‘Abbey’ road

Straight girls have pride, too

Check out the bars

Rule of thumb: When you need a police helicopter to disperse the masses, that’s a good party.

Visits from the police’s helipad squad are a milestone of nights at the Abbey Food & Bar, a West Hollywood bastion of gay culture. Another hallmark: By the staff’s estimate, about a quarter of the crowds who hear the loudspeaker’s commands are straight women.

“I think we’re seeing an evolution,” says bartender Jason Christopher, who has worked at the Abbey for four years. “Gay culture is always going out to have a good time. They just seem to celebrate more than straight culture. (And) girls feel comfortable with gay men.”

When the Abbey turns 15 next month, both straights and gays will sing its praises. The bar hosted ABC’s Television Critics Assn. party and an Oscar-viewing party sponsored by Esquire. Last month, AOL CityGuide voted it not only the best gay bar in L.A., but the best bar, period.

To Tyler Robuck, bringing the cultures together is smart business. Last summer, he opened icandy on Santa Monica Boulevard as a place where his straight and gay friends could mingle comfortably together.

“It still hasn’t worked out to be 50/50, but there definitely is a good mix,” says Robuck, who considers a mixed crowd more interesting than any single group. “More and more, the two cultures are co-existing. For God’s sake, we almost won the Oscar.”

To a studio executive, who prefers to remain nameless, it’s both a matter of business and pleasure.

“Getting into this industry, you end up with gay friends,” she says. “It’s an easy way to go out. You don’t have the typical pressure to be on, the environment is always fantastic, the mood is always festive and there’s always polite, good-looking men around.”

And, who knows? They might even be straight.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” says Christopher. “Straight guys know that beautiful women are here with their gay friends and figure their chances are better. The worst thing that’s going to happen is he’s going to get a compliment and a free drink.”

Still, even the most integrated gay bars probably aren’t going to be the place for women to make a love connection.

“I write it off as a night to be with my friends,” says the exec. “I don’t subscribe to the needle in a haystack method of dating.”

The Bars

By Dena SeifStraight girls have known it all along and the hetero boys and couples are catching on: Gay bars are better. Variety Weekend went looking for the best gay bars straight people want to go to.

The Abbey Food & Bar
692 N. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 289-8410
Vibe: 15,000 square feet doesn’t detract from the coziness: fireplace, cabana lounge seats, and warm red and gold hues
Who’s there: Mostly gay males, but a growing population of both gay and straight gals; every age group imaginable. Young professionals have claimed it as an after-work spot.
How it’s different: It’s the largest bar west of the Mississippi, gay or straight. The full coffee bar opens at 8 a.m.

East/West Lounge
8851 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 360-6186
Vibe: An upscale hotel lounge, without the hotel. Mahogany wood, bamboo, wool carpets and dark leather lend a luxe living-room feel.
Who’s there: High-end professionals and industry people; gay execs bring straight clients and vice versa
How it’s different: A pricey and extensive drink menu keeps away the bar riff-raff. Tuesday-night karaoke draws a different breed of professionals: singers.

icandy lounge
7929 Santa Monica Blvd.
(323) 656-4000
Vibe: High-end glamour meets techno/trance. Décor is moody and dark with a weekday atmosphere to match. Weekends are more festive, but not the place to go if you’re claustrophobic.
Who’s there: An older industry mix of gay and straight
How it’s different: Logo reality show “Open Bar” follows owner Tyler Robuck as he comes out to his parents and opens icandy.

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