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social sciences

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Los Angeles  
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The section of Los Angeles where the studios first established themselves was then called Edendale (now roughly Echo Park and Silver Lake). This area was an early center of the arts and bohemian life in Los Angeles. Its bath house and Echo Park itself were noted for clandestine gay male sexual activities.

Hollywood entertainers included lesbians and gay men and gender-bending cross dressers from the very beginning. In Edendale Eltinge built a house "too beautiful for a bachelor." He was among the first glbtq actors and actresses to be scrutinized by fan magazines and tabloids, with Louella Parsons envisioning "a beautiful lady" (other than Eltinge in drag) in his home.

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Early actors Ramon Navarro (who would later be murdered by two male hustler brothers) and Gilbert Roland appear together in an engaging photograph of the period, both of them looking vibrant and sensual. Lesbian actress and director Alla Nazimova created her hotel, the Garden of Allah, at Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. It became the most chic place for visiting east coast entertainment elites to stay. It was at the Garden of Allah that Robert Benchley exclaimed, after he fell into the pool, "It's time to get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini."

Hart Crane wrote to a gay friend, "Just walk down Hollywood Boulevard some day--if you must find something out of uniform." The famous writer Mercedes de Acosta also came to Hollywood Boulevard. "I wished that I would meet Greta Garbo in Hollywood," she declared. She did, and she had an affair with Garbo and then with Marlene Dietrich. De Acosta felt Hollywood was "mad night life, riotous living, orgies."

The craze for drag entertainment reached Hollywood at least as early as 1929, during what has been termed the "pansy" period, with motion picture stars attending drag entertainments in bars such as Jimmy's Back Yard on Ivar in Hollywood. In the same year, however, the 1929 Motion Picture Production Code was adopted. The atmosphere it promoted soon put a lid on this lifestyle. Los Angeles police raided the drag bars, and night life changed.

Through the 1930s some actors, such as Randolph Scott, hid their gay lives out in the open. He and Cary Grant were photographed together as roommates for the fan magazines. In 1935 George Cukor directed Grant and Katharine Hepburn in her cross-dressing flop, Sylvia Scarlett, now studied extensively for its gender bending. Within the studio system, lesbian director Dorothy Arzner created several movies, some with playwright and screenwriter Zoë Akins.

In the 1930s a style of architecture and decoration in Los Angeles came to be particularly associated with a gay male aesthetic. William Haines, who quit his career as a motion picture actor because he wanted to live openly with his lover, became an influential interior decorator and contractor. He pioneered the style that came to be known as Hollywood Regency, which may be seen in his 1935 renovation of Cukor's house on Cordell Drive above the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Cukor's landscape architect was Florence Yoch, often photographed at homes she shared with her business partner Lucile Council.

John ("Jack") Wolf also worked in the Hollywood Regency style, which is characterized by the use of classical motifs such as broken pediments. These were applied to the facades of buildings, so that critic and historian John Chase termed the style "exterior decoration." Wolf's designs were ridiculed by the more macho modernist architects, but his work has had a lasting influence.

In the late 1930s, many glbtq creative persons migrated to Santa Monica Canyon. Among them were Salka Viertel, who wrote screenplays for Garbo and was her lover; and Viertel's husband, Berthold, who had taught screen writing to Isherwood. Isherwood himself moved to the Canyon in 1939, following his mentor, the gay British expatriate philosopher and mystic Gerald Heard.

Heard is a bridge from that international community to another world thriving in Los Angeles, that of alternative religions, often derided as "wacko," but now seen as distinctive contributions to the thinking of the city. There were many roots for the growth of alternative religions in Los Angeles, but the gay connection is little known.

By 1939 Heard had met in Los Angeles the Vedanta leader Swami Prabhavananda, himself heterosexual but accepting of homosexuality when it did not interfere with religious growth. Isherwood came to Los Angeles to discuss pacifism with Heard at the beginning of World War II in Europe and became a disciple of Prabhavananda. Both Heard and Isherwood became significant figures in the intellectual and gay life of Los Angeles in subsequent years.

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