area

February 4, 2021

February 4, 2021

A unanimous vote by the West Hollywood City Council will allow your fur baby to enjoy the freedom of being...

WeHo Spreading The Word About COVID Vaccine

January 31, 2021

January 31, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that Los Angeles County residents who are 65 years old...

WeHo To Commemorate Roe V. Wade Anniversary

January 24, 2021

January 24, 2021

The City of West Hollywood and its Women’s Advisory Board will join with the National Council of Jewish Women, Los...

WeHo Will Commemorate MLK Jr. Day With Virtual Donation Drive

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

In January 2021, the City of West Hollywood will continue its tradition of joining hundreds of communities across the country...

WeHo Renaming The West Hollywood Library

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

The City Council of the City of West Hollywood approved an item to submit a request to rename the West...