November 21, 2019 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

GAY L.A. COLUMN: Meet You On the Other Side

Remembering L.A.’s last great piano bar.

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a profile of Steve Ross, one of the city’s last great Cabaret artists. Ross has been playing at piano bars across the city since the 1980s, bringing the camp classics of the Great American Songbooks to newer, younger audiences at venues from the Algonquin to Birdland.

While New York has always had a history of small, intimate bars built around a piano, L.A.’s relationship to the classic queer cabaret bar has been different. While the opening of Tramp Stamp Granny’s in Hollywood sparked a type of renaissance for that certain type of New York-style bar that’s so adept at mixing show tune singalongs with boozing and debauchery, there’s still nothing that can replace L.A.’s classic piano bar “The Other Side,” which closed in 2012.

Before Silver Lake was the collection hipster eateries and cafes that we know and love today, it was kind of a dive. It was also pretty gay. Back in the early 2010s, the Silver Lake community was composed of, according to writer Besha Rodell, “a couple of single mothers raising teenagers, older gay couples, a Perry Farrell-like dude named Adam who created and tended to the neighborhood’s famous chandelier tree… a neighborhood of artists and outsiders, people who had left small towns to find a home more suited to their needs for freedom and creativity.”

Photo: Punch.
L.A.’s “The Other Side” was an Eastside hangout for queer folks and outsiders.

In Rodell’s recent article about “The Other Side” for Punch Magazine, she cites the bar as being the glue that held this small, queer community together.

When the bar first opened in 1967, L.A. had plenty of piano bars to speak of. Richard Little told Rodell that Silver Lake, at that time, was like no other part of the city. “There was no place like it.” He said. “West Hollywood did not have the kind of diversity you’d find in Silver Lake. We ranged in age from old to young; various ethnic groups were welcomed. West Hollywood was never like that.”

While this description might fit a broader swath of today’s queer L.A., there’s still something special about the memory of a place where queer folks could go not to be anonymous, but to be truly intimate. To coexist in the presence of other singing queers and a grand piano. While Silver Lake is still home to Akbar, one of the last historic gay bars in the city, nothing has come up to truly take the place of “The Other Side,” with its funky interior, community-oriented vibe, and frequent singalongs. There are many factors that may have contributed to this. Was it the fact that AIDS came along and laid claim to so many lives? Was it the creation of hook-up apps that made it unnecessary to seek out human company? The rising cost of rent in the newly-hip neighborhood? Most likely a combination of all three.

Even in the midst of so many historic closures of gay bars across the country, L.A. hasn’t suffered nearly as much as some smaller cities. But during the holiday season, when queer folks want to drink, revel, and escape their relatives, it’s nice to remember a place where everybody sang your name.

 

Related Posts

TRANS HOMELESSNESS in LA: Social injustice, or gender identity bias?

November 20, 2019

November 20, 2019

A personal overview from a trans activist and MSW candidate from USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. By Christina...

LGBTQ Center of Long Beach to Honor Trans Day of Remembrance

November 19, 2019

November 19, 2019

So far in the United States this year, at least 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed,...

How Lou Sullivan Created His Own Future

November 18, 2019

November 18, 2019

Newly-released diaries of the trans icon give us something to think about this Transgender Day of Remembrance. When Gwendolyn Ann...

City of WeHo Survey Seeks Public Feedback to End HIV Stigma

November 16, 2019

November 16, 2019

The City of West Hollywood needs the public’s health recording data on HIV stigmatization.  “Stigma and discrimination are potentially the...

“Dems, Drinks and Drag Queens” Bring Rainbow Wave to Long Beach

November 15, 2019

November 15, 2019

Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Robert Garcia will help kick off the California Democratic Party’s fall nominating convention at Hamburger...

GAY LA: When Catherine Opie Ruled LA

November 14, 2019

November 14, 2019

By Henry Giardina In the first season of the original “L Word,” art plays a bizarrely large role. For a...

Documentary Honors Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets for Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

Fighting Ignorance, Poverty with Job Fair for Trans, Intersex Folks

November 7, 2019

November 7, 2019

“Thriving in Los Angeles as a person of trans, non-binary, or intersex experience is challenging,” Eden Anaï Luna, Manager of...

LA Pride’s Bid to Host 2025 World Pride

November 5, 2019

November 5, 2019

Today, Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit that produces LA Pride, announced an official bid to host WorldPride in Los...

GAY LA: Judy Never Really Left Los Angeles

November 2, 2019

November 2, 2019

How the queer Icon has shaped L.A. There’s no doubt about it: 2019 is the year of Judy Garland. In...

DEAR AIDAN: My Ex-Boyfriend’s Current Boyfriend Hates Me!

November 1, 2019

November 1, 2019

Dear Aidan: I am friends with my ex boyfriend, like pretty close to him. Unfortunately it seems that his new...

EVERYTHING You Need to Know About Halloween in WeHo

October 31, 2019

October 31, 2019

Each year, the City of West Hollywood hosts its incomparable Halloween Carnaval, one of the most unique Halloween gatherings in...

HUMAN SPOTLIGHT: NiK Kacy Breaks the Binary

October 29, 2019

October 29, 2019

How I’m breaking the binary and building my own LGBTQ-owned business  Column By NiK Kacy  Living with intersectional and multi-cultural...

THEATRE PREVIEW: “Orry” Dishes Out Hollywood Gossip in Limited Run

October 26, 2019

October 26, 2019

In Gentleman George’s latest production, “Orry,” you’re invited to the funeral of three-time Oscar winner and Hollywood legend, costume designer...

COLUMN: 5 Things We’re Excited About For Dark Harbor’s LGBTQ+ Night at Queen Mary

October 24, 2019

October 24, 2019

With Halloween only a week away, folks are scrambling to squeeze in as much spooky fun as possible. The Queen...