An island calling

Faded but still fierce, Catalina oozes tropical romance just off SoCal’s coast

NICK VIVION  | Contributing Travel Writer
gaytravel.com

“Are there more resident bald eagles on the island or resident gays?” my traveling companion asks a gay resident of Catalina, who works for the Catalina Island Conservancy, which controls 88 percent of the land here.

“Definitely gays,” exclaims Shaun, the knowledgeable biologist tasked with removing invasive plant species on the island.

It’s a fair question. There are a whopping 22 bald eagles living on the island, and there can’t be too many gays on a spit of land only 55 miles around. Catalina Island isn’t the first place that comes to mind as a gay destination, but this unassuming vibe is one of its best traits. It’s a mixed crowd, allowing you to mold your experience.

Catalina-Island-Rainbow
RAINBOW’S END | Small and still elegant, Catalina Island is a haven for wildlife — and gay adventurers.

“I don’t think many gay people realize that other gays come to the island often. It is gay-friendly, relaxed and comfortable,” Shaun elaborates after the laughter simmers down.

Catalina was originally developed by the Banning Brothers during the period of prosperity in the late 19th century that brought the newly moneyed set to the island in droves, ready to party politely in their modest, fully-clothed bathing gear.

As Hollywood developed, so did interest in Catalina. It quickly became a glamorous getaway for the Tinseltown set, and its appeal was accelerated after chewing gum czar William Wrigley bought the island in 1919, bringing his Chicago Cubs here for spring training until the 1950s.

While the glamour has faded somewhat, Catalina’s historical tapestry has golden gay threads woven throughout, and the feeling permeates your stay on the island. And there’s still a fascinating history magnifying the romantic aura of the island. This place has a distinct whimsical appeal that combines with top class amenities and attractions to become a perfect gay getaway for those in Southern California and beyond.

Catalina Island has a growing and well-deserved reputation as an adventure destination. For those who crave an escape from the concrete gridlock of Southern California, there is not a single stoplight on the entire isle.

It has its modern perks. The Eco Zip Line is the newest activity on the island, and it’s pure joy. Strong winds on add a wholly unexpected dimension to the experience of flying down steel cables 300 feet above the Descanso Canyon floor.

The numerous outdoor experiences make for a soul rejuvenating weekend escape. In a two-day visit, we explored a botanical garden, avoided rattlesnakes as we hiked a portion of the 37.2 mile Trans-Catalina Trail, checked out one of three scenic and remote campgrounds, parasailed high above the ocean and went zip lining from mountain to sea.

There is also an incredible Marine Preserve called the Lover’s Cove, calm and ideal for snorkeling amongst the scintillating orange Garibaldi and spotted opaleyes. Several extensive wrecks are accessible for walk-in SCUBA diving on Casino Point, and you can tackle the challenging trails on mountain bike or by foot. Last but not least, exploring the island’s perimeter in an ocean kayak is an unparalleled way to get out onto the legendary crystal-clear waters along the Catalina Coast.

Catalina Island has been a romantic’s playground from the beginning of its development in the Gay Nineties. Dozens of movies have bestowed romantic allure, and the Four Preps’ 1958 hit song “26 Miles” extolled the virtues of its romantic side, which is now a perfect soundtrack to the quaint, timeless aesthetic on the island.

Development is strictly limited, so the architecture remains consistent. There is a 15-year waiting list for conventional cars on the island, so personalized golf carts dominate transportation. Walking’s not bad, either. Take a leisurely stroll from Avalon around the point past the stunning, 12-story Art Deco Casino, and onwards to the tidepools past Descanso Beach. Then end the night sitting by the blazing fire pit at the pleasantly updated Pavillion Hotel, sipping pinot noir and nibbling on goat cheese as the sun sets somewhere beyond the hills, and the clouds in Avalon harbor turn a fierce purple. Romance, indeed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Angela Hunt kicks off her re-election bid as possible ‘battle royale’ for mayor looms

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt will host a re-election kickoff tonight at the Stoneleigh Hotel, and not surprisingly several members of the LGBT community are listed as platinum, gold and silver hosts. Hunt is a solid LGBT ally who represents heavily gay portions of the city including half of Oak Lawn. She has announced that she’s seeking re-election to her District 14 seat but hasn’t said whether she’ll run for mayor if Tom Leppert decides not to seek a second term. Leppert is considering a bid for U.S. Senate in 2012 if Kay Bailey Hutchison doesn’t seek re-election, as Gromer Jefffers at The Dallas Morning News reiterates this morning:

Unless Hutchison gives him a heads up that she’s running, chances are Leppert won’t seek re-election as mayor.

That means another battle royale election in Dallas, much like the one that elevated Leppert in 2007. That year, nearly 20 candidates expressed an early interest in the job. But this time, there is no reliable list of contenders, not even a short one. Just one candidate has announced he’ll run: Jim Moore, a little-known Dallas lawyer.

Park Board member and former city homeless czar Mike Rawlings has been frequently mentioned as a contender. Other names include City Council members Angela Hunt and Ron Natinsky.

Hunt’s re-election kickoff will be from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Stoneleigh, 2927 Maple Ave. in Dallas. For more info, visit her website.

—  John Wright

Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings: How About You Just Cross Your Fingers And Hope Bullying Stops?

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As is the case for most of those reading this message, I have been horrified by the recent media coverage of student suicides prompted by bullying. I am fortunate to have a boss who is just as horrified and today made the below statement. I hope each of you will consider ways you can help bring bullying to an end and urge you to check out www.bullyinginfo.org for useful resources in so doing.

—Kevin Jennings, the man Obama appointed to make American schools safer, breaks his silence on a Friday evening, when everybody stops paying attention to the news, with these empty and useless remarks. (Technically, Jennings says it is "the recent media coverage" that horrifies him, not the suicides themselves, but grammar schmammar.) His boss, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, released this note.


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Queerty

—  John Wright