Opinion: Faring’s Plan to Save the Factory Would Have Made Scott Forbes Proud

In the late 1970s, I was a regular patron as a young man at Studio One. Like for thousands of others, it was my safe place to go. It was also the place for my personal ambitions and creative growth. I had always dreamed of producing cabaret shows as a young entertainer, so I was inspired continually by the live events at Studio One. I decided to get to know the owners, and make my presence known. By 1984, I had created my own “live” production and PR company with my partner Gary Steinberg , and together with the help of Scott Forbes and Ernie Carruthers, Rocket Entertainment was born to produce a majority of the “live” entertainment shows at The Studio One/ Backlot Theatre.

Scott Forbes
Scott Forbes, the founder of Studio One at the Factory

It was a time when the “Factory” building was in its heyday operating as Studio One, and was THE centerpiece in LGBTQ nightlife. What many people don’t know is that Studio One also played an important role in the entire development of LGBTQ nightlife throughout Southern California. By late 1984, there wasn’t a show club in West Hollywood that our Studio One company didn’t have a show at, and by 1988 we had even expanded up onto Sunset and into Carlos ‘N Charlies. We built a circuit for entertainers to perform on, which extended all the way from Studio One, The Rage, The Circus, in WeHo – to Ripples in Long Beach, to Newport Station in Anaheim, to The Boom Boom Room in Laguna, and as far south as the WCPC in San Diego.

Studio One was the center of it all – everything we did, and every show produced for all of the clubs was born at Studio One. By 1990 the club had now become immensely important beyond its physical address and played a much bigger role in the LGBTQ community than many ever knew.

So when I saw a posting on Facebook a couple of years ago called “SAVE THE FACTORY” I rushed to reach out to the posters to find out what I could do to help them preserve it. For many months, we discussed doing whatever it would take to raise enough money and awareness to keep the “Factory” from being demolished.

I offered my help in bringing together entertainers that did shows at Studio One in its prime, some of whom are now famous household names, to do a benefit to raise funds and awareness. Along the way, I did what Scott Forbes taught me to do -my due diligence. I implored the SAVE THE FACTORY project to do the same, and research everything – especially Faring and its plans.

For me, I needed to make sure that if the building was saved it somehow could carry on being what it always was in terms of importance to our LGBTQ and entertainment community Along the way, something wonderful happened — I learned that Faring had the same plans that I did – to preserve the history of the building and its patrons while incorporating it into their development, and to re-create a venue not only for future entertainers, but as a living museum for what it once was. In the process, that would bring many of us who lived , breathed and worked Studio One back together again in a common cause.

An illustration of the Robertson Lane project with the Factory building in the foreground (Hodgetts + Fung Architects)

I understand that some people want to preserve the Factory untouched, and I applaud their passion for that. But many of us, with a lot of life still left in us, believe that the Factory has a real future again. Not just as a living “museum” of Studio One, but as a showroom and gathering place of the future. Preservation comes in many forms. Buildings can be frozen in time to just look at. Or they can be re-purposed, even modernized. For example, buildings have even been saved for centuries by simply moving them. London Bridge now sits across Lake Havasu in Arizona, and while it is a bit shorter in length, it is still the original London Bridge.

I have watched Faring go back to the drawing board, numerous times, as a result of its outreach and personal connections to the community, to make sure that it is getting the preservation right, to not only serve to honor the past, but provide for its new life, where it will once again be a viable and important venue for generations to come, virtually guaranteeing the LGBTQ history is safeguarded and celebrated for years to come.

I’d like to say I think that what Jason Illoulian and Faring have done, is exactly what Scott Forbes would have done himself were he to have lived long enough to do it. He was progressive and ahead of his time, and always considered the impact on our community first. He would applaud the ingenuity of repositioning the building, and restoring the best of it, and by making it the centerpiece of the Robertson Lane development, which is exactly what has happened. He would be most delighted to know that the project will include a state of the art entertainment venue that he always hoped to build himself one day. He would be delighted to know that his creation of a main stage had made it into the mainstream. He, more than anyone, saw the place as a venue where stars of tomorrow would always be discovered, just as he did when we put Rosie O’Donnell up on the Backlot stage, along with Roseanne Barr, and countless others who launched careers there. He would be delighted to know that his dream of building a bona fide career launching pad in the LGBTQ community was revived.

Finally, to those confused by the canvassers and signs popping up – please know this – union activists are disguising themselves as caring WeHo citizens, going door-to-door and telling people that they had “no input” in this project, and that is a flat-out-lie. If you don’t believe me, It is quite simple for anyone to access public records online of past public meetings where citizens were afforded the opportunity to speak and be heard, and give their input on Robertson Lane. A lot of community input has been given, and Faring has listened to everyone. And with input from the citizens of WeHo, Faring has worked hard to deliver the proposal that was finally approved by the City Council. This is what they have always wanted to do.

Allegations that City Council members were paid for their vote is an offense to me, and I daresay everyone in the community who gave the input that led to the project’s ultimate approval. It is a low tactic, if not a desperate one, that outside union activists are using to try and overturn the citizens’ choice. They are now canvassing the neighborhoods trying to get signatures to have your democratically reached decision overturned.

Yes, Decline to Sign! And let us save the Factory as approved, as dreamed

  1. I work there Friday nights it is Gay Club on Saturday it is a Gay Club Sunday afternoon it is Straight Club do the math People… I am Gay Male/performance artist.

  2. I could totally buy the need for conservation if The Factory was still operating as a font of culture for the community but, alas, it is not. It has become a straight club, which regularly brings in a seedy clientele for the area. It’s unfortunate.

    What’s also odd is that West Hollywood, for all of its bars, doesn’t have one true dance club anymore. Long gone are the days of Cherry Pop and PopStarz where the gays would congregate on Friday/Saturday nights. Instead they pack into “dance” bars like Flaming Saddles and Revolver, which are a totally different experience.

  3. It’s not like Faniel {sic} Hall in Boston. Was there on family vay-K decades ago. It was preserved, and a food court like use.

    Even with it’s true US history, I remember how fitting a modern use to a building sometimes makes for a poorly functioning use.

    I remember STUDIO ONE but that was then, it changed names (a couple times I think) & I grew up. A “similar” but modern replica-ish IF THAT IS WHAT THE DEVELOPERS REALLY WANT, would be safer, already up to earthquake & building & fire & Green standards, and the structure could be completely customizable for whatever retail use it becomes (rather than the old structure dictating what could & what couldn’t use the commercial space). My opinion only.

    1. To answer this for the record, I am not an employee of FARING, and I have no affiliation with this site or any knowledge of its advertisers. I am sharing my opinion about the issue. And, in reading WeHoville I find they have very fairly covered this from a lot of angles, and it seems they have given more than equal print to opinions that I do not share. I would hardly call that a racket.

      1. Well loyd what made you so motivated to tell the new generation of gays that go there on fri and sat night to go away

  4. This is no longer a gay club. This is a sexist, homophobic club that uses illegal price and client discrimination to exclude gay men and lesbians.

    – Guys cover will be $50 – $100 (Subject to Door Discretion)
    – Ladies will be free (Subject to Door Discretion)

    That is that their advertising says. How is this not illegal in West Hollywood? The “door” will look at a gay man with “discretion” and charge him $100 or not even allow him inside, while allowing a straight woman to get in for free with no line. And if a lesbian shows up, the door’s discretion will be to make up whatever cover she can’t afford, or make her stand in line until she gives up.

    Why are so many gay men so livid that the club kept out women in the 1980s when it was a GAY club for GAY men to have a “safe space” in a homophobic world where they had nowhere else to go, yet they don’t care one bit that this is now a place that excludes gay people smack in the heart of Boystown? Why are they fighting to preserve this homophobic business that does nothing for our community but import a homophobic nuisance from other cities? And why is there so much reporting about the club’s policies in the 1980s but not one word written about the club today? The selfhating, selfflaggelating gays are sickening.

  5. This is the best possible project for a delapidated block that will pay respect to the Factory while energizing La Peer.
    The only real opposition was from NIMBY/Zero Development groups who would oppose anything.
    I live 2 blocks away and am excited for Faring to start work – now if the Melrose Triangle people would only start work and tear down the existing eyesore that’s been approved for many years, we’d have a lively new expanded entertainment district to visit.

    1. Right on Mark. And the union is the other group opposed. They want to collect union dues and they want more power.

  6. LOL
    putting the changes to the city code made by council for this project directly to voters is obviously democratic. Do you not like democracy if it *may* produce results you don’t personally want? If everyone in Weho agrees with you, as you say, then what’s the worry?

    What a ridiculous double-think to claim otherwise. War is peace, freedom is slavery, silence is consent, etc.
    Also, ” It is quite simple for anyone to access public records online ” ?
    Hardly simple; you have to know what your’re looking for, then find it behind several layers of website, and the final report itself on this project is almost 4000 pages long! This opinion piece is so disingenuous.

  7. I’m with Shawn. I have never seen so much money put into the idea of “saving” a building. There are flyers everywhere and yesterday I noticed a group of people standing on the corner of Santa Monica & Crescent Heights with printed signs encouraging people to “save” this property. It makes me question if intentions are truly what they present themselves to be.

    If I’m not mistaken the Studio One mentioned in this article was one that discriminated and prevented both women and minorities from entering. Would “saving” this building be a memorial to that legacy as well? (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-studio-one-west-hollywood-20160730-snap-story.html)

  8. I had people against this building wanting me to sign their petition, three times, last week.

    The last person told me it would block their view.
    One said they are trying to get it on the ballot in November. (Statewide ballot to block a WeHo building?)

    What is the strident controversy?

  9. God for such a wonderful project its taking lots of spin and money to sell it to the residents? A 9 story 241 room Hotel is not saving the factory. Its massive development with the shell of the factory inserted. This is what greed looks like right here in West Hollywood. remove the gay club that still operates and insert a high end hotel , that’s what we need right in boys town! Screw the lgbt bring on a mega hotel!

    1. The public spoke overwhelmingly for the project at the meeting. Get over it. It’s not a gay club anymore either.

      1. Go in there on Friday night. Its gay. Go in there on Saturday night its gay. Sorry greedy the truth isnt spin its the truth. If you want to deny that truth your spinning a lie. If the public is so overwhelmingly for this project why is the developer spending even more moeny to squash democracy? What public are you talking about? The paid off puppets in the political spin machine?

    2. Well, some of what you say is correct – it is taking a lot of money – a lot of money to get it done right, in the best interest of everyone. Most developers would have stopped spending long ago, without concern for what you or I have to say about it. Every aspect of this re-development takes an enormous investment, especially the cost of re-imagining, re-designing, and making the ” Factory ” be the prominent piece. There is no spin, just factual and costly planning that has fully examined every aspect of the impact ROBERTSON LANE will have on WeHo, and has taken into account your opinion and mine. Building a luxury hotel doesn’t equate to “screwing” the LGBTQ community. I myself prefer to stay in a luxury hotel when travelling, and most “boystowns” don’t have them, let alone have a historical site within them. When completed, I believe that it will be a great source of pride for all of us- an I believe it is JUST what we need.

      1. Actually the developer is spending a ton of money to get to build 9 story’s high and put a hotel in an area that isnt zoned for that. And also not have it even be a union Hotel? Seriously? We have plenty of Luxury hotels in weho. We dont need more. And lioyd go ahead and go into the club on a Friday or Saturday night and tell all the gay individuals in there. You know what, its time for you to go, this is weho and its time for ANOTHER hotel. I would love to meet you at the club and be a part of that moment? To me that’s screwing the lgbtq community? If you dont think it is, lets go to the club and you can tell them all we dont want you here anymore we want a hotel

  10. Agreed with Lloyd – I think the approved project does an excellent job of bringing the Factory’s history into the future. The developer did this right and I worry that if the union defeats this project it will dis-incentivize developers from making concessions to the community in the future since they will just have to cave to the union anyways

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