Oct 18, 2014

The West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

Life in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s was cyclical.  There were no seasons -- it was warm and sunny every day -- but you were always planning on the next event.

The social calendar began in June, with Gay Pride.  Then:
Outfest (July)
Sunset Junction (August)
AIDS Walk (September)
Hollywood Film Festival, Halloween Parade (October)
Hollywood Christmas Parade, Thanksgiving (November)
The L.A. Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Concert (December)
The Tournament of Roses (January)
Valentine's Day (February)
Cinco De Mayo (May)

When I first moved to West Hollywood, Halloween was an informal affair.  All of the bars offered costume contests, and patrons would walk from the Gold Coast to the Cafe Etoille to Mickey's to the Revolver in costume, adulating in the attention from passersby.  In 1987 it became an official parade modeled on Mardi Gras in New Orleans: the West Hollywood Halloween "Carnaval."

Every year it became bigger, noisier, more crowded, and oddly, more homophobic, as heterosexual tourists came into town to stare, point, and make jokes.  Eventually everyone in West Hollywood avoided Santa Monica Boulevard that night, making do with private parties or the bars of Silverlake, on the other side of town, and letting newcomers take over.

And they did.  Today the West Hollywood Carnaval draws 500,000 people, more than any other event in Los Angeles except for the New Year's Parade.

If you can manage the crowds and the gawkers, there's beefcake to be had.  Costumes tend toward the whimsical and drag, but once and a while there's a muscleman or two.