RedEye 'Hoods


L.A. ‘hood wants to copy ‘Boystown’ name

L.A. 'hood wants to copy 'Boystown' name

People celebrate near Boystown's Halsted Street pylons during the Pride Parade. (Tribune file photo)

There’s another Boystown gayborhood bubbling up, but not in Chicago. This one’s in West Hollywood, Calif., and earlier this month two city councilmen in that small city next to Los Angeles announced their support of officially recognizing a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard as “Boystown,” a brand that has long been associated with Chicago’s Lakeview.

Behind the push is West Hollywood resident and businessman Larry Block, who announced his proposal during a city council public comment session in March. He wants the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and La Peer Drive to be known as “Historic Boystown,” a name that is thought to be more inclusive of the lesbians and other minority groups who live there now, according to city councilman John Duran.

Some residents of this Boystown are less than enthused with the idea.

“Really? I think that’s pretty weak and quite cheesy on their part,” says Paul D. Cannella, 40, owner of Scarlet Bar and Taverna 750. “I’m very happy for them, and certainly encourage the intentions of designating this area to honor LGBT people, but naming it ‘Boystown’ or ‘Historic Boystown’ just seems so copycat. I read the article that it’s been called that for years, but rise up and get creative, don’t just rip off of Boystown Chicago.”

In 1998, Chicago designated its Boystown neighborhood with 22 rainbow-colored Art Deco pylons along a half mile of the North Halsted Street corridor. Later this year, The Legacy Project will install four bronze plaques onto each pylon memorializing the lives and work of notable LGBT individuals.

On Block’s website, in a section titled “Boystown for Everybody,” the entrepreneur offers a respectful nod to Chicago by stating, “There is one place in America where there is an official ‘Boystown’ — in Chicago, Illinois. The popular district of Lakeview ‘Boystown’ is the first officially recognized gay village in the U.S. The City of West Hollywood is 26 years old and we are asking our City Council to finally recognize our ‘Historic Boystown.’”

Tracy Baim, 48, the publisher and co-founder of the Windy City Times, doesn’t see the L.A. Boystown as a threat.

“I don’t think any one city can really claim [the Boystown] designation exclusively, so I don’t see it as an affront to Chicago,” Baim said. “Chicago will always have the first claim to having an official city-designated neighborhood recognizing the contributions of the LGBT community. But no one area of the city or suburbs is home to all LGBTs or all current LGBT businesses, just as Greek Town is not home to all Greeks and Greek businesses.”

She also said she’s interested to see if Boys Town, the home for disadvantaged children in Omaha, Neb., will fight West Hollywood’s designation “as they did for our column of the same name in the early 1990s.”

Even as gayborhoods across the country struggle to maintain cultural relevance in the face of gentrification, several gay enclaves continue to thrive, including the Castro (San Francisco), the South End (Boston) and Chelsea (New York City), to name a few. Chicago’s Boystown — home to the Center on Halsted, the Gay Pride Parade and Northalsted Market Days — is clearly a LGBT mecca, and yet gay and lesbian Chicagoans shop, walk their dogs, eat sushi and party in virtually every neighborhood in the city.

In an interview with the West Hollywood Patch, Block acknowledged gentrification and an “increasing straight presence” in West Hollywood as a determining factor for proposing the ‘Historic Boystown’ designation.

“I think it’s great that a city is actually recognizing the LGBT community in this way,” says Jeff Rieck, 40, a resident of Chicago for 10 years. “Imitation is the best form of flattery.”

10 Responses to L.A. ‘hood wants to copy ‘Boystown’ name

  1. Dave

    I allways thought that “West Hollywood” and The Castro” meant GAY, but if they want to rename part of WH Boystown, that’s okay. Maybe start a chain of Boystowns across the country, sell t-shirts, mugs, etc…..Brighten up a lot of empty storefronts on Main Streets in small towns all over the USA!

  2. Greg

    I’m with Marc— but I just thought Hollywood is where creative people went. And a creative person wouldn’t be a copycat, now, would they? And sadly, I must report that the South End of Boston is pretty much DOA as a Gayborhood— the LGBT’s either marched or were pushed into Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and South Boston. The good news is gays can and do live in most neighborhoods of major progressive cities. The bad news, like with declining Greek Towns, Little Italys and the like—the cultural cohesiveness is diminishing.

  3. DougChgo

    I grew up near Omaha, so the first Boys Town I experienced was the REAL Boys Town: a place for boys (not men) at risk to go to get an education and learn a trade so they could become productive members of society. (I’ve never seen the Spencer Tracy movie, so I don’t know how well it portrays the REAL Boys Town.) The second Boystown I heard about was in 1978 in LA (it was probably West Hollywood, though I didn’t know it at the time) — I was visiting relatives (including my closeted gay uncle, who referred to a place we were driving through as “Boystown”). So who is the copycat? I’ve never really liked the name Boystown for the Halsted strip, because it’s men — not boys — who are frequenting the bars and restaurants. It IS an accurate moniker for both Chicago and LA in terms of being a place where boys (and girls, and transgender kids) go when they’ve been tossed out of their homes by fundamentalist parents. So I’ll accept the name for both places on that basis.

  4. Chicago Proud

    Those gay men in West Hollywood need to come up with your own origninal name. Chicago has the one and only Boystown. Why don’t they name their gay area “Superficial-Town”? That suits them to a tee. It’s nice living in a city where the first question I’m asked at a gay bar is not “What kind of car do you drive?” Chicago beats L.A. hands-down.

  5. Pingback: Boystown: RedEye 'Hoods - L.A. blog chimes in on ‘Boystown’ debate

  6. John

    I lived in West Hollywood for 9 years before moving to Chicago. People who live in Weho don’t refer to it as boystown. Boystown is in Chicago and should stay there. West Hollywood is a wonderful place which I love with all my heart. It should maintain its own unique identity.

  7. GlenBlank

    I think the reason they want to call it ‘Historic Boys’ Town’ is that very few people call it that any more.

    But lots of people used to.

    I moved to LA in the late ’70s, long before West Hollywood became an incorporated city. Back then, it was just a patch of unincorporated LA County that had long been a center of vice and nightlife, since it was outside the jurisdiction of the LAPD.

    It was mostly known for the ‘Sunset Strip’, an area of restaurants, nightclubs, discos and head shops along Sunset Blvd. The Strip dates all the way back to Prohibition, when it was home to speakeasies and supper clubs and showgirl revues.

    ‘Boys’ Town’ was a different area, south of the Strip, along a stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. It was home to some of the most notorious gay bathhouses that flourished in the pre-AIDS era. On a Saturday night, you could cruise along Santa Monica and find shirtless, muscled gay hustlers soliciting on almost every street corner.

    Thus the name. That’s what everybody called it.

    But these days, though it’s still a gay mecca, it’s considerably toned down. And it’s not just young gay men any more – there are plenty of middle-aged singles and couples, and lesbians too. (Not to mention a large immigrant Russian Jewish population)

    So the ‘Boys’ Town’ appellation is historic, not current. It’s not really ‘Boys’ Town’ any more.

    But it certainly used to be, back in the day.

  8. Pingback: Another Town To Use ‘Boystown’ Name? « Another Town To Use ‘Boystown’ Name? « CBS Chicago

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


What do YOU think?

We're always on the lookout for more local news freelancers and opinion writers. Interested? Great! E-mail us at

Working for tips! Send us one