The Boom Boom Room may be history, along with the Little Shrimp and Woody's, but Laguna Beach is not giving up on attracting and serving gay and lesbian visitors.
The Gay and Lesbian Travel Industry Directory 2011 has a two-page spread devoted to the city, extolling its beautiful beaches, secluded coves, absolutely fabulous restaurants, artists enclaves and hip nightspots.
The Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau placed the full-page ad and provided materials for an "editorial" page, a promotion that cost the bureau $3,000, according to Executive Director Judy Bijlani.
Laguna Beach is listed in the 123-page directory along with quite a few other "gay-friendly" cities that might not spring immediately to mind: Cleveland, Winnipeg, Canada, Milwaukee, Wis., Raleigh, N.C., and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to name a few.
Others are on the "gaydar" of just about every gay or lesbian single or couple: Key West, Fla., West Hollywood, Palm Springs, Santa Fe, N.M., San Francisco, Copenhagen, Denmark. Barely mentioned is the East Coast gay enclave of Provincetown, Mass., but maybe the folks in P-town figured they didn't need to spend money on a big, splashy ad.
Sarah Palin, get ready for the gay/lesbian onslaught in your state: Anchorage is throwing out the welcome wagon, touting itself as the "Bright lights, OUT city!"
The directory is full of tasteful photos of same-sex couples holding hands, toasting each other, enjoying spectacular scenery together and just having fun. The undertone — or overtone — of romance is apparent, as is the promise of meeting beautiful men and women waiting with open arms. There are hunky guys in Speedos and sylvan women in fashion heels.
Here's how Los Angeles is marketing itself to this niche: "LA is SO Gay." La dee da. And I love this bit: "They call us the City of Angels. But don't let that fool you."
Maybe you can be a little naughty here, the ad implies. As for the original "Sin City," Las Vegas, its advertising seems a bit muted compared to the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" wink-wink promotions for the general audience that you see everywhere.
Most surprising to me was how the Midwest and Far West is throwing out a lure to the gay and lesbian traveler. Who would think that Mormon-run Utah, of all places, and Colorado (where a major battle over homosexual rights was played out some 15 years ago), would be represented in a gay and lesbian travel guide? But there they are.
Then there's New Orleans, touting its charms as only it can.
"Why there are no closets to come out of in New Orleans," the promotion begins. "They say homes in Old Louisiana were built without closets because you were taxed according to how many rooms were in the house, and closets counted. In New Orleans, we have another theory: Closets just aren't necessary down here. We're all about letting the real you out. The only thing you'll want to hide behind here is a Mardi Gras mask." Now that's quite a come on.
OK, now circling over the Midwest: pick your city and land in a sweet spot. Will it be Bloomington, Ind. ("the fourth gayest city in America"); Davenport, Iowa; the "unexpected fabulousness of Cleveland;" Oak Park, Ill; or that soon-to-be famous gay haven, Door County, Wis.? Or how about Lancaster County, Penn., where you can enjoy an "action-packed" visit to the Amish Country and taste jams and cheeses to your heart's content? And don't overlook Valley Forge, Penn., known for hosting George Washington's winter encampment of 1777-78, a city where you can look back at another era's "passion for personal freedom," as the write-up notes. You've gotta love it.
My favorite city of all (aside from Laguna, of course) has to be my old home town of Akron, Ohio, making a real attempt at inclusiveness.
"Our offerings are as diverse as the individuals we welcome," the campaign spiel goes. And here's a good reason to visit Akron in a few years' time: the city will host the Gay Games in August 2014. Who knew?
Perhaps the best slogan comes from the Philadelphia page in the guide: "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay!" it sills, inviting the discerning traveler to discover the city's "Gayborhood," where 69 rainbow street signs delineate an enclave devoted to small businesses serving the gay community.
Thumbing through these pages can make you feel a little overwhelmed. So many cities, so little time. Where to start? Why, right here at home, of course, in gay-friendly Laguna.
To find out more about the directory, visit the publisher, Community Market Inc., at http://www.communitymarketinginc.com.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.