BY TOMMY ZANE GAYDAR EDITOR Hollywood. Malibu. Beverly Hills. All calling cards for the rich and famous. But beneath that superficial veneer lies a dark side to L.A. living. Ramon and I took advantage of an airfare war in January and snagged cheap tix to L.A. Neither of us had ever been, mostly because I had always heard such awful things about the place. Still, the lure of sunshine and 75-degree days was strong, so off we went. Driving. Nobody walks in L.A. Having lived on the East Coast all my life, I’m quite familiar with the concept of traffic, but nothing prepared me for L.A.’s freeways. If there are 12 million people in L.A., they must each have four cars and drive them all at the same time. In Philly, if someone cuts you off, you often hear cursing and screaming with occasional “car stopping road rage action.” In L.A., that same asshole who ran a red light neither stops nor yells. Drucie, my college roommate, born and raised in NYC and transplanted to L.A. for work, is constantly yelling out of her convertible Saab, apologizing if she boo-boos on the roads and rarely gets any kind of response. Totally frustrating — passive-aggressive driving at its’ finest. I actually saw one accident, and was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic three times from earlier pile ups. Even Sunday morning, Ramon and I tried to slip out onto the roads for a quick spin, and still — traffic. Derelicts. Paris Hilton, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Steven Spielberg: All examples of the Hollywood dream of success. However, you don’t hear much about the dregs of society, which seem to be in abundance in L.A. Los Angeles County actually contains 88 municipalities within it, with pieces of the City of Los Angeles intertwined. It would be like Germantown having its own police force etc. while East Falls is part of Philly. Beverly Hills is one of the 88, created to keep the poor out and the rich safe. If Philly is a city of neighborhoods, L.A. is a city of fortified kingdoms. And, yes, the higher up into the Hollywood Hills one goes, the more expensive the property gets. There is no middle class in L.A., just rich and dirt poor.
Desperation. The mostly Central and South American “new” immigrants, as opposed to the Mexicans who have been in L.A. for decades, are truly living the American Dream. Hand-to-mouth, they garden and clean houses with little comprehension of English. Hard-working and admirable, these fine folks are a stark contrast to the limo-hauled sophisticates of L.A’s privileged class.
They say Los Angeles is the city of dreams, or of nightmares. We didn’t see any stars dining out or sipping cappuccinos, but we did see Elvis and Michael Jackson at Taco Bell. In L.A., the panhandlers dress up and accost tourists for cash in exchange for a photo with one of Hollywood?s many “legends.” Batman was particularly aggressive, physically grabbing me as I snapped a shot of Lee “Six Million Dollar Man” Majors’ star on The Walk of Fame. There is Venice Beach, now a far cry from its halcyon days of post-hippy grandeur. Some freaky dude, painted completely in gold an lip-synching “Billie Jean” now passes for performance art. You guessed it-a gold-painted boom box too. Still, there is the Pacific Ocean, swelling and stunning in its magnificence. SUVs honking all around us, Ramon and I spied a blooming orange tree right in the middle of Hollywood. A sublime moment in an otherwise chaotic city. Whatever happened to “California Dreamin”?
THREESOME OF THE WEEK: Homophobic U.S. Army General Peter “homosexual acts are immoral” Pace, ACTUP founder and activist Larry “still going strong at 72” Kramer, and former NJ Governor turned Times Square protester, Jim McGreevey.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN: Are you gay and read Phawker? Or just thinking about it? Becoming gay that is. Because, you know, you “heard good things.” Are you straight but curious how the other team plays? Congressman, we have heard your call and answered your prayers. Our Gaydar Editor Tommy Zane is gay all day and queer for a year, and like all gays he is wickedly funny, stylish, tidy and knows from window treatments. He could also probably kick your ass into next week. But don’t worry, Tommy’s a lover not a fighter. He may be going to hell, but then most of our straight friends are, too. Every week look for GAYBO. We’ll have a gay old time!