WeHo is a wonderfully weird little city.
How many places could launch a free party bus (sorry, “entertainment shuttle”), unabashedly use sexual innuendo to promote it and get the whole town buzzing? The Creative City certainly can.
It’s not just WeHo’ans being seduced by the PickUp Line—we’re happy to play along with the innuendo — but the media, too. Press from all over L.A. turned up for Friday’s launch event and the PickUp’s first official night out on the town. The PickUp is getting almost as much ink as that giant tube that’s proposed to take us to San Francisco and New York at lightening speeds.
I was among the writers eager to get “picked up” for the PickUp’s maiden voyage on Friday night. I set out from my eastside abode toward WeHo on an L.A. city bus. The bus was crowded, the ride was bumpy and there was a lot of yelling when the driver passed someone’s stop. My regular transportation squeeze has set up the newcomer PickUp to look good.
And the charming new suitor looks very good. The bright yellow exterior has comic book-style imagery. A trolley-inspired interior includes wood benches and big, low windows. Besides its vintage look, the shuttle is set apart from other buses by its music, a mix programmed by West Hollywood DJ Derek Monteiro.
The question is, will the party show up for the party bus?
I embarked on the ride with notebook in hand. Here’s a log from my journey:
8 p.m. –I see one of the PickUp’s two buses set out with lots of press on board. Across the street, I get on the other bus. This one is empty except for three guys who are talking to Laura Biery, economic development analyst with the city.
8:20 p.m. – A couple of groups have come aboard and the song “Thrift Shop” is playing. One tells Laura that the bus would be a great setting for a music video. Lady Gaga has been hanging around WeHo lately.
I’m thinking the party may be getting started, but most of the riders aren’t on long. Soon it’s quiet again, so I ask Laura some questions about the PickUp and its social media presence.
There’s been talk of adding an onboard photo booth, but that component isn’t set up. Laura tells me that the city is still looking at bids; apparently the first bids came in higher than expected. To explain what they have in mind, Laura tells me how one of the proposed setups would have worked. Riders would have posed for pics, then entered their information on a touch screen. Then, the photos would be sent to them via text message—and then they could share via social media (tagging @WeHoPickup on Twitter and Facebook).
The photo booth may or may not pan out, but Laura tells me there are social media “ambassadors” who are taking photos and doing social media posts. (You can see some of our favorite posts from and about The PickUp in our Storify item.) I try to shoot some photos during my ride, but it turns out to be a bit tricky to snap photos on a moving bus without dropping something or tumbling over.
8:30 p.m. – We reach the end of the 30-minute route. Instead of continuing the loop, we pull over. Since there are two shuttles doing the same loop, the buses run 15 minutes apart as long as they are in sync. The other shuttle, which apparently made some extra stops for photo ops, is running behind. We have to wait for it to catch up so that the timing is right. I wonder if it’s time to pull out the book I brought along.
8:45 p.m. – Things are picking up on the PickUp. It’s not packed, but there’s a steady stream of riders. Several notice that I’m scribbling away in my notebook—not exactly standard Friday night partying gear—and ask what I’m working on. Another marked difference from a standard bus, where strangers rarely engage me in friendly chats. Either WeHo’s just a friendly place, or Friday night revelry and the novelty of the new shuttle are putting folks in a great mood.
I’m not actively interviewing, just observing and journaling, but one rider asks me if I want a quote. I tell him to fire away. I’m interested to hear if riders think the bus lives up to its hype. This rider thinks it does; he calls it friendly, fun, free and smart.
Another rider boards and loudly says, to no one in particular, “This is great!” When he gets off a few blocks later, it’s not clear if he’s mostly sincere or largely sarcastic as he raves, “This is great! We would never have had dinner here if we hadn’t had this! I’m so excited to have dinner on this side of town!”
9:15 p.m. – I meet a go-go dancer who works at several area clubs. Tonight he’s working in Silver Lake, and he’s using the PickUp for a segment of his commute. He hopes that the shuttles will spread business around in WeHo by making it easier for partiers who hit the strip of clubs near Santa Monica and San Vicente to also check out WeHo clubs that are farther east.
9:30 p.m. – Cute as they are, the bus benches aren’t designed to be comfortable for extended rides. I’m also hungry, and I’m curious whether the other bus is still full of press. I get off to grab a snack, take a break and then catch the other bus.
10 p.m. – As shuttle No. 2 approaches, I see it’s jam-packed. When it pulls up to my stop, though, most passengers get off. It turns out to be one big group, the WeHo Dodgeball players. With them is Jon Viscott, WEHOville’s freelance photographer, who’s been shooting pics.
I don’t see any other press when I step onto the bus, but soon there are plenty of riders. One woman gets on and says “party!” and another rider says “yeah!” and makes a lasso motion as he makes his entrance.
10:15 p.m. – The crowd is getting rowdier, and the music is getting louder. The fun of WeHo nightlife is spreading to the shuttle.
“Goodbye, trolley!” says one disembarking rider. “We love you!”
By 11 p.m., the stream of passengers is steady and the mood is jovial. No one’s more apt to get excited about an idea than a crowd that’s well-primed with cocktails.
Although I haven’t had libations, I have climbed aboard the bandwagon. I wish I could take this seductive new trolley home — but with its limited route that’s not an option. It’s back to the old squeeze.
I spend an hour waiting for an eastbound L.A. bus. One finally comes along just as I’m on the verge of opting for a cab instead. The ride is uneventful; there’s no music, no chatting and there are no friendly neighborhood go-go dancers. The faded fabric on the seats and the bright yellow poles are no competition for the PickUp’s smooth style, enthusiastic riders and love for double-entendre.
I’m glad I got “picked up.” Stay quirky, WeHo.
Click here to see what everyone had to say about the PickUp on social media.