the 12th annual west hollywood -
los angeles erotic art fair weekend
by dan berkowitz
On Columbus Day Weekend, in West Hollywood’s Plummer
Park, the Foundation will present its 12th Annual West Hollywood
- Los Angles Erotic Art Fair Weekend. The first Fair was the brainchild
of artist and former Foundation administrator Valentine Hooven, and
when it happened in 1995, it was the first — and only —
such gathering of erotic artists in the world. In the intervening years,
other Fairs have sprung up, and some may be larger, but the Tom of Finland
Fair is still the original and the best, natch!
However, what’s most remarkable is not that the Fair has expanded
every year — which it has — or that the quality of the art
keeps getting higher — which it does — but that it has become
a genuine cultural milestone, eagerly anticipated and embraced by both
the gay community and a widening circle in the mainstream.
Since 2003, the Fair has been co-sponsored not only by the City of West
Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, but also by the City
itself: each year since, the City Council has unanimously voted to make
the Foundation’s Fair a “City” event. This not only
bestows enormous prestige upon the Fair, but has the very practical
effect of allowing the Foundation to hold the event on city property
for no charge. — Before 2003, we’d had to pay about $10,000
in rent to hold the Fair at a private space.
Last year, the City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau came onboard
as a co-sponsor as well, and began promoting the Weekend as a “destination
event” at gay travel expos across the U. S. and in Canada. The
CVB’s help also enabled us to move our annual Awards Banquet,
held during the weekend, to a posh West Hollywood hotel — the
sight of dozens of leather-clad Tom’s men and women in a gold-and-white
banquet room was a hoot!
And the people! The straight male Deputy Consul General of Finland welcomed
the crowd to the Fair by telling them Tom was Finland’s “favorite
son,” the straight female mayor of West Hollywood presented the
Foundation with a proclamation signed by the entire City Council, and
a number of heterosexual couples and groups of straight women showed
up to browse the artists’ booths and buy some much-needed erotica.
(Don’t worry, though, it’s a Tom of Finland event: straight
people are still in the minority.)
West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land
presents a proclamation to the Foundation.
Receiving are Foundation board members
Dan Berkowtiz, Scott and Durk Dehner.
Photo: Jay Lawton
This year, the Fair will be even bigger and better, thanks
in part to our first government grant! The City of West Hollywood, on
the recommendation of its Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, made
an “arts grant” of $6,750 to the Foundation, to help in
presenting the Fair. This will come in incredibly useful, as we are
moving to our largest space yet — Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park
— and will need to construct an elaborate lighting system to make
sure the art is properly displayed.
So if you live in SoCal — or need a long weekend’s getaway
to the land of sun and surf — consider coming to the Fair and
its attendant activities. The Weekend kicks off with an Artists Reception
at the newly-renovated Headquarters on Friday night, and the Fair itself
is open to the public both Saturday and Sunday. The Fair features live
modeling each day, and a symposium each afternoon, all included in the
And at that swell banquet on Saturday night — once again at the
beautiful Wyndham Bel Age Hotel — we’ll induct Michael Childers
into the Erotic Artist Hall of Fame, present the Lifetime Achievement
Award to Harvey S. Shipley Miller and bestow the Cultural Icon Award
to Rod McKuen.
Who could ask for anything more?