Friday, June 23, 2017

Laguna Beach's Boom Boom Room to Reopen for One Night Only as Part of OC Pride

If you had told me nearly three decades ago when I was briefly living in Orange County, Calif. -- still longing for the bright lights of New York City, or at least L.A. -- that I would be wishing I could spend this Pride weekend in suburbia instead of Manhattan I'd have laughed at you. But that's just how I'm feeling right now after finding out the famed Boom Boom Room in Laguna Beach, where I spent many fun and drunken nights in my early 20s, is reopening for a one-night-only party this weekend! 

(Facebook invite HERE / OC Pride info HERE)

As I just mentioned yesterday, I landed in Huntington Beach when I left Phoenix after graduating from Arizona State in 1989. I first crashed in the Windjammer apartments on Warner -- we called the complex the butt-jammer -- and then in a condo in the Sea Spray development on Brookhurst and Adams with Paul and Ken. My goal was to live in L.A., but after getting a job at The Orange County Register, I decided it made sense to live closer to work and "commute" to my play. But with that predictably unpredictable L.A. traffic, West Hollywood was an hour-plus drive from our apartment. So my roommates and I had our "local" bars in the OC that included Newport Station (Thursdays were the best!), the Lion's Den (where the hilarious Polyesters performed; Stan also worked at The Register), the Frat House (if you didn't mind watching people chain smoke near the "sandwich area") and, of course, the Boom Boom Room, a breezy dive tucked away in the bottom floor of the Coast Inn on Pacific Coast Highway. (The Little Shrimp was right nearby.) 

Visit HERE.

While the city's wealth has completely changed it in the past 20 years, Laguna Beach was a quaint, artsy Speedo-clad boys town of sorts when I lived there, that had a gay friendly reputation dating back to 1930s when Los Angeles crowds headed south to escape the raids on gay and lesbian bars in Los Angeles. (Laguna Beach magazine called it "a prime gay playground."

In the early 1980s, Laguna even elected Robert Gentry, the first openly gay mayor in the U.S., and the Boom Boom Room doubled as a community center for Orange County's LGBT community. Of course, it was still in Republican Land, so it didn't come as much of a surprise to my roommate Paul and me when a car full of frat boys drove past us one night on the street and screamed "Turd burglars!" as we walked to the bar. (We gave them an A+ for originality!) But like the rest of Orange County, the area seemed to get less queer over time, with the Boom Boom Room shutting its doors in 2007. (My friend in Anaheim says the Frat House is pretty much the only bar left in the entire area.) 

The Blair Bitch Project

Shortly after my 1990 debut, my 23rd birthday rolled around and my friends and I wound up at the Boom Boom Room. And in what must have been a gift from God after spending my adolescence in the back of the closet longing for the hot boys at Dobson High, I felt like the belle of the ball that night as two very cute guys spent the evening vying for my affections -- each promising to make my birthday "unforgettable" if I went home with him. I was such a tease -- I was going through a bit of a Blair Warner phase, complete with blond highlights -- flitting from one side of the bar to other to flirt with each of them (and their friends!) in between music breaks on the small dance floor. At one point I slipped down to the beach to make out with one of my suitors, then sluttily ended up leaving with the other guy, who it turned out was crashing at a friend's mansion in Newport Harbor. (Despite his promises, the sex turned out to be most forgettable .., but that house!) 

Halloween 1990 with my OC roommates Ken McDonald and Paul Samson. Ken, who dated a 20-years-his-senior aerobics instructor named Kip, has gone MIA. (Email me if you know where he is!) Paul, meanwhile, unwittingly discovered his boyfriend was porn star Brett Winters.

Kenneth in the (714): Laguna Beach, circa 1990

A few years ago I started getting emails from a reader who very coyly tried to jog my memory about an "encounter" we'd had back in Laguna Beach. At first I thought he might be my birthday trick, but he kept writing and writing and nothing he said rang a bell. He eventually sent a photo, but that still didn't do anything. He finally got so frustrated he just wrote: "We fucked on the beach." Well, I'm a lot of things. But above all I'm a prude with an elephantlike memory, so I was 100 percent confident this was not the case. (Can you imagine? You think getting sand out of your shoes is hard!)

My "twin" back in the day

To this day I'm still not sure what his emails were all about. (You might be surprised by how many odd messages I get.) But it later crossed my mind that he may have been mistaking me for my Orange County doppelgänger that people were constantly telling me I looked just like, a guy named Christian Ornelas, who I eventually ended up meeting one night at Studio One and was so stunned by the resemblance I had to lean against the wall to compose myself. Sadly, I later learned he had passed away about four years ago or else I might be able to solve this sex-on-a-beach caper once and for all.

I rarely had a camera back in those days. But luckily Alan Light was leading a more glamorous version of my life at the exact same time, so all of his pictures make nice stand-ins! More Laguna Beach 1990 photos HERE.

A mid-aughts effort to save the Boom Boom Room was unsuccessful, but I'm hearing it could reopen if this one-night-only party goes well! 

Save the Boom's site is still up HERE.

Revisit the red-hot fundraiser calendar HERE.


Fred Karger, who spearheaded Save the Boom, just sent me this photo of the Boom Boom Room tonight, all decked out for OC Pride. 

He also tells me the space has been rented out for various parties over the years since it closed, and he sent me a trove of photos that you can view HERE.


WillnSYV said...

Mary Hopkin Those were the days:

jaragon said...

Great post and hot photos