West Hollywood: The city that's always one step ahead

Kristine Tarbert

From its music venues along the famous Sunset Strip, to its colourful gay bars and pet-friendly everything, West Hollywood is the place where things just get done.

Dubbed WeHo locally, West Hollywood is situated at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, the trendy area isn’t very big with a population of 36,000 but it’s certainly made its mark.

There’s the fabled Sunset Strip featuring famous celebrity hideaway the Chateau Marmont, comedy clubs and live music venues like the legendary Whiskey a Go Go, Santa Monica Boulevard, awash with rainbow flags, and the ‘World’s most famous gay bar’The Abbey.

The famous Sunset Strip. Photo: Supplied

Local historian and walking tour host Tracey Pattin gives Be an insight into the young and vibrant community’s colourful and entertaining past, and explains why it’s still at the forefront of cultural movements today, while preserving everything that has made the city what it is.

“I think of the Sunset Strip as a fascinating historic timeline reflecting the arts and culture of each era,” Tracey tells Be.

The Doors were the houseband at Whiskey a Go Go. Photo: Be

“Starting with the Golden Age of Hollywood, then in the 1960s becoming the epicentre of rock n’ roll music.”

By the 70s it was a major gathering place for the counterculture, with acts like Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Elton John winning over crowds in now famous music venues such as The Troubadour, The Whisky a Go Go, and The Roxy.

During the 80s it evolved into a hub for the glam metal and heavy metal scenes with groups including Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Guns N Roses making West Hollywood their playground.

“Every weekend was a giant block party on The Strip,” Tracey says.

The Rainbow Bar and the Roxy Theatre. Photo: Supplied

“The Doors was the house band at the Whisky A Go Go, and the venue was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

“And the Rainbow Bar and Grill is a virtual rock and roll museum with photos covering every wall and booths named after famous rockers. It’s also known for the best chicken soup in town.”

Johnny Depp's Viper Room on The Strip. Photo: Supplied

West Hollywood has also always been at the forefront of equality and inclusivity, and today 40 per cent of its residents identify as LGBTQI.

In 1984, when a coalition successfully held a vote to officially incorporate the area as the City of West Hollywood, they elected a city council with an openly gay majority.

West Hollywood has been at the forefront of equality. Photo: Be

“A year later, West Hollywood was the first place in the US to allow domestic partnership benefits and legally recognize same-sex relationships,” Tracey says.

“West Hollywood soon developed a reputation as a self-governed gay city and became a vanguard for progressive legislation, social change and LGBTQI culture.”

The Abbey is one of the world's most famous gay bars. Photo: Be

Even our furry friends aren’t forgotten in WeHo as it there are thought to be as many pets in the city as children.

“Our municipal code refers to people with pets as ‘guardians’ not ‘owners’,” Tracey explains.

“Almost all West Hollywood hotels are dog friendly and offer special touches, ranging from a chef prepared dog menu at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills to luxury dog beds and bowls at Sunset Tower Hotel, and many restaurants and stores are dog-friendly.”

Pets are welcome almost everywhere. From the Sunset Plaza to hotels. Photo: Supplied

With everything it's already achieved, there is no doubt West Hollywood will continue to set the standard for progressive, creative individuals on the cutting edge of trends and new ideas.

“Our city’s DNA as being an inclusive haven has allowed for a flourishment of creativity and self-expression,” she says.

“It’s no surprise that it continues on that path and always will."

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