PHOTOS: Vintage Ads for LA’s Gay Bars of the 1970s, Then & Now

ah-men-2716-griffith-park-and-8900-santa-monica-479x670The year was 1971: Apollo 14 lands on the moon, the country is still mired in Vietnam, and Donna Summer is just starting her career. For a handful of local Los Angeles gay bars, it’s just business as usual as they place advertisements in what few publications comprise LGBT media.

Back then, these ads were no big deal. But today, they’re a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Los Angeles homosexual of the early ’70s. Check out those outfits! The term “groovy guys!” And reference to a mysterious drink called “the manhole,” the taste of which we can only imagine.

After a friend sent these along, we started wondering if any of the bars survived the intervening forty years. We checked Google Street View, and the results are, well, a little depressing. None of the names still exist. Many of the structures are gone. And only one remains a gay bar to this day.

Is this a symptom of a lack of community and continuity in L.A.’s gay community? Did the HIV epidemic wipe out our watering holes along with our brothers? Or is it just the normal churn & instability of the bar industry?

At any rate, check out the amazing time capsules below — what once was, and what remains.

8900 santa monica blvd

2716 griffith park blvd

The “Ah Men” boutique is sadly no longer with us. (We would kill for an art print of that ad to hang on a wall.) Replacing it are a generic bank in WeHo, and a parking crater in Silverlake.

key club - 1136 fairfax

1136 fairfax

 WeHo’s “Key Club” is long gone, replaced by a dental clinic where presumably the oral examinations continue to this day.

gaym - 4007 sunset

4007 sunset

 Well helloooo there. Sadly, the face of “Gay’m” appears to have been demolished, as this address no longer exists. A bookstore and a furniture shop now sit where it would have been.

male box - 1087 manzanita

1087 manzanita

 We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the same structure, and possibly the same coat of paint, that welcomed gay patrons in the ’70s. An unseemly, barely-marked, windowless box? That certainly has all the hallmarks of a gay bar trying its best to avoid detection.

bunkhouse - 4519 santa monica

the virgil - 4519 santa monica blvd

“The Bunkhouse” is now a gay-ish bar called The Virgil. Coincidentally enough, it’s just a few doors down from one of the city’s greatest vintage shops, L.A. Glaneur. Of course, their style tends to focus on the 1980s, so men reading this circa-’71 ad would have found L.A.G. to be terribly fashion-forward.
chicks - 1010 artesia

1010 artesia blvd

Welcome to beautiful Long Beach! Here is the gayest place in town. Watch out for Leslie.

sewers - 1608 n cosmo

1608 n cosmo

What on Earth is this? We’re not sure if this unmarked door is actually a former entrance to “The Sewers of Paris,” but the address seems approximately correct. It’s very cute and mysterious, whatever it is. Maybe that stripey-shirted boy is still waiting inside, tossing his own salad and mixing up manholes in case company stops by. Any guesses as to what PMWW stands for?
westside - 6122 venice blvd

6122 venice blvdThe galas are long gone from this corner, but if you’re looking for a place to get your car stolen, you could do worse.

goliaths - 7011 melrose

7011 melrose ave
Could this possibly be the same structure? The “pillars” and “arch” at the doorway suggest a theme vaguely compatible with the name “Goliath.” Note the tasteful censorship on the crotch. Maybe that’s where he kept his hot wings.

hanged man - 10522 buband

10522 burbank blvd
Ta da, this is the only bar in the bunch that is still gay! (And one of the few that is still even a bar.) Now called The Bullet, it’s the valley’s go-to watering hole for leather and Levi’s. 

the jaguar - 7511 santa monica

tinto - 7511 santa monica“The Jaguar” is now an upscale tapas joint called Tinto in the Russian district of West Hollywood. Once much gayer, this end of town has fallen into somewhat of a decline as all the tourism and development bunched up in Boy’s Town to the west.

groovy guy

This isn’t an ad for a bar, but the advertising copy is just so magnificent we are obsessed nonetheless. Anybody know what Raymond “Mr. Groovy Guy ’72” Todd is up to these days? If he was 20 in 1971, he’ll be turning 62 this year. Hopefully he’d be glad to know that decades later, he’s still putting a smile on our faces and some pep in our pants.