New York Times Sneers At Demise Of WeHo’s Former Gay Hookup Joint

la-photo-shoots-with-kurt-brown-part-2anthony-ds-sanvicenteThe New York Times just did a writeup on a cute little West Hollywood hotel. Ordinarily we’d be like, “oh, that’s nice,” and not care very much. But there’s something kind of creepy, condescending and unpleasantly sneering about the piece. Let’s take a look.

The situation is simple enough: Filthy-rich gay man Jeff Klein bought a sleazy (or sexy, depending on how you look at it!) ramshackle hotel called the San Vicente Inn, and is spending $30 million to turn it into an upscale “auberge,” which is French for “be on your best behavior.” Klein has a track record of buying old buildings and giving them a high-price makeover. Let’s just say he is one of those gays with great taste and the passion to makeover special spots.

Before the purchase, the old San Vicente Inn was unlovely. Certainly, there were plenty of ordinary guests. But more often than not, it defined down-and-out, and was where gay men wound up when money was tight and life was a mess. It wasn’t very clean. Clothing was optional. The place had its own drug-dealing squatter.

Klein laments, “there was a near overdose. Seriously! It was like land of the missing teeth in here. I couldn’t bear it.”

So he’s in the process of cleaning it up, with millions of dollars of refurbishments. Along with the changes, he’s also started requiring clothes, and stopped calling it “gay-friendly,” although it’s still friendly to gays — Klein is family, after all, and it’s in the middle of WeHo. And of course, the prices will go up.

So what’s the problem? A dirty crime-magnet flophouse is becoming something pleasant. Who could object?

Well, some longtime residents of the area aren’t happy. The old San Vicente Inn was an institution for a certain set of fast lane homosexuals, it had a retro appeal, and for some people, change is simply scary. The shabby chic, dirty punk-rock, anything-goes vibe at the old place is gone forever, to be replaced by country-club gentility. Many will miss the libertine freedoms of the orgiastic hot tub. Now it’s all cleaned-up, sanitized, inoffensive, safe… boring. However, we certainly won’t miss the dangerous behaviors that sometimes went on there.

As we see it, the biggest problem with this whole story is with the entity telling it: The New York Times. The whole attitude of the article is as gross as the old hot tub.

For example, writer Brooks Barnes jokes, “Out: staph infections. In: cute staff.” We don’t even know what to say to this snobby pun, as if cute people are immune to staph. (In fact, staff at any residential facility are prone to infection as the spread of Staph is casual.)

It’s not super-funny to dismiss people with a disease as being simply unfashionable, as disposable as an unkempt bellhop. That’s just cruel attitude. As bad as writing, “Out: HIV. In: Artisanal honey from local hives.”

Barnes writes “ahem” at the group shower, like a disapproving schoolmarm clearing her throat at teenagers holding hands at a soda shop. And then goes on to describe the old inn as wafting “bleach and shame.” The implication here is that sex is dirty and shameful. We guarantee that many of the guests felt no shame at the debauchery. In fact, they reveled in it.

The writer also contrasts the “sick shabby” hotel of before, citing its meth torches, with its current status as halfway to “super-chic.” Hey, NY Times, we hate to break it to you, but super-chic people are sometimes into meth, too, and hardly immune to addiction. The only difference is that they can afford to hire poor people to clean up after them.

Klein also takes pains to debunk a rumor that Tom Cruise was spotted at the former bathhouse-like spot. “Tom Cruise was not roaming around a gay hotel,” Klein tells the paper. “How embarrassing.”

Why include that detail, NY Times, without explaining it? We suspect we should take offense at that statement, but we’re not sure on whose behalf. Does Klein mean that it’s embarrassing to think that someone as weird as Tom Cruise stayed at his hotel? Or is it embarrassing to Cruise that people think he’s gay? Or is embarrassing that his hotel would have a reputation as a destination for closet cases? If Klein and the paper are going to look down their nose at someone, the least they could do is be clear about the direction in which the noses are pointing.

Brooks quotes a “community news website,” that quoted someone calling the place a “sin bin,” which is petty. If you’re going to cite the excellent local site, WeHoVille, Brooks, at least have the courtesy to call it by name and give it a link. You’re more than happy to link to the insanely expensive Malin & Goetz soaps that the inn is now stocking, but the NY Times is too good to even type out the name of the news sites you’re cribbing from?

And then there’s this: the paper keeps referring to the renovation as having made the place “more inclusive.” But something about the word “inclusive” here doesn’t seem quite right. The whole point of the renovation is to exclude the old crowd, which, we are compelled to remind everyone, included an eclectic crew of folk from the down and out to the merely horny to the occasional high and mighty slumming it for a night. Many well-to-do types have been spotted here, perhaps looking, like we all do from time to time, for love in all the wrong places.

The sex-negative attitude, the sneering at the supposedly unhealthy indigent, the “ew gross” approach to a certain class of gay man… the whole writeup just, well, stinks.

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  • seaguy

    I get so tired of these elitist queens who think their you know what don’t stink looking down on others in the gay community who they consider to be undesirable. They start throwing around stereotypes which the NYT article was guilty of, like that this hotel was nothing but tweakers, whores, and people with AIDS.

    Have they ever stopped to think that maybe not all gays are so financially stable with the economy and job market woes of late. But in the gay community status is so important that many would not dare openly discuss a job loss or financial issues. So your not going to see those individuals who probably stayed at this hotel because they are not getting high and making a ruckus getting the cops called.

    It would be nice if those within the gay community would stop making so many assumptions and using stereotypes when it comes to others within our community. Focus your anger or whatever energy on fighting those who hard our community instead of bringing harm to it by cutting those with less than yourself down and grouping them with addicts and criminals.

  • Billy Budd

    I am favorable to orgies and orgiastic places. Even dirty ones.

  • joey

    i stayed there around the early 2000’s. it was the year falcon celebrated their 30th? anniversary. i found the place fine, it wasnt the best place i ever stayed at but it was far from dirty or smelly, perhaps it went down hill. now as far as the drugs sex and orgies …well you know it WAS weho during falcons 30th anniversary…it was pretty nuts that week. i cant say it was any worse than any place in florida or palm springs though

  • woodin

    doesn’t sound much different then a book store in the Village and we should be defending it because it had a “book” in its name and all the activity inside is a unfortunate distraction to literature and its literary mission?

  • frshmn

    There’s a lot of weird paradoxes in the gay community, we glorify circuit parties, pornstars, prostitution, alcohol and promiscuity , yet we look with disdain at people with addictions, hiv/aids, and mental health issues. Check out the comments whenever a pornstar dies/commits suicide. I’m not saying everyone is guilty, just be conscious if you’re supporting destructive behaviors yet are judgmental of those who suffer the negative consequences from them.

  • Billy Budd

    I have participated in orgies before, but I never tried any drugs nor had sex without protection. You can go to circuit parties, be a fan of pornstars, hire escorts and be promiscuous, without doing drugs, having mental problems or getting hiv.

  • Mark

    @frshmn: Thanks, frshmn. My sentiments exactly.

    This article gets the indignation over this situation just right; these privileged gays that can afford sex parties and drugs in the privacy of their own homes, and sneer at behaviors they paper over with their life coaches and private rehab facilities. Ugh.

  • Ben Dover

    On the one hand, yeah I’m always annoyed by the blithely “upscale” NYT travel articles. I doubt anyone could do one of their “36 hours in…” mini-weekends for under a thousand dollars (and that includes Baltimore or Cleveland).

    But after reading the NYT link here, I’m not sure I get Queerty’s outrage. You have a story just below this one about how bad meth is. The NYT explains how the new hotel owner really wanted to leave the sleaziness in place for awhile, but then “there was a near overdose. Seriously! It was like land of the missing teeth in here. I couldn’t bear it.” Uhhh… is meth bad or isn’t it?

    @frshmn: @Mark: That’s quite a stretch, to say that “we” (!!!) “glorify circuit parties, pornstars, prostitution, alcohol and promiscuity.” You must live in a different gay community than I do.

    Sure the NYT article is condescending, but where does it glorify (or even mention) “these privileged gays that can afford sex parties and drugs in the privacy of their own homes” etc.

  • Mr. E. Jones

    I have a feeling they’re more interested in attracting straight people, than gay people. It’s going to go the way of the Abbey–lots of hets, and gays will be harassed.

  • sfsilver

    Everyone knows that all the really clean and respectable A-Gays do their meth and have their orgies at high end events like this weekend’s Black Party in New York. The times should write about all the Financial sector cash going up noses and into booty bumps this weekend in their own back yard.

  • RomanHans

    Thanks so much for this! I saved the article knowing there was something wrong with it, so it’s great reading somebody put it smartly into words. Aside from the Times’ condescension, Mr. Klein clearly has dollar signs where his brain ought to be, somehow claiming that “inclusiveness” means we need more straight people at gay establishments.

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