Lifestyle

Drag Legend Sherry Vine Calls Burbank The Next Queer Hotspot

And she's not gate-keeping her favorite queer spots in the city.

Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist
Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist
Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist

Welcome to¬†We’re Out Here, your year-round hub for LGBTQ+ travel and experiences! Here, you’ll find everything you need to plan your next great gaycation, including queer-centric travel stories, nightlife guides, profiles, pride event roundups, and ways to give back to local queer communities.Sherry Vine is one of the most accomplished drag performers out there, and ever since moving to LA-Burbank specifically-she’s kept up her pace. I caught up with her to hear about the second season of her variety show, why she loves living in Burbank, and why queer people need to defend themselves in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers.Thrillist: Let’s start with the new season of your variety show.

Sherry Vine: The¬†Sherry Vine Variety Show is in season two. I’m super excited because in season one we had so many challenges because we filmed it in the height of lockdown. I don’t know how we did it, but we did. This time we had so much more freedom. We could have more guests, more locations, all original songs. We’re editing the very last episode right now and then it’s all done and ready to go.

Was the first season a quarantine baby or was it something that had been in the works prior to Covid?

SV: It had been in the works for two years. I was still living in New York City when Jacob from¬†P.E.G. called me one day and said “This would be so much easier to pitch if you were here with me in LA.”

I had been thinking about moving to LA for a couple of years and that finally gave me the push I needed and I moved in 2019. We got the green light from Out TV and started writing and then‚Ķ lockdown. At one point we were like, “Let’s wait until things get better” but I actually thought that if we can make this work now, we can get all these guests that are sitting at home and not on tour like Bianca [Del Rio],¬†Alaska, and Bob the Drag Queen. So, we just kind of went for it. P.E.G. has a studio, so we were able to shoot everything there and were very, very strict. Everyone had to get tested every day, you wore a mask, the crew wore a mask. It was really challenging but we did it and had fun. This season, we can shoot in different locations, we can have people come in from out of town, we can have more actors. We just kind of opened the door to all of that.

What are some of your favorite moments from season two?

SV: I’m in love with Lady Cops, which is a recurring episode. It’s me and Jackie Beat playing lady cops and Monet X Change is the captain. It’s so fun and has lots of action. We hired professional stuntmen, and we choreographed fight scenes. It’s silly and campy, like “Cagney & Lacey” meets Charlie’s Angels meets Keystone Cops. It’s just ridiculous.

I’m very proud of the original songs because I’d never done anything like that before. Markaholic and I started from scratch and made five songs. Each one is highlighting a different genre of music. I’m really proud of that.

Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist
Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist
Photo by David Martinez for Thrillist

I feel like it’s a very classic drag performer trajectory to move to LA eventually. How has that change been for you?

SV:¬†It’s full circle for me. I went to graduate school in Los Angeles and that’s when I first started performing as Sherry Vine, before I moved to New York City. Thirty years later, I’m back at home where I started, and it was 100% the right move at the right time.

What neighborhood are you in?

SV: I’m in Burbank. When I first moved to LA, I was staying with¬†Jackie Beat, when Mario Diaz told me, “You should come live with me.I need a roommate in Burbank. We have a pool.” Full disclosure: I said, “Girl, I didn’t move to LA to live in Burbank!” And then I thought, you know what, I could do it for a year just to take my time finding my own place. So, I moved in and then the pandemic happened, so I ended up being there for three years. But I fell in love. Burbank has this emerging queer community and scene. This summer will be the second Burbank Pride.What are some of your favorite spots?

SV: There’s this coffee shop called¬†Romancing the Bean which is super queer friendly and I go there every single morning. I think I have my own button on the cash register called “Sherry’s drink.” And there’s¬†Cobra, which is a gay club, and¬†Bullet, which is a smaller gay bar.

How has the pandemic affected performing?

SV: I don’t have a regular bar night and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’d rather work and fill in for people. I’ve done shows at¬†The Abbey, and the Sunday brunch at¬†Precinct-it’s so much fun. I also don’t want to perform at midnight anymore. The pandemic did turn me into an old grumpy‚Ķ I want to go to bed at 10 pm.

What else do you have going on?

SV: I have a new solo show called¬†Everybody’s Girl that’s starting with an East Coast tour in June and then Europe over the summer. I’m also competing on¬†Drag Me to Dinner against¬†Jinkx and¬†DeLa, which is hilarious. And I say competing in quotes because it’s competing with your dear friends and sisters, and no one’s walking away with money.

Finally, with all the anti-drag laws that are happening right now, do you have any words of encouragement?

SV: I do think it’s super important. Obviously, it’s just spin. The Republicans are gifted spinners. “It’s drag queens, not guns.” That’s the spin. And it terrifies me that this is just the starting point, which is why we need to fight-and I don’t mean violently. I just mean this is not the time and place for complacency. They’re coming for us, and we need to defend ourselves.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is out now. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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