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.
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.
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.


Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated


  • z

    “PMWW” is probably meant to stand for “Paris Municipal Water Works”. Just a guess, given the name of the place.

  • hudson

    This was actually quite a fun romp through LA’s history. I’ll check out the Bullet when in LA next time- for history’s sake of course.

    Thanks Benji.

  • hudson

    i hope we hear form some of the guys that actually were at those bars………..

  • BarLackey

    That is the same building… Same windowless construction. This became the Detour before it went straight as the 4400 Bar.

  • WallaceWells

    Who knows what Raymond is doing these days, but the Falcon vault has some stuff to make you put even more of a smile on your face 🙂

  • car

    How fun was that? A Toby drawing can only take one back. There were some omissions of course: The Farm, across the street from the apparently eternal French Market; Gino’s on Melrose; The Other Side on Highland; 8709 Beverly Blvd (a bathhouse, can you imagine?) Propinquity, an eclectic boutique which is now Rage and on and on…

  • Jackhoffsky

    these ads are a much bigger deal than you make them out. aside from New York and California, gays were still a completely hated minority. Even among mid-American hippies, gays were still something only found on the coast. To have ANY advert that would promote such existence of gay establishment would be a very big deal for anyone visiting.

    I absolutely love vintage porn, and i adore vintage ads. Thanks for this!

  • Vegas Tearoom

    Does anyone know the address to the long gone Pink Elephant? It’s the bar Tommy Kirk frequented which got him in a hot tub with Uncle Walt.

  • JoeWatchesTV

    “A bookstore and a furniture shop now sit where it would have been.”

    Not just a bookstore, it’s Circus of Books which is every bit as cruisy, or at least it was when I lived down the street.

  • JoeWatchesTV

    The 4100 Bar is not a gay bar.

  • Ms Urethra Franklin

    The 2nd vintage ad for the KeyHole Bath House says only ages 21-35 only. WOW. Shocking that agism of gays by gays existed back then too. Some things never change. I think most guys just start to get hot at 35…

  • Taurox

    Lots of fun to read. Great write up Benji.

  • macmantoo

    Those were the days. I remember AH Mens being just down the street from the Troubador. The Bunkhouse was a couple doors from Queen Mary (not the boat) and a bath house I can’t remember the name of. I remember the weekends up at Griffith Park. Sigh, those were the days. Now we just troll the internet.

  • macmantoo

    @hudson: Been there and did that. There were a couple of others, but as you get older (as I am) you tend to forget the names. Even the young kids hung out at the Gold Cup-a coffee shop on the corner of Wilcox & Hollywood Blvd.

  • Ferris8

    I love it when queerty manages to snare a good writer.

  • Nikkidane

    Vary interesting. I lived in L.A. in the 90s so most of those places were long gone but I did grow up in the 70s in North Florida. Our MCC was firebombed in 1985. I went to University of Florida in the early 70s and there was nothing for gays. It was as though gay people didn’t even exist. It’s fascinating and rather sad to see those days when being LGBT was such a clandestine experience. Living through the Gay Liberation Age in the 70s, AIDS in the 80s, and now seeing DADT overturned and Gay Marriage being legalized has been amazing. I think of all the gay men who died of AIDS, many of which probably frequented those bars. So sad. To think of how things have changed in 40 years is really unbelievable.
    As a Trans woman who evolved out of the Gay Community, I remain optimistic that things will continue to improve. I often think that I was born 50 years too early. Now I think I was born at exactly the most amazing time in history for LGBT people.

  • Roger Rabbit

    Hey guys! What about the Probe!! Awesome club!!! Tons of stars performed there. Now it’s an architectural firm but they’ve left the Crystal Ball in the alcove entrance.

  • macmantoo

    @Nikkidane:I grew up in the 50’s & 60’s and didn’t know one single gay. Did play around a little with my stepbrother and some of his friends. The kids today, although bullied too much, have it easy compared to those of us born back then. The internet had shown the world that gays are not a small group of strange people. I truly believe that the internet is what has made us a driving force on the road to equality. I never thought that I would live to see the day that I could marry the guy I love. It’s not there yet in my state, but I feel it will come before my time on earth ends.

  • NormdePlume

    No one remembers Greg’s Blue Dot on Highland? THAT was a fun place!

  • chuck

    I’m the same age as Mr Groovy Guy! How time flies. What ever happened to Basic Plumbing? I preferred it to any bar.

  • Hans

    Wow, does this bring back memories. My favorite bars around 1970 were The Black Pipe on S. La Cienega, Keith’s in the Valley, The Friendship in Santa Monica Canyon, and my favorite favorite — The Klondike on La Brea. After the bars closed lots of us descended on Arthur J’s on Highland. I still have my 1972 Bob Damron guide with dozens and dozens of LA gay listings.

  • macmantoo

    @Hans: I forgot about Keith’s and the Klondike. And of course Arthur J’s on Highland. Before I was old enough to drink I used to go a bar on Ivar at Franklin. I lived across the street in an apartment building. On my 21st birthday the group bought me 21 drinks boy was I smashed. Those were the days. We used to act butch when the MetoCops would come in.

  • nacinla

    Good list. And yes, would have been fun to have included Basic Plumbing, which was also on Fairfax. The booth with the plexiglass walls was a favorite. Probe and Greg’s Blue Dot were legendary, and are sorely missed. To correct one comment here: The bathhouse 8709 was at 8709 West Third at about Hamel, on the upstairs level. It was a common occurrence to see a long line of guys winding down the entrance stairs and onto the street in front of the coffee shop on street level on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. It was a pretty incredible place, with its maze that was walled with mirrors. A favorite memory: an Adonis standing against a wall under a pin-spot light, towel in front of his crotch. He didn’t move the entire evening. Wouldn’t trade those experiences for any app!

  • nacinla

    Oh, one other thing: Yes, discrimination based on looks did exist. A friend from Houston and I went to a sex club one night and they made him take off his shirt to make sure he was in shape. It was either that club or another that had a very narrow passage-way that you had to turn sideways to enter, and if you didn’t fit, you didn’t get in. I was too young to experience the ageism then, but now, being much older, I have to think it was brutal.

  • Billysees

    I think it was 1969 or 1970 and I was working at my company’s west coast division in San Fernando Valley for about 6 months.

    I was not out at that time. I was 25 years old then. I was oh so Gay curious about everything.
    I also remember that I always prayed that I wouldn’t crash into the back of another car as I just loved looking at all of the most beautiful guys that seemed to be all over the place.

    I went out driving one night and wound up driving by and then went into a Gay bar that was on a side street that was off of and near Hollywood Boulevard.

    It was called “The Sewers of Paris”. I remember the spiral staircase it had that went up and also down from the street level. I went in and down to the lower level, looked around and then left.

    I don’t know why I didn’t stay longer and at least have a drink or two.

    I must have been very nervous or something.

    I’ve never forgotten the experience or that funny name, The Sewers of Paris, ……lol….

  • Billysees

    Holy mackerel, I just finished looking through the vintage ads and there it was…Number 7……The Sewers of Paris.

    Unreal…unbelievable……flipped out………………

  • jockjack5

    Fascinating article! Reminded me of my adventures in Pittsburgh in the mid 1970’s on Liberty Ave… there was a place called Cinema Follies that was a very hot place for gay boys… I too used Google Street and tried to locate it recently, but the building is long gone… anyway… I would have loved LA back then!!

  • will53

    @Vegas Tearoom:
    2926 main street santa monica, ca 90405

  • mcanto

    The Friendship was a great place after a day on Will Rogers State Beach, otherwise know as screech beach. Before the beach, we all went to Patrick’s Roadhouse for breakfast which was right down the street on PCH.

  • mujerado

    Next door to Goliath’s, and outliving it, was a piano bar named David’s. For awhile a local celebrity, “The” Reese Allen, held court at the piano, playing everything from the American Songbook to Broadway and Hollywood. Fond memories!

  • Rdhowell71

    I was born in 71 so I wasn’t part of any bar scene back in those days. I live in Warner Robins, GA and the city north of me Macon had several gay bars that are long gone. I have a friend who is a bit older and I love to hear him talk about the bars in the area back in the 70’s and 80’s. I have been in the area for over 20 years and we had a bar that had the name The Cherry Pub (located on Cherry Street) and then after a while changed to Synergy. Sadly it closed and we lost a great place for LGBT people to hang out. I loved to watch all the drag shows that took place. Some of the drag queens from Synergy are still around and performing. Tangerine, Deonna Sage, Mercury and Ravion Star are some of the first drag queens I saw when I started going to Synergy. We even got drag queens from Atlanta from time to time. One of my favorites from Atlanta by far is Charlie Brown. I even the honor of being singled out from the crowd and it was a riot and a pleasure to meet her.

  • Billysees

    Even though I live in Baltimore Maryland, I enjoy reading all the nostalgia here about the bar scene in LA and other places around the US.

    It must be mentioned that the ” BAR OWNERS ” are the real ” UNSUNG HEROES ” of the Gay community.

    It may not be realized by all how important these ” business men and woman ” and their wonderful establishments are for all of us in the LGBT community.

    Great places to hang out…
    Great music…
    Great dance floors to dance the night away…
    Great sound systems…
    Great restaurants to eat really well prepared food…
    Neat drag shows…
    Some had dark rooms to go into…
    Pool tables…
    Video games…
    Outdoor balcony to relax and get away from all the loud music and cigarette smoke….
    Great places to meet and make friends and hook up…
    Great places to be around like minded people…that oneness feeling is amazing…

    To me, the worse thing about getting older with poorer health is that I can’t enjoy those wonderful places anymore.

  • NickC

    I was looking at endless reels of microfilm (of one of the local papers from about 30 years ago) when I was in grad school a few years ago. Just when I thought my eyes couldn’t take any more tiny print, a small ad caught my attention. An advertisement for a gay porno theater. I live in Cleveland, and I can’t imagine a time when any gay movie house would openly advertise in the stodgy paper of my stodgy city. How times have changed. We are used to thinking that things are so “open” and “accepting” today compared to the past. To a point, things are better today, but the anonymity of the big cities of the recent past provided a safe space that is disappearing today. I am just old enough to remember busy bathhouses, sex clubs, and cruising. Not saying that it was a golden age, but definitely the atmosphere, despite gay marriage and changing attitudes, was better in some respects back then.

  • marksf1966

    just after college I moved to LA in the early 80’s. just there a couple years and barely out I found my sexuality there – boy to be that age again, what an adventure in and out of bed. I remember assuming every one I met was gay unless proven otherwise since it was a very closeted time. Its been many years but I remember great bars and hangouts. there was one in Venice funky but so much fun, many great memories, cant remember the name tho.

  • DeserTBoB

    I came out into the LA gay scene at its apex, the disco era circa ’74 until things went to crap in ’82. Guys these days have NO IDEA what it was like…we had our own neighborhoods, and, being a truly hated minority, we kept pretty much to ourselves, eschewing all str8 establishments for gay-owned ones, where we could band together for our own protection…Christopher St. taught us that. There’s no sense of community anymore; it’s all about online hookups on bareback porn peddling web sites with guys with personalities lesser than that of an amoeba, and that’s it…no political action, no esprit du corps…nothing. These bars and tubs and boutiques were where we sought and found refuge from a punishing world at large. Their passing proves a number of things, not the least being that HIV-1 more than decimated the gay male culture and fellowship that it provided, as well as the fact that gays are now “integrated” into society to the point to where such self-protection isn’t considered necessary anymore. But, mark my word…the hatred is STILL out there, guys doing the wrong thing in the wrong place STILL take beatdowns, and now, we have no social fabric with which to present a counterpoise to it anymore. Sad state of affairs, indeed, sadder when you consider that meth, and its running buddy, accelerating HIV infection rates, are the biggest problems gay and bi men face these days.

  • DeserTBoB

    @marksf1966: Pretty sure that was the Pink Elephant, a small but very popular disco bar in the ’70s through the ’80s, when everything crashed and burned. You missed it…the late ’70s were FAR better.

  • DeserTBoB

    @Billysees: For the most part, those places don’t EXIST anymore.

  • DeserTBoB

    @mujerado: Another one like that was Lillian’s on the corner of S&M Blvd and (I want to say) Orlando? in WeHo…piano bar, fairly good cuisine, across from the big newsstand on Orlando. That was the absolute best that WeHo ever got…until the ’80s, when all the guys died and the lipstick chicks took over and turned it all into an ersatz “city” hellbent on destruction of its past as “the county.” It, like so many other gay ghettoes of the past, is now a shadow of its former self. The Castro up north is suffering the same fate now; SOMA (The Folsom) is all but gone.

  • DeserTBoB

    @nacinla: Basic Plumbing wound up either moving TO Silverlake, or moved THERE from Silverlake…I can’t remember, to be honest! And YES, Millennials…it was spelled SILVERLAKE, all one word, back then, just like the boulevard. The “hottest gay bar in LA” (self-admittedly) is at Sunset Junction, AKBAR..and it’s NOT “hot.” That’s the site of the original Mother Lode, a levis neighborhood bar, that crashed when the owners died, like everywhere else. There were places all around Silverlake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Santa Monica/Venice, Long Beach, and out in the valley. Now? There’s virtually nothing left…Oil Can Harry’s on Ventura is now, besides Circus (yes, Gene’s thinking of tearing it all down and building apartments on the lots), the ONLY dance club of a medium size left in all of LA. Pretty disheartening. We indeed have lost so much.

  • DeserTBoB

    @nacinla: It wasn’t just looks, but socioeconomic and ethnic background, as well. Remember Scott Forbes’ policy of discrimination of Mexicans and blacks at Studio One? That was big news in the LA Times back then. Gene La Prieta countered that by opening Circus Maximus, later Circus Disco, over on Lexington at Cherokee in a converted warehouse which had a “all are welcome” philosophy to this day. Well, its days are numbered, as Gene’s ready to retire and cash out after a 41 year run. He wants to build a block of “hipster” apartments where Circus, Arena and the other place are all co-located. As it is, Circus is only open three nights a week now and the days of long lines to get in are long since gone. It was quite the place in the day, though! Us “dirtier” white boys had no problem skipping Studio for a night of fun in Circus. I used to spin records there in late ’77 through ’78, among other places.

  • jimbo4la

    @DeserTBoB: Are you thinking of THE DETOUR at Sunset Junction that was owned by a fellow named John Bailey? Originally it was called THE MALEBOX.

  • scotshot

    @Ms Urethra Franklin:

    You’re surprised sexism “existed” way back then! Wow! Ageism has been around as long as homo Sapiens have existed. Youth connotes fecundity- fertility in females and virility in males (blue pills anyone?). This doesn’t mean we’re all attracted to youth, like you I prefer a man 35+.

  • scotshot

    @Ms Urethra Franklin:

    You’re surprised ageism “existed” way back then! Ageism has been around as long as homo Sapiens have existed. Youth connotes fecundity- fertility in females and virility in males (blue pills anyone?). This doesn’t mean we’re all attracted to youth, like you I prefer a man who’s 35+.

Comments are closed.