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Lipstick Los Angeles: the L word and go fish! Writer and actor takes a stab at defining a lesbian category in this city of gorgeous Hollywood women.

The term lipstick lesbian was, I believe, coined in the early '90s, and as far as I'm concerned, it was an extremely backhanded compliment to lesbians from our friends in the media. It basically said, "Look, world! Lesbians aren't ugly anymore!" And they were wrong--some of us were still as hideous as ever. These days I don't hear the term very often, but many of the ladies are still wearing lipstick. (Well, in actual fact, lipstick is pretty passe lately. I usually go more with a liner/gloss look, but that really doesn't have the same ring: "Lip liner lesbian" is just confusing.) But the lesbians with something on their lips other than ChapStick are now pretty much called "femmes." That's in my circle of friends and acquaintances, anyway. In West Hollywood there seem to be more lipstick-type lesbians--not afraid of a few highlights and some girl jeans--girls who would balk at the butch/femme dichotomy. The ladles on the east side are wearing lipstick too, but they are more likely to be tattooed transplants from San Francisco.

These are all sweeping generalizations, of course, and I will be shunned for them.

One of the biggest complaints l hear from lesbians about the television show The L Word (for which I write and perform) is that the women on the show are all so girly and un-gay-looking. "Where's the big old truck-driving tattooed dyke?" one woman stood up and asked at a panel discussion with the creative team of the show. "I don't know any women who look like those women!" Guilty and nervous, I went out to prove to myself that there are lesbians in the world who look like our characters. I figured, Lord knows, if they were anywhere, they would be in Los Angeles. I have taken so much flak over the past year for the way the women on The L Word look that i am pleased to report there are many Los Angeles lesbians who look like the women on oar show. Are they as gorgeous as Jennifer Beals and Erin Daniels? Of course not: Who is? But when I walked into Mark's restaurant on a Wednesday night (so not usually my scene) I thought to myself, Ha! I'll bet the average dude who doesn't know any lesbians wouldn't realize be was at a lesbian night. These chicks are girling out!

"Where the hell are all the good butches?" my lipstick-wearing, cleavage-showing friend has been known to say, throwing her hands up. "I hate L.A.!" Indeed, if androgynous women are the objects of your desire, L.A.'s not the best mating ground. Even women who look like they could fix your car and build you a cabin might still be wearing lipstick. It's just the way L.A. is.

I wouldn't say that there is one specific "lipstick lesbian" scene or hangout in L.A. The fact of the matter is that women who don't wear lipstick are often attracted to women who do, and therefore there is a lot of mingling. Personally, I am an almost compulsive wearer of lipstick, but if you call me a lipstick lesbian, I might have to punch you.

L.A.'s Ultra-Chic Magnets

The term lipstick lesbian was around long before The L Word was a twinkle in Showtime's eye. In 1990 Sandy Sachs (right) and her partner, Robin Gans (left), two dressed-up divas raised on New York City disco, started what would become the largest lesbian dance night in the United States--right in the heart of Boys Town: West Hollywood, Calif. But before Girl Bar grew to attract the likes of Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres, and Melissa Etheridge (who threw her birthday party there a couple of years ago) it drew the attention of Los Angeles Times writer Lindsey Van Gelder, who in 1991 coined the term lipstick lesbian to describe the club's haute Hollywood crowd. "If you mention Girl Bar anywhere in the country, people will tell you we have the best-looking women," beams Sachs, now busy preparing for the club's 14th anniversary party. Sachs and Gans admit that some women have taken offense to the preponderance of sexy, hyperidealized models in Girl Bar's ads and marketing materials. "We're selling a fantasy," counters Gans. "The whole idea is that we want women to look beautiful and help them to feel better." So after all these years, do women still need a tube of lipstick in order to look beautiful? "What I'm noticing about the younger generation is that they're not as lipsticky as we used to be," answers Sachs. "They're more androgynous." What about Sachs and Gans? "We consider ourselves lipstick lesbians, but put us next to an L.A. street girl and we're not that glittery," cracks Sachs. Just before I leave, I ask if I can take a photo. "Where's my lipstick?" screams Sachs, rummaging through her purse before thrusting the tube into the air like a prize. What kind of lipstick does she wear? "Lancome," Sachs says seductively, smacking her lips. "Lancome wet!"

Essentials >> lipstick L.A.

Oasis (611 N. La Brea, 323-939-8900) on Tuesday nights--a kind of neo-Middle Eastern decor with high ceilings and cool light fixtures. Flattering lighting, and music that's not so loud you have to yell. Good tapas-like food, outdoor patio where you can drink and smoke at the same time (so rare in L.A.). Get there early if you want to sit--it gets crowded. For a more professional, sit-down kind of experience--Mark's restaurant (861 La Cienega Blvd., 310-652-5252) is where very grown-up acting lesbians dine every other Wednesday. The atmosphere is civilized and subdued--American nouvelle-ish food (very tasty) and a mellow DJ in the corner. For just cocktails, there's the old standby Normandie Room (8737 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-659-6204), which is lesbian every night. No food here, just a nice-looking bar with many windows and the ultimate lesbian flirtation tool a pool table. Fun stuff is usually playing on the TV above the bar, and smoking is just a step away in front of the place. It gets pretty damn crowded on weekends, so prepare to order a drink you can be jostled with or risk wearing your martini. For a totally different vibe, stop by Cheetahs (4600 Hollywood Blvd., 323-660-6733), a strip club that is very lesbian-friendly. It's not teeming with lesbians, but it's always a good time if you like that kind of thing. While it's not officially a lesbian place. Murakami (8730 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-854-6212) is so chock-full of lesbians all the time rye taken to calling it "Lesbian Sushi." The environment is cute and casual, the food is delicious, and the outdoor patio is lovely (although they don't let you smoke anymore). The only negative thing about the place is that you might run into your ex-girlfriend. Little Joy Cocktails (1477 Sunset Blvd., 213-250-3417) happens on Sunday nights. The lesbians here are less professional looking and more artistically inclined. Palms (8572 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-652-6188) is fun for karaoke on Monday nights but might scare you with its free 2-foot sub sandwich on Sunday afternoons. Jewel's Catch One (4067 W. Pico Blvd., 323-737-1159) has a predominantly African-American clientele and s one of the few lesbian places where there is dancing. Akbar (4356 Sunset Blvd., 323-665-6810) is a great neighborhood bar with both gay male and lesbian clientele. Thursday nights at Here Lounge (696 N. Robertson Blvd., 310-360-8455) are for girls who like girls--and sake, as a special sake bar is set up. For Web sites to above locations, visit www.outtraveler.com.--Guinevere Turner
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Transport
Author:Turner, Guinevere
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 26, 2004
Words:1263
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