Karl: Today is March 4th, 2010. It’s a Friday afternoon, we’re here at Pink Taco in Century City with “Tony.”
*fumbles with recorder*
Alright, Tony, what’s your age bracket? 35-40? 40-45?
Tony: 40 to 45.
Karl: What’s your occupation?
Tony: I do graphics, my title is Creative Director, I work in aerospace.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Tony: I’m single, going through a divorce.
Karl: How long have you lived in LA?
Tony: Since… *thinks* 2001.
Karl: Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you like to do for fun. *looks Tony over* You like to work out, you’re clearly in great shape. *laughs*
Tony: When I moved to LA, it was for work, I had just come out of a company that went under in New York, so I had a lot of debt, so it was like focusing on work, and getting myself back on my feet. I like doing stuff outside, I mean at that point I lived at the beach, now I’m doing a lot of hiking, a lot of stuff outside when I can on the weekends. I just bought a bike. I need to clean it up so I can do stuff with it in the spring time.
Karl: You bought a bike? In LA?
Tony: Yeah, a crappy $60 bike, I’ll buy a better one when it gets, you know…
Karl: I’m mostly impressed you have room to store a bike.
Tony: I do. *laughs*
Karl: So you plan to do a lot of cycling here?
Tony: Well, I want to try some stuff out. I’m going through a transition, I’m going through a divorce, and I’ve lost some of the things that I like to do that I find important – and I want to see more of LA and not just be at home. So I’m trying to make different friends that like to go hike, or like to go do whatever. I’m also ok doing stuff by myself.
Karl: So you’re in a transitional period, rediscovering a social circle…
Tony: And myself too.
Karl: So tell me how that element of yourself has changed from ten years ago, from when you first moved here.
Tony: I used to go out a lot more when I was younger. I don’t go out much now, or rarely. Usually, now it’s more going out with friends, or someone talks me into going somewhere, and I mean in the clubbing sense. Before I would just go out to clubs, or go out by myself, or go out and meet people and that kind of stuff. Part of that was I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was also kind of coming out to myself, I was on active duty in the military at the time and I didn’t know other people that were like me at that point. So it was a lot of experimentation at that point too. And it was kind of fun, I mean, I went through heavy drinking periods at times in my life, and that was one of them.
Karl: I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Tony: I’m sure you wouldn’t, ’cause you’re at church on Sunday. Anyway, I went out a lot more by myself, and I don’t want to say it was only to hook up, it was for being out there, being with people, and the camaraderie and that kind of stuff, but now I’m probably a little more comfortable with myself also. So I want a little more connection with people, and not that light, I want it to be a little more meaningful. I mean I was younger then, your focus is a lot different.
Karl: Can you tell me how you feel about the changes you’ve seen here over the last ten years?
Tony: When I was younger and lived in San Diego, (and this is the ’90s), I’d come up to LA. West Hollywood was the dance clubs, and the people on the street, it was like Disneyland. It was crazy, it was something I hadn’t even conceived of. San Diego is a little more sleepy of a town, so it was completely different in the way the men looked and that kind of stuff. It was an eye-opening experience. Then I moved away, and came back, and now I’m older and the biggest change I’ve seen, if I go to the same clubs, is just how it doesn’t have a spark for me anymore. And I also really am aware of my age at that point. I don’t feel old inside my head, I look in the mirror, I still am the same guy, but when you go into a club and someone’s asking you what your major in college is and you’re in your 40’s, you start to get it.
Karl: Is that lack of spark due to your age or due to a changing demographic? Or maybe you’ve just been exposed to it for so long, it’s not a big deal anymore?
Tony: It’s not a big deal, and I’m also looking for something a little different. But then I went out with a couple of friends and in West Hollywood, it wasn’t all just the dance bars, they’re starting to become, *pause* and I don’t want to call them old guy bars, but they were focused more on guys my age and it wasn’t loud blasting music, it was comfortable, nicely decorated, higher-end liquor, and they weren’t beating you down to buy shots, so they know the demographic has changed. In some ways it was comfortable and in other ways it was kind of scary to realize that that was where I was. You know, when I started checking the 40 to 45 box, you have to realize that your life is different.
Karl: Well, back then, the area was much more… hustler-centric, sort of rougher area, and it’s not like that anymore.
Tony: Having lived in New York, and I was younger then when I was here, and to start getting the exposure to a little more… I don’t want to say “seedy,” but just a part of life that I hadn’t seen before, I grew up in a small town in New Mexico, and I was in the Navy in San Diego, and overseas and whatever. I was going out with a guy from up here, and we’d go out, and we’d be driving down Santa Monica after the bars closed and seeing the hustlers roaming around, and Yukon Mining Company…
Karl: Which is closed!
Tony: I remember going to dinner there and seeing transvestites and hookers and it was so… not my experience. So now I was seeing this frequently, you know a lot of leather clubs and that kind of stuff, it was very exciting and different and new. Then I moved away to New York and was exposed to a lot of different things, and there… you get the roughness of the city and things are going on everywhere you go. And then I came back and West Hollywood was different. There were no more hustlers. Everything’s gone to the internet. While the internet existed before, it wasn’t being used the same way. People meet on the internet more now than they do at bars. And the police have done their part cleaning the area up. That was one of the first things I saw that was different… when you start looking around, just little things like there used to be a Don’t Panic store, and there were different stores that were selling gay stuff or whatever, and now they’ve become T-shirt shops or Pottery Barns.
Karl: Yeah, it’s weird, huh?
Tony: It’s very different sales now because they know that people in the area live differently. I remember when the Pavilions on Santa Monica was very hook-up and roam-around, it was almost like a singles bar, and now it’s just completely like a Beverly Hills suburban grocery store with fancy cheeses and expensive wines. And that’s nothing bad, it’s just… different. And it’s also… when you talked to people about what the future was going to be like, and you project what the future is going to be like and what you think you’re going to be doing, this wasn’t it. It’s not that it was good or bad, it just didn’t exist in my head.
Karl: Do you think there are different people in the area, or the same people have just grown older? I mean in my case, we moved here as young, going-out-y, drinkey people, and we’ve grown into a family. Do you think that’s what has happened to the area, or do you think that people got out-priced and it’s just attracted this new crowd?
Tony: It’s all of the above. Part of it is people moved to West Hollywood because there were small houses, and people could afford to buy here, because no one else wanted to live here. And they came in, gentrified it, and it became safer, they started putting in little shops and became okay to live here. Well, what happens then is as other people are leaving, young couples started moving in because it was safe. Then the economy went crazy and real estate went crazy and people starting moving into the area because they could. That pushes out some of the other elements that are going on. If you’re a young family, or if you’re a 40-year-old gay man, you’re not going out to clubs that much, so it’s not going to keep that sustained. But you are going out for coffee, and going out to dinner…
Karl: And going out for Pottery Barn.
Tony: And going out for Pottery Barn. *laughs*
Karl: So is it a less interesting place now?
Tony: Ah… Less interesting? No, not less interesting because the group of people at my age that found it interesting when we were younger have different outlets now. Like I said, web stuff, or other clubs, Silverlake, there’s places and things for them to do. Less interesting for me? Well, no because, now while I check the 40 to 45 box, while movies and TV aren’t focused on me, West Hollywood is. That’s the age group of people that are here. It’s guys that bought houses here when they were younger and still live here.
Karl: It seems to have lost some of its edge. Unless its just me, or maybe it’s you and I, I mean maybe we’re just older and we’re not in that edge anymore.
Tony: La Boheme… that kind of stuff wouldn’t of survived before. It has lost its edge because the people that moved in here became older or have families or whatever, and they don’t want that edge around them. Because Los Angeles is so much larger, there’s other places for people to be pushed into. San Francisco is a little bit different and they’re running up to it a little bit more where the families are arguing with the shops that have been in the Castro District for 20-years. They don’t want dildos and lube and things in the window because their kids ask them what it’s about. Well, you know, who was there first? You moved there, so, you know, they’re trying to work that out. We haven’t had to deal with that much in West Hollywood, in that sense, because there’s other places for people to go.
Karl: Well, it seems like the area has kind of commercialized that too. Well, society in general is kind of, a little more loose to that element I think. I mean, people don’t like, freak out anymore at the sight of a dildo, right?
Tony: It depends on who it is.
Karl: Do you think your life is better here? Do you miss New York?
Tony: I miss New York a lot, except when I hear about the snow storms or whatever, but it’s easy to look back on that fondly and say, “Oh the snow, it was beautiful, with my big coat, and my scarf.” I’d get home and it felt so good to get home, but there were days, when you’d do it everyday, when you were tired of the ice. And I do miss the nostalgia of when I was younger, and I do miss the nostalgia of when I was a little wilder and a little less knowledgeable about life, when everything was a new discovery. And I guess that’s what I miss about that part of West Hollywood. So is it better? It’s better now because I do know better, well I don’t want to say that I do know better, it’s better now because I understand me better, and I was still discovering myself in my 20’s. And because the demo has changed, some areas are more focused toward what I’m interested in, so… yeah. Well, I miss the city life of being able to walk and get a coffee or walk and get a loaf of bread or whatever and not be tied to my car. And that’s part of the good things of West Hollywood that are still left, you can park you car and go out and have coffee or hit the grocery store or go have dinner. You still have that option, and that’s a very small thing in this city. The other part is, I don’t read as much. I had stuff in my bag all the time… every magazine I ever got, several books a month, just because I was on the subway. Now I sit in my car.
Now… with that said, looking back at the rosy wonderful things I do miss, I don’t miss having gone out ’till 2 in the morning and waiting for an hour and a half for the subway, underneath the ground where cold water is dripping on you…
Karl: What you hope is water.
Tony: *laughs* So those are the things that I miss about the city, and those are the things that I still like about West Hollywood, where you still can get that – and probably is why the area has grown.
Karl: Well, there’s talk about putting a subway station in the Beverly Center.
Tony: I think even more public transportation, that’s easy to use, is outstanding. San Diego, and I’ll use it as an example, San Diego started their trolley system, and there was this big debate about where to put the trolley system, so when they put the trolley in, they put it where they thought working people would need to use it to get to work and back and forth. Come to find out that they didn’t put enough in for people to go back and forth, but people still used it, it was usually people who didn’t have cars, it was just a bus transport. What makes the most sense to me is, build the public transportation that takes people, because we’re a tourist area, to where the tourist people want to go. Take ’em to the zoo, take ’em to the beach, then the tourists are going to keep the system going, and then as the system can grow, then you can add the other stuff. And so when San Diego added the line that went to the big mall, or going to the baseball game or the football stadium, that kind of stuff, when San Diego did it, ridership went up, and now they’re able to do a lot more. I don’t see that in LA, and a lot of it has to do with the area. But the closest way to take the subway to the beach, is to go to…
Karl: Redondo Beach station…
Tony: …and then walk the mile and a half, either take a bus or walk that, and I’ve seen kids doing it. Side two of what I loved about New York is I could go out and have a few drinks, or too many drinks, and then ride the subway home. Here, you drive your car there, and it’s like, my choice is, I’m going to leave my car in a bad area, 20-miles from my house, take a $50 cab-ride home, have someone bring me back, or take another $50 cab-ride, so you always talk yourself into, “I’m going to drive home.” So I don’t drink as much, which is a bad thing. If I could jump on a subway, I would do it. I tried taking it to work. It took me as long, I had to take two transfers. And then I didn’t have my car at work to run errands, go to lunch. AND… the added fun bonus of that is I had to drive to the train and pay for parking.
Karl: What would you change?
Tony: Parking! *laughs* I jokingly say, my cousin who’s gay says, “Why would anyone choose to be gay? The parking’s horrible?” When you think about it, everywhere that there’s an area… West Hollywood, Houston, San Diego, New York, the gay areas have the worst parking.
Karl: It’s true, our parking sucks.
Tony: Yeah, I guess that also pushes people out too.
Karl: The parking, the traffic?
Tony: The traffic you kind of learn to deal with, I mean… I have friends who say, “I don’t know how you do that.” It doesn’t seem like that much to me. And I had an opportunity to move out of the area, and have an easier commute… and I chose not to, because I actually like where I am, so I guess that’s probably a good ending… given the choice, I choose to stay.