Shoppers and visitors at Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction on Saturday were met with the sights and sounds of a bulldozer that mowed down a row of storefronts and, along with them, a piece of gay neighborhood history. In 1979, Norman Laurila and George Leigh opened a gay book shop called A Different Light in the vaguely Tud0r-style storefront at 4014 Santa Monica Boulevard. A Different Light eventually added locations in West Hollywood, San Francisco and New York, becoming one of the nation’s largest gay-owned booksellers. Gregory A. McVey-Russell, who publishes a blog called The Gar Spot, recalls a visit to the Silver Lake book shop:
It sat in a little white building nestled on a small block squeezed by Santa Monica and Sunset. I always had problems finding it exactly, and then there was the parking which was challenging even for a motorcycle. I didn’t drive cars in those days. It was small and crammed, the way all independent, hippy-ish bookstores should be. The staff always smiled.
That’s my recollection of visiting A Different Light Bookstore in its original location in Silver Lake. Someone was about to do a reading that evening, I believe, but I didn’t hang out for it. Don’t know why, really. Freshly minted out of the closet, maybe I was just shy. But I do remember the friendly, welcoming vibe at the store and I remember visiting once or twice more before hanging out regularly at the closer and bigger store in West Hollywood.
The Silver Lake store closed its doors in 1992. As major chains and online stores began to carry a larger inventory of gay-themed books and publications, A Different Light in West Hollywood announced it was closing down in 2009. The chain’s last remaining store in San Francisco announced it was closing earlier this year.
The Santa Monica Boulevard storefronts were demolished as the property owner apparently is preparing to develop the site into housing.
* Update: Elizabeth Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov, who heads the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s Urban Design & Preservation Committee, said work was underway to get the building nominated as a city historic cultural monument.
- Gay literary landmark leveled at Sunset Junction Saturday. Patch