Dear West Hollywood,
I know you well even though you may not know me.
My brother Larry has not stopped talking about you: your passion, your streets and the place that welcomed him with open arms at an early age. The community that gave him a home and his life story.
My brother first told me about you and his sexual preference late in his life. He was 26 years old when he met you, fell in love immediately and knew he wanted to be part of you. He packed up his New York City belongings and, with New York spirit and savvy in hand, he proudly moved out West. He discreetly told me about his relationship and started a business on your street. The store was called Oscars Wilde. It was 1986.
It was a thought-out name and honored the famous passionate poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. Oscar had been quoted as saying “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” This resonated with Larry, and for him you provided a beginning to understand himself and the new opportunities you had to offer him.
It was not only about himself but about so many people both young and old that your community was building upon. Young men and women who struggled with acceptance and understanding and of course others who make up a diverse community. Oscars’ Wilde was a fun store in the heart of your city at the height of the AIDS epidemic, at a time when even Democratic California questioned gay and lesbian rights.
The name Oscars’ Wilde had a strong undertone and provided a message: homosexuality should not be a criminal offense. Larry keeps that his mission every day. After Oscars WIlde he started the brand YMLA and took a gay brand mainstream. And now, years later, after losing his sight in one eye, he opened the BlockParty store, which lives and breathes the essence of your city, his life.
My brother now and in those days walks the boulevard wanting to know the people: young and old, the stories and their individual journeys to WeHo. He participates in the parades, supports small business owners, and has opened and closed a few other retail stores including an ice cream parlor named after his and his partners dog, Kokee. Ice cream was “dog friendly” and catered to man’s best friend, although WeHo you were really my brother’s best buddy.
Throughout the years Larry has always tried to understand you. He tries to understand your personality and the future of his home. He is married to you, West Hollywood, and plans for your future as he plans for himself. He has no children, just two dogs. But you, West Hollywood, are inscribed in his heart. WeHo is the ring on his finger.
My brother stands tall near the rainbow flag, cares about safety on the streets and merchandises his novelty clothing store ,The Block Party, to the interests of gays and lesbians around the world. I often don’t understand his passion, but am reminded of the struggles and concerns that are unique to you: gay marriage, health reform paternal leave and the building of a national AIDS monument at the heart of your city. At 60, he is proud of his relationship with you and enjoys your City Council meetings, handing out food for Thanksgiving to the homeless and serving the public as a commissioner.
Larry, well, he speaks out loud and out of turn and has the passion and drama of a young man trying to keep a home and secure a future for himself and different lifestyles. Like siblings do, we debate on East and West Coast living. I am married to New York City, but now I can reflect that my brother is no longer fighting about east or west, or arguing with his younger brother. He is fighting for his family and what he loves the most. It is you West Hollywood.
Cheers to a special community and my brother , who likes to sing Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” with the lyrics “Thanks to the joy that you’ve given me.”
Healthy happy 60th birthday Larry