DONALD WOOD | TravelPulse.Com
Troy Warren #travel-all
The United States National Park Service is reporting a massive surge in visitors so far this year as pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted thanks to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccinations.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the rising number of Americans willing to hit the road for vacation this summer has resulted in long lines outside the gates of many of the most popular national parks across the country.
Last week at Arches National Park in Utah, officials were forced to turn guests away and make them wait at the gates after the property reached guest capacity before 9 a.m. local time. Signs in the area warned visitors of waits of as long as five hours.
Arches National Park registered around 194,000 guests in April, which is an increase of 15 percent from April 2019. The facilities were closed in April 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions.
At Yellowstone National Park last month, officials announced more than 483,100 people visited the property, a new record for the month of May and an 11 percent increase from May 2019.
Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park also set a new record for May with more than 363,700 visitors, an increase of around 30 percent from May 2019. Camping in the park also increased 93 percent in May 2021 compared to May 2019.
The National Park Service said that while properties across the U.S. are recording record high guest arrival numbers, officials are expecting millions more visitors over the summer, with July and August historically the busiest months.
In 2020, national parks saw a 28 percent decrease in visitors compared to 2019 due to temporary closures and other pandemic-related restrictions. Officials said 66 of the 423 parks in the National Park System were fully closed for at least two months.
BY TRILBY BERESFORD | HollywoodReporter.Com
Seattle-based studio Very Very Spaceship will lead game development on the title, which will enter soft launch in select markets before launching globally later this year.
Niantic is teaming with Hasbro and toy company TOMY to publish a real-world augmented reality mobile game in the Transformers universe.
Transformers: Heavy Metal is built using Niantic’s Lightship AR platform. The game will invite players to team up with Bumblebee and Optimus Prime and join the Guardian Network — a group of humans who have banded together in a war against the Decepticons — and engage in turn-based battles, either solo or with friends.
“Transformers is the perfect franchise for AR,” said Niantic’s CEO John Hanke, in a statement. “Battling and interacting with giant robots in the real world is an amazing experience. We want to live up to the high expectations of Transformers fans around the world and bring them a game unlike anything they’ve played before.”
Seattle-based studio Very Very Spaceship will lead game development on the title, which will enter soft launch in select markets before launching globally later this year.
Niantic, which is based in San Francisco, is known for developing Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The American Heart Association say more exercise is the first step to treat hypertension
Before taking medication or adjusting diet, the American Heart Association says adults with mild to moderate hypertension and high cholesterol should get moving.
More exercise is recommended as the first step to treat these conditions in adults with otherwise low heart disease risk. The AHA announced this in a June 2 scientific statement published in the journal Hypertension.
“The current American Heart Association guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure and cholesterol recognize that otherwise healthy individuals with mildly or moderately elevated levels of these cardiovascular risk factors should actively attempt to reduce these risks. The first treatment strategy for many of these patients should be healthy lifestyle changes beginning with increasing physical activity,” said Bethany Barone Gibbs, Ph.D., chair of the statement writing group and associate professor in the department of health and human development and clinical and translational sciences at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
People with a blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg/80-89 mm Hg meet the criteria for lifestyle-only blood pressure treatment. The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Guideline outlines these standards for people with otherwise low heart disease or stroke risk.
It’s estimated that 21% of U.S. adults meet that criteria. Meanwhile, an estimated 28% of U.S. adults, have an LDL cholesterol score over 70 mg/dL and a low risk of heart disease or stroke. Such adults would meet the 2018 AHA/ACC Cholesterol Treatment Guidelinescriteria for lifestyle-only treatment. These include more physical activity, weight loss, diet improvements, smoking cessation and reducing alcohol consumption.
“Increasing physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, along with many other health benefits,” Gibbs said. Such benefits include improved sleep, lowered risk of certain cancers and boosted brain and bone health.
An analysis of 36 studies showed physically active people have a 21% lower risk of developing heart disease, according to the statement. They also have a 36% lower death risk from heart diseases compared to physically inactive people.
Last year, the World Health Organization updated its guidelines to recommend that adults between ages 18 to 64 should get “at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.” This deviated from AHA’s recommendations of 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
Still, benefits can be seen even with a small amount of physical activity.
“Every little bit of activity is better than none,” Gibbs said. “Even small initial increases of 5 to 10 minutes a day can yield health benefits.”
By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren #local-all
Delta First Officer Chris Dennis’ short, handwritten letter left on the flight deck of an A321 parked in the California desert at the beginning of the pandemic was discovered by a fellow pilot, more than a year later.
First Officer Nick Perez found Dennis’ note in the flight deck of Delta Air Line’s ship 3009, the last A321 still parked for storage in Victorville, California. As passenger loads and departures decreased at the onset of the pandemic, 435 days prior, Dennis had parked ship 3009 in the California desert. Feeling the surreality of the moment, he penned a note for the pilot who would get to do the return-to-service flight.
As he read the letter, Perez was transported back to feelings from 15 months ago, a chilling reminder of how different things were and how different we feel today. “If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel,” the letter read.
On March 23, 2020, the world was only beginning to enter the pandemic tunnel. Dennis picked up a trip to VCV. At first glance, he didn’t recognize the airport code and looked it up: Victorville. He knew of the desert airport. The significance of this flight started to sink in.
When he arrived at an empty Minneapolis-St. Paul airport that Monday, he realized this particular trip would be unusual. The airport was empty, quiet. Only one Delta employee greeted him. “We pushed back with the ground crew; the terminal was empty. It felt desolate,” he said.
They took off to Victorville as Minnesota locals heard talks of a two-week lockdown.
“It wasn’t until we were on final approach headed in for landing when it hit me,” Dennis later recalled. “The VCV instructions noted to go behind a ‘follow-me vehicle’ that brings you to a parking spot. As we crossed the runway, it’s hard to fathom how many aircraft Delta has until you see that many of them parked in one place.
“When we got in line, it looked like an optical illusion. It just kept going and going,” Dennis said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It was shocking.
“I thought about how many people’s jobs rely on just one of those airplanes,” Dennis said. “From the reservations agent, to the ticket agent, to the pilot, flight attendants, mechanics, the ramp crew. Then you go a level deeper: the rental car agency, the hotels, the tourism companies.”
Dennis parked 3009 for what he thought would be a 14-day stay at VCV. Even then, 14 days was a shocking amount of time to him.
Recognizing the impact of that moment, Dennis penned a letter to serve as a “time capsule” and tucked it away in the tray table for the crew that would take the aircraft out of storage.
The letter reads: “Hey pilots – It’s March 23rd and we just arrived from MSP. Very chilling to see so much of our fleet here in the desert. If you are here to pick it up then the light must be at the end of the tunnel. Amazing how fast it changed. Have a safe flight bringing it out of storage!”
Feeling overwhelmed, Dennis shared photos of his trip and his letter to Facebook. As people tried to come to terms with what was happening across the world and to the airline industry, the post went viral, shared by more than 4,000 people across more than 35 countries.
Fourteen days passed, and 3009 stayed parked. Then 100 days, then 300 days.
On June 1, 2021, Perez landed at VCV and started planning his mission to wake up 3009.
Before taking off, Perez and the team went through pages and pages of pre-flight verification. While parked, ship 3009 lent parts to other aircraft, a standard practice for long-term storage. But this loan was more extreme than usual. More than 120 of 3009′s parts went to other aircraft during its unprecedented 436-day stay at VCV.
Mechanic Tom Trenda and his team spent weeks preparing this aircraft, and many others, to fly again as Delta’s loads and schedules picked up. As Perez prepared to depart, Trenda mentioned that he should check the tray table in the flight deck – that he’d find something inside.
When Perez flipped down the tray table, Dennis’ note fell out: 57 words capturing the uncertainty and emotion the nation felt in March 2020. Perez recognized that note. He’d seen it go viral last year.
It was only after reading the note that he understood the gravity of the trip. He immediately began to think about how Dennis must have been feeling when he wrote the letter. “He had to have been thinking he was leaving his job,” Perez said. “Back in March, I was 100% certain I was going to lose my job.”
Perez’s pre-flight procedure didn’t include the same worries.
“I kept thinking about my mindset now compared to his when he left this note,” Perez recalled. “[Back then], we were getting good at landing empty airplanes, now we’re going in the right direction. I’m in good spirits. I’m very optimistic. I feel like how I felt in 2017 again, ready to get going.”
“As they get into that airplane, they are going to see the opposite view than I saw,” Dennis recalled. “There’s going to be an open runway in front of them.”
BY PAMELA MCCLINTOCK | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #reviews-all
Jon M. Chu directed the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical with an ensemble cast led by Anthony Ramos and Corey Hawkins.
Warner Bros.’ In the Heights sang off key in its box office opening with $11.4 million, well below expectations and putting the musical at No. 2 behind holdover A Quiet Place Part II in a surprise upset.
Heading into the weekend, Jon M. Chu’s big screen adaptation of the musical that put Hamiltoncreator Lin-Manuel Miranda on the map, was widely expected to top the chart with anywhere from $15 million to $20 million.
Instead, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II sequel shot back up to No. 1 in its third weekend with an estimated $11.7 million for a domestic total of nearly $109 million. The horror-thriller is the first film in the pandemic era to cross the $100 million mark domestically in a victory for exclusive theatrical releases. Overseas, the sequel has hit $78.5 million for a global cume of nearly $188 million.
Like all 2021 Warner Bros. titles, In the Heights is debuting simultaneously on HBO Max because of the challenges posed by the pandemic. It is impossible to know exactly how much business that is taking away in terms of box office grosses, but the feel-good pic may be more impacted than other genres since musicals often play to older adults, and especially older females. Consumers over 35 are the most reluctant to return to the multiplex, according to NRG surveys. At the same, musicals have a decidedly mixed track record at the office.
The hope now is that glowing reviews and strong exits lead to increased grosses. “We’re incredibly proud of this movie, and hope audiences find it over time,” says Warners president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein.
Per normal practice, HBO Max isn’t releasing viewership numbers for In the Heights.
Anthony Ramos and Corey Hawkins led the ensemble cast in this tale of a corner in Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights where different members of the close-knit Latinx community pursue their dreams. Leslie Grace, Melisa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV and Jimmy Smits also star in the critically acclaimed film, which received an A CinemaScore from audiences.
The film over-indexed on both Coasts, and particularly on the East Coast, where five of the top 10 theaters on Friday came from New York City alone. It also over-indexed among Latinos, who made up 40 percent of ticket buyers.
Sony’s family pic Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, the weekend’s other new offering, also came in behind expectations — although not as dramatically — with an estimated domestic debut of $10.4 million. The film received an A CinemaScore.
Overseas, where Peter Rabbit 2 had already opened in select markets, the family film took in another $10.7 million from 11 territories for a foreign tally of $57.9 million and $68.3 million globally.
The summer season is fully underway at the U.S. box office as the pandemic recovery continues, although grosses are still more tepid than in past years because of ongoing challenges facing the marketplace, including major theater closures in Canada, and hesitancy among some consumers. (There’s also cannibalization from streamers, such as HBO Max.)
“Another impressive performance for A Quiet Place Part II, a film that continues to enthrall audiences in its ‘theatrical first’ release and even in its third weekend, was able to grab the top spot despite the arrival of well-reviewed competition that also offered a streaming option for consumers,” says Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian. “Is this enough?”
Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It declined 58 percent in its second weekend to $10 million for a 10-day domestic total of $43.8 million. Globally, the horror threequel cleared the $100 million mark to finish Sunday with a foreign cume of $68 million and $111.8 million globally.
Disney’s Cruella — which is also available on Disney+ Premier Access for $30 — rounded out the top five with $6.7 million in its third weekend for a domestic total of $56 million and global haul of $129.3 million.
June 13, 8:35 a.m. Updated with revised estimates.
June 13, 8:48 a.m. Updated with revised estimates.
BY J. CLARA CHAN | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #business-all
As part of the deal, Procter & Gamble will also co-finance and co-produce other projects with Wayfarer across film, TV and new media.
Justin Baldoni’s Wayfarer Studios will launch The Man Enough Podcast next Monday as part of a major deal and partnership with Procter & Gamble.
In the podcast, inspired by the unscripted video series and book of the same name, Baldoni will be joined by co-hosts Jamey Heath and Liz Plank, a journalist and expert on masculinity, to engage in conversations with guests about topics like fatherhood, privilege, body image, intimacy, relationships and other issues that negatively impact men and women. Guests on the series will include Matthew McConaughey, Shawn Mendes, Karamo Brown, Glennon Doyle and Eugenio Derbez.
The deal will also see Procter & Gamble co-financing and co-producing other projects with Wayfarer across film, TV and new media. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We are so excited to join forces, and hearts, with the incredible team at P&G on this first-of-its-kind partnership,” Baldoni, the co-founder of Wayfarer Studios, said. “As we continue to create media that amplifies the human spirit and serves as a catalyst for positive social change, we can’t think of a better way to kick off this partnership than by bringing The Man Enough Podcast to the world.”
“Wayfarer is creating authentic content and stories that bring much needed love, light and positive energy into the world,” Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, added. “P&G is committed to creating even more content for good through this unique first-look deal with a wonderful partner that shares our values.”
Baldoni’s Wayfarer Studios first launched the Man Enough talk show in 2017 that brought together figures like How to Get Away With Murder‘s Matt McGorry, Hamilton‘s Javier Muñoz, Dancing With the Star‘s Derek Hough, spoken word artist Prince Ea, comedian Bassem Youssef and activist Aydian Dowling to discuss provocative and intimate subjects over dinner. In April, Baldoni published Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity to explore his own relationship with masculinity, identity and vulnerability.
The Man Enough Podcast is executive produced by Baldoni, Heath, Tarah Malhotra-Feinberg and P&G’s Pritchard and Carrie Rathod. The series will be broadcast in partnership with Audacy’s Cadence13 and distributed everywhere podcasts are available, while a video version of each episode will be available on YouTube and on the Man Enough website.
BY JACKIE STRAUSE | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #picks-all
The former leads of the ABC reality dating franchise, who are co-hosting the 17th season in place of Chris Harrison, speak to The Hollywood Reporter about signing on amid controversy.
Tayshia Adams already stepped in once to save The Bachelorfranchise. Midway through production on the 2020 season of The Bachelorette, the franchise alum fielded a call from producers to take over the starring role from Claire Crawley, who had unexpectedly exited early after finding love. In the end, Adams’ takeoverwas a success; she found love with her winner, Zac Clark, and helped to move the franchise needle towards featuring more representation onscreen along the way.
Now, she’s doing it again with Kaitlyn Bristowe for the next Bachelorette. During a time of controversy and uncertainty for the hit ABC and Warner Horizon franchise after the problematic season of The Bachelor, the former Bachelorettes signed on to co-host the 2021 cycle that was left rudderless by the departure of Chris Harrison. Their joint role was announced in March, about one month after Harrison had stepped aside following a widely criticized interview where he excused racially offensive behavior from Rachael Kirkconnell, who went on to win the historic Bachelorseason with Black star Matt James.
When Adams and Bristowe accepted the high-profile hosting rose, the franchise was making national news over its failures in handling race. At the time, Harrison said he planned to return (his exit later became officialthe day after The Bachelorette premiered), but what quickly became clear was that the Mike Fleiss-created reality dating franchise needed to fill Harrison’s job for its immediate future, as season 17 of The Bachelorettewith star Katie Thurston was about to go into production.
“I know that we are a huge step for the franchise,” Adams tells The Hollywood Reporter of the two women serving as the current face of the show. “There are so many steps that are being taken to change the franchise right now, but this was something that I wanted to definitely be a part of. If I can help change the franchise in any way, or change peoples’ perspectives on the show, then I wanted a part of that.” Bristowe adds, “Tayshia and I both came into it saying, ‘We want to be a part of the change.’ We wanted to see it in every way possible and I think we were both really pleased in what we saw.”
Adams and Bristowe spoke to THR together during a press day for the now airing cycle with Thurston. Below, the duo explain why they feel they are representative of the changes the embattled franchise is aiming to make, beginning with The Bachelorette season 17.
The premiere for Katie Thurston’s season has been well-received by Bachelor Nation — the consensus being that former Bachelorettes hosting The Bachelorette makes sense. From your shoes, what responsibility did you feel when stepping into a position that was filled by a familiar face for almost 20 years?
Kaitlyn Bristowe: I think we felt a responsibility to not compare ourselves to his time and his role on the show. We are not Chris Harrison. We are Tayshia and Kaitlyn who have been in the position of a Bachelorette; we’ve been a contestant, we can relate to everybody who is living through this journey. And, like you said, having women come in and host and mentor Katie, who is doing this for the first time, makes a lot of sense.
Tayshia Adams: We were able to have relatable conversations. We’ve been in her shoes. Not many women or people in the world can actually say that, and us providing that perspective for her is something you are definitely going to see in the conversations throughout the season. It made sense for two women to help navigate another woman going through this journey.
Chris Harrison’s status with the franchise has been in flux since February. Did it surprise you when you found out that he wasn’t coming back and that you guys were getting this gig?
Bristowe: It surprised me and it didn’t. It surprised me because he has been a part of the show and the face of this show for 20 years, however many seasons. And then it didn’t surprise me because I see how much the franchise is trying to make the right changes. Even bringing two women into the show is a nice change-up for everyone to see. So, a little bit of both.
Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams with Katie Thurston (center) on the June 14 episode of ‘The Bachelorette.’ ABC/CRAIG SJODIN
As the franchise’s first female hosts, how do you hope your season is received differently?
Adams: We’re able to have conversations that only we can relate to. This journey is not typical; you can possibly fall in love with multiple people and we can help her navigate those feelings. Katie is very sex-positive; Kaitlyn can really hone in on those conversations with her and let her feel comfortable in being who she is, and be empowered and strong. And we both provide a really good perspective and take and advice when she needs it. That’s always something that other women who have been in her position can really help her with.
Bristowe: And we do it through the whole season, people will see that. We both felt empowered to help Katie and I know Katie felt empowered in herself that we could give her that confidence and say, “How you are feeling is valid.”
Adams: I think you felt that in watching night one.
What surprised you most about this role now that you’ve been behind the scenes on the other side?
Bristowe: What surprised me was how invested everyone behind the scenes also gets in peoples’ feelings and relationships. For viewers at home, sometimes you think, “Why are you crying night one? You just met her.” But being there, you’re in it and your emotions are so high. It’s just more real than you could ever imagine it being.
Adams: At the time, when you’re in the position as lead, you don’t know if you can trust anybody or if you’re making the right decision. Being on the opposite end, we were very invested in her journey and helping her navigate these waters. And, even with the guys as well. Now that we’ve been in this position we were able to say to her, “No, you can trust us. It’s really tough. Your feelings are valid.” It’s just as tough being on the other side.
Amid the criticism and backlash against the franchise during Matt James’ season, you both spoke out to advocate for change and say that it was time for more inclusion. When the two of you signed on, what were some things that were important to you that you wanted to see change this season?
Adams: For me, I know that we are a huge step for the franchise. I wanted to make sure that people saw that women supporting women is an amazing thing to see on television. We do not have to tear each other down. We can help each other. You’re seeing us front and center help support another person. There are so many steps that are being taken to change the franchise right now, but this was something that I wanted to definitely be a part of and have my hand in. And if I can help change the franchise in any way, or change peoples’ perspectives on the show, then I wanted a part of that.
Bristowe: We were both honored to step in and be a part of that change because we saw it in the diversity of the cast and the diversity behind the scenes. Bachelor Nation is really incredible because they will hold people accountable and they will also stand by the franchise if they do see the changes being made. I think Tayshia and I both came into it saying, “We want to be a part of the change.” We wanted to see it in every way possible and I think we were both really pleased in what we saw.
Tayshia, you have said that you felt supportedbehind the scenes during your season, with your producer on the ground and with the diversity team as a resource. This season, did you feel there was more diversity behind the scenes to support this cast?
Adams: One-hundred percent. I think it’s great to see that it’s not just for the lead, but for everybody else behind the scenes and all of the contestants. From my own experience, I have seen a lot of change since my first day. From my first day on the scene until now. And it’s nice to be there and see it for myself in a different light, in a different position. And that it’s within the entire franchise, not just for the lead.
Katie Thurston told THR that change doesn’t happening overnight, but that change is happening. Did you two feel like you had more involvement in the creative process because of the situation, where you were you able to vocalize suggestions and/or feedback during filming?
Bristowe: That often came up. They actually gave us the opportunity to sit down and say anything that we were feeling: “What do you think? What do you feel? What could change?” And I really appreciated them coming to us to make sure we felt [involved]. I can’t really think of anything specific right now, I just know that those conversations were always had and it was nice that they came to us.
Adams: Since the first day, they said, “If you guys have any insight, please let us know.” And we really did have the opportunity to chime in and say we want this or that. I really appreciate that because we didn’t know what our roles were going to be and how much involvement we were going to have. But since day one, they said, “You’re a part of this.” It was really refreshing, actually, and it took me by surprise.
Would you recommend that female hosts stick around for Michelle Young’s season of The Bachelorette in the fall and would you two be interested? [Note: Bachelor in Paradise will have rotating guest hosts, while a host, or hosts, for The Bachelorette season 18 has yet to be decided.]
Bristowe: Well, we can’t go back now! I think we did a pretty good job — if I find out where they’re filming and I’m not a part of it, I’m showing up anyways! (Laughs.) I think you have to really listen to your audience, whether that is them sharing their concerns about the show or what they love about the show. I think people really enjoyed this refreshing season and what women can bring to the table when it comes to empowering one another, and I think people at home really like to see that. We’d love to be a part of it. And even if it’s not us, we would love to see women involved.
Adams: Absolutely. If it’s not us, we would love to see women involved. I think Katie has even spoken to the fact that it really helped her and encouraged her. It’s a very different experience.
Are there changes that you’d like to see come back, or other improvements made, for the season 18 of The Bachelorette?
Bristowe: You know how we say that love comes in all shapes and sizes and colors? I think we can always grow in that way. That’s just how I feel, moving forward, that it can always grow. Any show can. Anything that you are putting out into the world where there is an audience watching, you always want to evolve as a show and I think they have the opportunity to always grow.
Adams: And I think they also listen to how the show is perceived by the people. If people speak out on something else and they bring something to their attention, it doesn’t go unseen by the franchise. I think change is something they are open to, obviously, and very aware of, as you can tell with just us sitting here right now. So, who knows. I’m sure a lot more will change in the future and I’m excited to see the change.
Katie said there was one moment in particular where she couldn’t have done this without the two of you. What can you tease?
Bristowe: I definitely sat with her on a bathroom floor at one point!
Adams: Yeah, you did. I almost pounded through some walls like, “They did what?!”
Bristowe: I think it was important for Katie to know that we had all felt that way, at some point, in our own journey. If you get to a point where you’re so overwhelmed with emotions that you want to quit and go home, I kept joking that then you’re doing it right. Because that means your whole heart is in this and that you’re taking this extremely seriously, as you should. We all feel that way at some point or another and we’re here to pick you back up off the bathroom floor, tap you on the butt and say, “Get back out there.”
Adams: It’s at that point that you don’t want to give up. You want to keep leaning into the process, because your heart is really in it and you never know what you can get if you keep going.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Bachelorette season 17 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
BY KIRSTEN CHUBA | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren #covid-all
“This is going to be the roaring ’20s,” says The Abbey owner David Cooley, as LGBTQ nightspots await California’s June 15 reopening.
After 15 months of pandemic restrictions that have kept Los Angeles’ gay bars partly or completely closed, nightlife owners like The Abbey founder and CEO David Cooley are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. California is set to fully reopen June 15, allowing nightlife to return just in time for Pride month (though West Hollywood’s huge Pride parade is canceled for 2021, for the second year in a row).
“For this year’s Pride, there’s no parades, there’s no festivals in West Hollywood, but we will make sure The Abbey is really ready and decorated for Pride,” says Cooley, who recently oversaw the iconic bar’s 30th anniversary celebration, which included a visit from Lady Gaga. “This is going to be the roaring ’20s, people are ready to get up and dance, and it was proven when Gaga came in. I could not tell people to sit down.”
“It’s almost like burn your bra,” he adds of the lifted mask mandates on the horizon. “People want to burn their mask and hear our DJs and start dancing and looking at our go-go girls and go-go guys. They want to party.”
When patrons do return to West Hollywood this Pride month, though, it will look quite different from years past. Flaming Saddles, Gold Coast, Rage and Gym Bar were all victims of the pandemic (plus Studio City’s Oil Can Harry’s), leaving WeHo’s Santa Monica Boulevard strip without some of its signature clubs. That’s on top of the fact that L.A. has been without a lesbian bar in the entire county since Van Nuys’ Oxwood Inn closed in 2017. But, as COVID-19’s threat lessens, several of those shuttered bars have announced plans to reopen in new spaces, and where “before it used to be ‘For Lease’ sign, ‘For Lease’ sign, ‘For Lease’ sign, now you can’t find anything, they’re all taken up,” says Cooley. “There are some new exciting bars that will be opening.”
Singer-producer Lance Bass, co-owner of popular West Hollywood bar and Italian restaurant Rocco’s, is among those planning new venues, taking over the old Rage space for what is being promoted as the biggest gay nightclub in the United States.
“It was truly devastating to see what happened to WeHo during the pandemic. So many of my favorite places had to close. For their patrons these venues weren’t just bars, they were safe places for so many LGBTQ+ members. It scared me to think these venues would be replaced with mainstream places that wouldn’t cater specifically to our community,” says Bass, promising that his upcoming spot will “bring back major entertainment to West Hollywood, complete with an epic dance floor.”
Silver Lake’s Akbar is a nightlife favorite that was brought back from the edge during the pandemic, after a GoFundMe launched in December raised more than $200,000 to help it stay afloat. Since then, the bar has begun outdoor service with Akbar Al Fresco and has events set throughout June, including a Pride celebration June 13.
“One can Zoom and have a cocktail for the rest of their lives now that we all know how it works, but nothing can replace face-to-face,” says Akbar co-owner Scott Craig. “Especially when you’re in a category of citizens who are slightly marginalized and, especially in some other states, being really horribly treated.”
And while many bars have been able to reopen to some degree in recent weeks, taking over parking lots and sidewalks, downtown L.A.’s nightlife scene has struggled to pivot because of limited outdoor options. Precinct, one of the most popular DTLA clubs, will reopen for the first time since the start of the pandemic June 17, after months of surviving on community fundraisers.
“There’s been a lot of quiet down here during the shutdown,” says co-owner Brian McIntire, as general manager James Eason adds, “I look at similar people in WeHo, and they’ve been working really closely with the city, which has been great for them, but it’s been hard to watch. I just wish that we’d been seen as a valuable asset.” Eason says the bar has received little aid in clsoing off streets and sidewalks for outdoor tables, as has happened in other areas of the city. Downtown has also witnessed an explosion of underground parties, which now pose competition as bars return.
“There are a lot of us that have held on as tight as we can, and I believe we’ll all be coming back, and these places need everyone’s support,” says McIntire. “I’m hoping that the other venues that people went to before all of this aren’t forgotten, and people start returning to them as well.”
And after the traumatic events of the past year, the significance of a restriction-free Pride is not lost. Says Eason, “June’s going to be both things for so many of us. It’s like re-bonding with our gay family as well as celebrating Pride. I think it means more to everyone this year.”