Long Beach, Los Angeles’ best LGBTQ stories of 2022

Gay Los Angeles

Before Oil Can Harry’s opened in 1968, The Zomba Cafe, an upscale burlesque theater, operated at 11502 Ventura Blvd. Photo: Courtesy of Oil Can Harry’s.

We’ve looked at Long Beach’s worst LGBTQ+ stories of 2022.

Here are the best Long Beach and Los Angeles LGBTQ+ stories of 2022.

Oil Can Harry’s receives historic status

Oil Can Harry’s, the legendary Studio City bar and nightclub that closed in 2021, was recognized in April for its historic and social significance to the San Fernando Valley and the LGBTQ+ community.

The Los Angeles City Council designated the building a Historic-Cultural Monument in a 14-0 vote.

Of the more than 1,200 Historic-Cultural Monuments in the City of Angels, Oil Can Harry’s is only the third LGBTQ+ structure that has received the designation. READ MORE

Sir Lady Java Legends of Drag

Sir Lady Java, a Black trans woman, was a star of the 1960s L.A. nightclub scene, performing with people like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, and Don Rickles. She also was a trailblazer and civil rights activist. Photo: Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus

Sir Lady Java recognized for being pioneer

Almost 50 years before “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Pose,” Sir Lady Java was a pioneering transgender activist fighting against a Los Angeles law that restricted drag performance.

She spoke truth to power by challenging the Los Angeles police and the City of Angels.

Also, as a Black gender non-conforming woman, she witnessed a point in history – The intersection of discriminatory law enforcement tactics targeting Black and brown as well as queer communities in Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Her trailblazing efforts were recognized in June as the Community Grand Marshal in the LA Pride Parade. READ MORE

Allee Willis Wondeland

Allee Willis poses at her home on May 12, 2015, in Valley Village. She was a Grammy award-winning songwriter and creative think tank. Willis passed away Dec. 24, 2019. Prudence Fenton, her life partner, is turning Willis Wonderland into a 21st century museum for songwriters from underserved communities. Photo: Willis Wonderland Foundation

Allee Willis’ musical wonderland

Prudence Fenton wants to preserve Allee Willis’ spectacular North Hollywood residence — a pink, 1937 Streamline Moderne house she called Willis Wonderland — as a 21st century museum that will support and educate songwriters and multimedia artists from underprivileged communities.

Willis had a passion for mentoring diverse songwriters and multimedia artists and wanted to ensure a future for them, especially due to the persistent decline in funding for the arts, Fenton said.

Fenton and Willis were life partners when Willis, 72, suddenly passed away on Dec. 24, 2019. 

Willis was a renowned and prolific songwriter who penned numerous hits, including the theme song to the sitcom “Friends” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1979 smash hit “Boogie Wonderland.” READ MORE

Former judge discusses historic Long Beach case

Halim Dhanidina did something that lawyers and LGBTQ+ advocates in Long Beach had attempted for more than 50 years —  He helped put the nail in the coffin of the Police Department’s odious practice of targeting and discriminating against gay men in lewd conduct stings.

It was an established tactic that the department had used for more than 100 years, dating to 1914. READ MORE

LGBTQ activists honored at Harvey Milk Park

He’s a gay social justice activist who fought police misconduct, and she was a lesbian Paralympic medalist who broke barriers.

Both of them are honored at Harvey Milk Park in downtown Long Beach.

Jack Castiglione and Angela Madsen were among eight LGBTQ+ leaders inducted into the park’s Equality Plaza last year. READ MORE

El Compadre fires manager

The Los Angeles restaurant manager who admonished gay actor Drew Droege and his male date for showing affection in public has been fired.

Droege and his date were at the El Compadre restaurant in the Echo Park neighborhood Monday evening and had exchanged a few kisses when the manager told them it was a family establishment and such behavior wasn’t allowed. READ MORE

1st US Supreme Court gay rights case happened in 1958; we won

The ONE Archives Foundation is celebrating its 70th anniversary. 

It’s the oldest active LGBTQ+ organization in the country, and it started in Hollywood as ONE Inc.

ONE Inc. also has the historic distinction of winning 1958’s groundbreaking ONE Inc. v. Olesen, the first U.S. Supreme Court case that addressed homosexuality and gay and lesbian rights. READ MORE

Together on the air Gay Latino Radio Station

Radio GLLU tapes at the KPFK Studios in North Hollywood in 1986. Radio GLLU made history on the airwaves as the first bilingual LGBTQ+ radio program in the U.S. Radio GLLU was hosted and operated from 1986 to 1997 by the Los Angeles-based Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (also known as GLLU), one of the first LGBTQ+ Latino organizations in the nation. Photo: Louis Jacinto.

Exhibit explores historic, queer Latino radio show

“Together On the Air” will be possibly the only exhibit to ever chronicle Radio GLLU, which made history on the airwaves as the first bilingual LGBTQ+ radio program in the U.S.

Radio GLLU was hosted and operated from 1986 to 1997 by the Los Angeles group Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (also known as GLLU), one of the first LGBTQ+ Latino organizations in the nation. READ MORE

1st trans executive at major music company

Music and technology company Venice Music has named Dani Oliva as their vice president of legal and business affairs. He is the first openly transgender person to become an executive at a major music company. READ MORE

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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