Camping out in West Hollywood: Roger Tredre sets out to discover what's up in Boys' Town, home to much of LA's gay community. To his surprise, he finds himself going native
Thursday 17 June 1993
Jay, a Mexican hairdresser, lives in the apartment next door. I run into him on the first morning hoovering the front steps in a wrapover dressing gown, multicolour bandana, giant gold ear-rings and face pack. 'Hi,' he shoots. 'What's up?'
'Er,' I say, fumbling for the correct reply. 'Nothing much, thank you,' I conclude lamely.
Everyone wants to know 'what's up' all the time in California, but in Boys' Town, the gay district of West Hollywood, this request is particularly prevalent. The correct response, I am told, is merely to repeat the question an octave higher. 'Hi, what's up?]'
My friends take me to Pavillions, the local supermarket, which sells strawberries as big as apples and 50 different varieties of condom. A burly young bodybuilder skips past cradling an orchid. A couple of John Travolta lookalikes argue over who's to push the trolley round the store. This supermarket is open 24 hours a day, but at 2am on a Saturday night, the locals don't come here to buy pints of milk.
Later, we discuss who might make an appropriate subject for an Independent interview. There is Chi Chi LaRue, a character of indeterminate sex, who is, they say, a huge name in the gay-porn film and nightlife business. 'No, no,' says Greg. 'Children read your newspaper.'
Then there are the Chanel Twins, two drag artistes who wear Chanel head-to-toe and are trying to convince the designer Karl Lagerfeld to let them model in the the catwalk show in Paris next season. Their names are Linda Evangelipstick and Christy Girlington. It sounds promising, but they're out of town when I call.
On the third day, Jay, the hairdresser, has a crisis. We are returning from a restaurant at one in the morning and Jay rushes out to meet us, shrieking hysterically. 'Aaaaaah, help me] He tried to molest me] It was so horrible.' He smells of stale cigarettes and beer. He puts his arms round Greg and applies clammy kisses to his neck. Greg handles the situation well, tells him to calm down, but keeps him firmly out of our flat.
Next day, Keith and Greg take me to a model agency to check out models for some fashion shoots for the Independent. Keith introduces me to Craig, whispering in my ear: 'Watch his lips. He's just had them done. Prissy little queen.'
Craig's lips look larger than life, but don't have much to say for themselves. One of his colleagues, Grant, is more welcoming. He invites us to a party in the Hollywood hills. 'Grant has three sets of friends,' warns Greg. 'First, some of the most beautiful gay boys in town; second, loads of rich and obnoxious Arabs; third, spacey New Age mystics who haven't landed on planet Earth.'
The party turns out to include a selection of all three. The men leave me well alone. 'Do I look that heterosexual?' I complain. A tall, very drunk woman leans over me. 'Go for her,' she advises, nodding her head towards a midget. 'She's short.'
We drive home at two in the morning. I get comfortable in my makeshift bed on the living-room sofa, then turn round in surprise to see my friends dressed down in jeans and T- shirts. 'We're going out,' drawls Greg. 'Should be about an hour.'
I see them again in time for brunch the next day. The male model arrives for our fashion shoot. He earns dollars 500,000 a year ( pounds 336,000) and he's thoroughly heterosexual. But by then it's too late. I've gone native. 'Hi,' I say, an octave higher. 'What's up?'
Life & Style blogs
Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
MH17 crash: Fake Facebook pages for young victims created by scammers to exploit relatives' grief and global interest
How much independence should children have?
Raw milk should be sold in vending machines, says food standards body
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
- 1 Husband creates spreadsheet detailing wife's 'excuses' for turning down sex
- 2 Saneie Masilela, 9, marries Helen Shabangu, 53 years his senior, for the second time
- 3 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 4 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 5 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
£55 - £70K OTE £120k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound la...
Negotiable: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a Microsoft, VMware and Citrix...
£55 - £70K OTE £130k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound la...
£40000 - £52000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Drupal developer v...