The “Gayest Store on Earth”


Near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente lies what has been deemed “the gayest store on Earth,” at least that’s what the owner calls it.

The store’s official name is Block Party. It is part clothing store and part novelty items. Customers have the option of buying a tank top, an “out and proud magnet,” or even adult literature. Owner Larry Block likes to think there is something for everyone, but he doesn’t want people to forget they are in the heart of “Boystown.”

“West Hollywood is becoming a homogeneous city. And that’s not good,” Block said.
Block opened his store a few months after A Different Light Bookstore closed in 2009. Selling adult books for the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community in West Hollywood, the store had been a staple in the city for almost 30 years. When Block heard about the closure he wanted to make sure the building continued being a part of the gay community. He knew the store’s owners were considering selling the store to American Apparel and he did not want the deal to happen.

“They told me that the lease was out to American Apparel. I got nauseous,” Block said. “One day American Apparel, the next day Banana Republic.   What is going to happen to this street, the community?   A couple of weeks later I called the landlord again. They said American Apparel was dragging their feet. I asked for a meeting and they gave me a lease. First one signed with a check gets the space. I came back the next day. It was like saving the gay street.”

But buying the store was only the beginning for Block. Less than a year after opening Block Party, he began to think of other ways to keep the “gay” in West Hollywood. He said he was upset to see that not as many people from the LGBT community were moving into the city. Block and many other residents were starting to think that high rents were forcing people into other areas of L.A.
“The politics of the city have made investments that did not favor the gay population but rather was very generic to the population at large,” Block said.

His frustration with the changes he was seeing prompted him to reach out to the city council and ask for help. Block began talking with friends about ways to keep the LGBT culture alive and prevent more people from moving out. After a few months of speaking with friends he decided to ask the city council to officially designate part of West Hollywood as Boystown.

During the March 21 city council meeting, Block pointed out that Los Angeles has areas named for the ethnic populations living in Thai Town and Little Ethiopia. He wanted to know why West Hollywood has not followed suit for its gay population so he suggested the area along Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson and La Cienega be officially called Boystown.

The idea was simple, but he has been gaining a lot of support over the last few weeks.

“A lot of people know Larry now because of it and they always want to compliment him and tell him that it was a really good idea,” said Brandon Wright an employee at Block Party.

City council members have also decided to support Block’s idea. Both John Heilman and John Duran announced their plans to vote in favor of the designation. If they pass the notion, the area will likely be called “Historic Boystown” instead of “Boystown,” because the name does not include lesbians or other minorities.

Not everyone in West Hollywood agrees with the designation for that very reason. Others are more concerned about where the boundaries will be.

West Hollywood resident and local comedian Jerome Cleary said he feels the designation leaves out a lot of other LGBT areas within West Hollywood.

“I feel like he wants it to be preserved in that area because of his store. He wants to sell t-shirts and stuff,” Cleary said. “My thought of mind is there’s a long history in our city that covers a lot of different locations in West Hollywood and a lot them are on the east side, way past La Cienega and Santa Monica. How are you going to balance that out?”

Block’s employee, Wright said the point is not to exclude people. He said that area just happens to be filled with mostly gay men, more so than in the rest of the city.

“I mean I think you go by the predominance of what it’s been and I mean it kind of is a boystown you know. I don’t think that’s excluding anybody, everybody’s more than welcome, its just predominantly gay men. It’s more of like a safe haven too, for gay men. Especially gay men moving out here that don’t know a lot about the scene, knowing that this is boystown they know ‘oh we should go to boystown because that’s somewhere you definitely fit in and it’s a safe area to live and everything too.’ So from that perspective that’s kind of cool.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>