2 days in the Valley

… And a few in WeHo. Part 2 of our coast-to-coast travelogue. Now up: L.A.

Travel-1

HOT IN THE CITY | The salsas at Light My Fire in the Farmers Market have provocative names like Anal Angst and Colon Cleanser, making them popular with a gay crowd. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

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ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

West Hollywood, The Castro, P’Town, Chelsea, Key West, South Beach: The names alone of these locales are synonymous with gay culture. But just as Dallas boasts two gayborhoods in Cedar Springs and Oak Cliff, so does Los Angeles claim two queer destinations. The Silver Lake district — east of WeHo and abutting the hills of the San Fernando Valley — is one of the most populous gay ZIP codes in America. And if you have a car, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy both on the same trip.

The car requirement isn’t merely a suggestion. L.A. has notoriously insufficient public transportation (watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for the backstory) and everything is pretty spread out — traffic is more congested than a kindergarten in January.

WeHo — centered mostly along a mile-long strip of Santa Monica Boulevard (the old Route 66) — deserves its reputation as queer central: Simply put, it is one of the gayest towns in America (its police cars are even decorated with rainbow colors). Crammed with shops, restaurants, gyms and clubs within two square miles, its population has remained fairly constant for 50 years (last census, about 34,000), but you could spend an entire day walking around without running out of things to do (while barely ever seeing a straight person).

Travel-2

UNTIL THE SUN COMES UP OVER SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD | Well, actually it’s Wilshire. And the sun is setting. But L.A. is still a great place to visit, especially the gay enclaves of West Hollywood and Silver Lake. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A big Starbucks (known as “the gay Starbucks”) has benches that look out on the strip for great people-watching opportunities. If you want more than coffee and a scone, though, Basix is an essential stop, with brunchy items available much of the day (try the delicious blackened ahi tacos).

For lunch (or dinner or even late-night bites), two unmissable eateries are right next to each other. Hamburger Haven is an institution a la Hunky’s: a burger joint with a devoted following. The buns are grilled on the classic “sassy cheeseburger,” and thick cut fries are must-haves; next door, Bossa Nova serves what it calls Brazilian cuisine, though its large portioned pasta dishes are the main staples with locals. Both are open well into the early morning hours, and for good reason: They are across the street from two popular gay clubs.

“Welcome to the fabulous Abbey, where the drinks are cheap and the boys are cheaper,” one local jokes. Now 20 years old, The Abbey truly is a legendary club.

Designed to conjure a cloisters, it attracts a wide range of types (including straight clubbers) caught up in its energy, shirtless bartenders and go-go boys and girls.

Next door, Here Lounge is a unique and fun spot, a sports bar where you don’t watch sports so much as fantasize about athletes. Even gay Angelenos marvel at their theme nights, like Hooker Casino on Saturdays and Stripper Circus on Wednesdays.

There are almost too many other clubs to count: Revolver, one of the oldest gay bars anywhere (it recently returned to its original name); Gym, a sports bar; Rage, where the young guys hang out; Trunks; and many more.

You can venture further out, though, and still have a great time. South of WeHo, The Grove and the abutting Farmers Market are great destinations, not only for shopping but for some history.

The Grove is a lovely, new, high-end outdoor shopping center (weekdays, Mario Lopez films exteriors for Extra here) with everything from Abercrombie & Fitch to Crate & Barrel. Next door, the Farmers Market — founded in 1934 — offers almost the opposite experience: Old-school charm. Stop by Loteria for some excellent tacos, or satisfy your craving for heat at Light My Fire, where hundreds of salsas (some with names like Colon Cleaner and Anal Angst) are for sale.

Into the Silver Lake area, a good pre-clubbing dinner stop is Malo along West Sunset Boulevard. For California Tex-Mex, it serves a super spicy house hot sauce with its chips (the sauce also accents the cheese chili rellenos), and the house infused tequilas are great. Try also the tres leches cake for dessert — one of the best anywhere.

Travel-3

ISLE OF PALMS | Even in winter, Los Angeles stays sunny most days, though at night you’ll want a jacket. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

When done there, haul over to The Eagle L.A., a predominant leather and Levi bar in town (emphasis on the word “dominant”). Skeevier than its Dallas counterpart but spacious and fun, it attracts an enthusiastic bearish clientele  (a surprisingly popular subculture in slick, Botox-happy L.A.). Incredibly crowded on big nights like Mr. Eagle, it’s a fun place even on an off-night with muscular, nearly naked bartenders. (In L.A., it’s legal for porn to play in bars, and while not all take advantage of that, The Eagle sure does.)
Faultline, not too far away, is a rougher leather bar, and the straight club Little Temple is a gay-friendly spot to see interesting live music.

You don’t need to get the totally “gay” experience to enjoy L.A., either. West of WeHo, Beverly Hills is the famous enclave of the wealthy, with pricey boutiques and lovely homes worth a drive. The city is also loaded with interesting architecture from the 1930 through the ‘50s, which you can enjoy in WeHo, Silver Lake or even the San Fernando Valley.

“The Valley” has a reputation as the pimply-faced stepbrother of central L.A., but there’s interest there, too … and even some celebrity sighting opportunities. Aroma Cafe in the Studio City area is a large, hipster-friendly outdoor bistro that’s ideal for hangover brunches, but just as good for a completely sober breakfast, especially for one of the huge omelets or an unusual but tasty version of chilaquiles. (It’s also across the street from the Italian restaurant where the murder Robert Blake was accused of took place.)

Tool around slowly in Studio City or Burbanks, and you can see some of the facilities where TV shows like Will & Grace were shot. You might even see some celebs walking around or getting their dry-cleaning. That’s Los Angeles for you.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Shooting victim recovering

Doug Tull ran to Pekers after being shot in the chest and remains in fair condition at Parkland Hospital

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Doug Tull
POINT BLANK | Oak Lawn resident Doug Tull, shown smoking outside Illusions in 2009 in this file photo, remains in fair condition at Parkland Hospital after being shot at point blank range early Monday morning. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

A 49-year-old Oak Lawn resident was shot during a robbery early Monday morning, Aug. 30, when he was walking alone in his neighborhood. Doug Tull is recovering at Parkland Hospital following surgery to repair damage from the gunshot wound to his upper abdomen.

Frank Holland, the owner of the bar Pekers, was in his bar when Tull entered at about 1 a.m.

“He walked in the door and said, ‘Help, I’ve been stabbed,’” Holland said.

He said his business partner Ron Nelson ran behind the bar and called 9-1-1.

Nelson said he thought Tull was kidding until he saw the blood.

“Before he [Nelson] hung up, there were two police cars here,” Holland said. But ambulance response was much slower. Holland caught the entire incident on camera and said it took 6½ minutes for the emergency vehicle to arrive.

A witness who asked not to be identified saw the shooting from his apartment.

“I was sitting out on my porch,” he said. “Doug crossed Shelby and Brown walking toward Oak Lawn.”

He heard the confrontation but was too far to help stop it.

He said he heard Tull yell, “I don’t have any money” and then a shot and called police.

So when Tull arrived at Pekers, the police were already on their way to the area.

Tull said that he was walking toward Oak Lawn Avenue and a car pulled up from behind him. He said it stopped about five feet in front of him. Two young men got out of the car.

“I kept walking. They were pointing at something as if looking at a building,” he said. “I kept walking.”

He said when he realized something was wrong, he tried to run, but the assailants were too close and jumped him.

When they demanded money, Tull said he didn’t have any on him. They knocked him to the ground. One of the attackers went through his pockets, took his wallet and then shot him.

Tull thought he had been stabbed.

“I didn’t hear a gunshot,” he said. “I didn’t see a flash.”

Before they fled, Tull said he managed to pull a canister of mace from his pocket and spray one of the assailants.

Tull said the two attackers ran to the car waiting in the bank parking lot across the street, yelling, “Mace! Mace! Mace!”

Holland said he told the police that what he saw was a round puncture wound in Tull’s abdomen. He said the shooting must have been at point-blank range.

There was confusion at first about where the incident took place. The original police report said the shooting occurred at Shelby and Brown streets.

Tull later told police that he was attacked in front of the barbershop across Brown Street from the American National Bank parking lot.

Police were checking with the bank to see if their cameras recorded the incident and caught the license plate of the car. After the two attackers got out of the car, the driver pulled into the bank’s drive-through lane.

Tull identified the suspects as three black men in their early to mid-20s, driving an older four-door, gray Nissan Altima. They were dressed in white T-shirts and jeans and weighed about 150 pounds each.

After the attackers fled, Tull ran to Pekers less than a block away.

Tull was taken from the bar to Parkland Hospital where he was in intensive care for a day. Although the bullet entered his body directly under his heart, the only damage was to his stomach, liver and large and small intestines.

While operating, doctors were unable to find a bullet. Later x-rays found it lodged in his rectum. They said it may pass out of his body.

“Doctors can’t believe how fast I’m recovering,” Tull said from his hospital bed on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

The gunman was aiming down, he explained. The bullet shot at point blank range apparently ricocheted off of Tull’s sternum, which is why it did not exit his body. Although the incision made to repair his internal organs is more than six inches long, Tull was out of bed and walking by Wednesday. His right arm is bruised, he said, because the assailants were bouncing on his arm. He has a cut across his forehead but no other facial injuries.

Frank Holland
Frank Holland

On Wednesday, his friend Darwin Kopaska checked Tull’s mail. The parking garage manager at the Crescent sent Tull a check that one of his cashiers found in the parking lot. Tull confirmed that the check had been folded in his wallet.

Dallas Voice passed that information to police who are checking video at the Crescent parking garage to see if their cameras caught the assailants’ car.

Police detectives and LGBT police liaison Laura Martin are looking into the attack.

Tull said that no anti-gay epithets were shouted during the incident but police are not ruling out the possibility it was a hate crime.

While several other attacks have taken place near the Oak Lawn entertainment district recently, this is the first street shooting in awhile.

In May four men with baseball bats assaulted two men on Throckmorton Street near Congress Avenue. In 2008, Jimmy Lee Dean was beaten in a brutal attack just a block off the main Cedar Springs strip.

On April 16, 2007, Jose Landa was shot to death in a parking lot on Cedar Springs Road after stopping to get cash at the ATM on the street.

Police have warned people not to walk alone citing safety in numbers. However, when Jimmy Lee Dean was attacked, he was walking with Michael Robinson. The attack in May involved a couple walking together, and Jose Landa was with his wife and several friends.

Along with the incident report, police issued a neighborhood warning after the Tull attack. After the May baseball bat attack, police were criticized for not alerting the community sooner.

Apartment complexes in the area have not been as vigilant in passing along the warning. The witness said that management in his complex has remained silent on the attack.

In a separate incident, a jogger found a man unconscious on the jogging trail along Turtle Creek Boulevard early Friday morning, Aug. 27.

At about 7:15 a.m. police were called to assist the injured Oak Lawn man. It was not apparent at the time what happened to Shawn Stumph, nor do police know how long he had been there.

He was found laying unconscious on the trail near Bowen Street. A section of the guardrail along a now-closed section of road is missing above where Stumph was found. The drop to the creek bed below is about 30 feet.

Police are not sure if Stumph fell or was pushed in an attack, but said his wallet was in his pocket when he was found and there was no sign of a struggle. Stumph was rushed to Parkland Hospital and remains in critical condition in intensive care. He has extensive head injuries and is not able to answer police questions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens