January 27, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

GAY LA: The Fate of Damron Address Book?

Before AIDS, Airbnb and Grindr changed the face of gay life forever, there were limited ways of finding your people, especially if you were a lone, gay man venturing into the unfamiliar territory of the West Coast.

In the 1960s, a gay man named Bob Damron starting seeing America through a different lens. Where were the places that were gay-friendly in Butte, Montana? What about in Austin, Texas? Where were the bathhouses, the sex clubs, the diners and dive bars that would welcome queer folks with open arms? 

Damron was a bartender who’d explored the world of San Francisco in the 1960s before settling in L.A. 

He’d paved the way for gay enclaves like Castro Street and Christopher Street. He helped young men and women find their people and avoid getting into dangerous situations in rough, small towns and conservative cities.

Today, his legacy lives on. In an article by journalist Kate Sosin for L.A. Magazine, Publisher Gina Gatta recalls the founder of Damron Company, a business she now owns. 

“Like a Bible salesman, Bob would get on the road,” Gatta tells Sosin. “He would travel around, and he would find the gays, and he would find the bars and bathhouses.”

Competitor guide books developed along side of Damron’s book, but none of them survived the tumultuous period of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, when everything in American culture, from sex to movies to politics, was becoming redefined for a new audience. By the time the Internet came along, LGBTQ+ folks had their own printed travel guides and websites like Planet Out to help them find new destinations and stay safe on the road. 

But Gatta has been upholding Damron’s legacy since buying the company in 1989. Damron himself died of HIV in the early nineties. 

Gatta has been single-handedly keeping the book going year after year. But the problem of keeping the book in print is a problem all publishers face: how do you sell people on something they can get for free online?

Today, teens can learn about their sexuality online, by asking friends or joining forums, or even reading Wikipedia. 

If they want to find the nearest gay bar, it’s not hard to do. Still, there’s something romantic about holding a physical guidebook in your hand. 

For a generation that decided long ago it would have nothing more to do with the physical elements of travel, including maps and guidebooks, there’s something touching about the idea of a book that was built over the course of years. 

That someone was brave enough to find every bar, every hookup spot, and every dive bar where everybody could, feasibly, someday, know your name. 

Related Posts

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...

FBI Investigating Blast At Anti-Gay Church

January 23, 2021

January 23, 2021

An El Monte church that had been threatened this month with an arson attack over its condemnation of same-sex marriages...

Missing Compton Trans-man

January 18, 2021

January 18, 2021

UPDATE: Luckie Alexander Fuller has been found as on Jan. 19th, 2021. Luckie Alexander Fuller, a local Los Angeles transman...

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...

The Pride Poet’s Corner “Some Super Contextual New Year’s Resolutions” By: Brian Sonia-Wallace

January 17, 2021

January 17, 2021

Some Super Contextual New Year’s Resolutions By: Brian Sonia-Wallace a Don’t wash the dishes. Don’t go for a walk. Wear...

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...

LA LGBT Center Receives $100K Grant

January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

The Los Angeles LGBT Center has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to support the...

Oil Can Harry’s Studio City’s Gay Country Bar Closes

January 9, 2021

January 9, 2021

Oil Can Harry’s, the iconic and beloved gay country western line dancing bar, located in Studio City, is closed for...

LA LGBT Center Administers First COVID-19 Vaccines

January 9, 2021

January 9, 2021

The first of 400 doses received by the Center were dispensed by Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of health services at...

2021 WeHo Artist Grant Recipients

January 9, 2021

January 9, 2021

The City of West Hollywood has announced three $5,000 grant awards, totaling $15,000, for three resident artists for its 2021...

WeHo Fighting Climate Change

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

The City of West Hollywood is currently updating its Climate Action Plan — an effort called “WeHo Climate Action” —...

The Center Offered Free Meals For Those In Need

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

With the unemployment rate in Los Angeles County rising due to the Corona-virus pandemic many are struggling to make ends...

Saving Silver Lake Bar Akbar

January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021

Struggling to survive amid the Corona-virus pandemic, iconic LGBTQI+ hangout Akbar took to a fundraising page to ask for help....

Two New Council Members Sworn-In To The City Council Of WeHo

December 20, 2020

December 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has sworn-in two newly elected Councilmembers: Sepi Shyne and John M. Erickson. Each Councilmember took...

Meet WeHo’s New Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace

December 17, 2020

December 17, 2020

Brian Sonia-Wallace has been named West Hollywood’s 4th City Poet Laureate making him the youngest person to occupy the role. ...