Residents of West Hollywood — which is its own incorporated city but more widely known as the center of gay life in Los Angeles — are more than familiar with Vaseline Alley. One of the last remaining vestiges of “cruising” in the heart of the city, it’s little more than an alley behind some of WeHo’s most popular businesses, the Gold Coast Bar and vintage shop Out of the Closet being two of them. Recently the Tom of Finland Store headed to Vaseline Alley for a photo shoot featuring some of its latest fashions, and we were lucky enough to get first dibs on the shoot’s spectacular images.
Vaseline Alley sits just off Santa Monica Boulevard, parallel to what any gay will tell you is the ‘main drag’ of West Hollywood’s gay scene (though the boulevard itself technically stretches from the beach all the way to the city’s other major gayborhood, Silver Lake). For decades, the alley (once the sun goes down, anyway) has been notorious for its testosterone-fueled ‘clientele’ and guys sitting in parked cars looking for a little fun.
It’s a storied gay landmark in the city, which is what made it perfect for a photo shoot, especially for a brand as iconic to the LGBTQ community as Tom of Finland.
“The infamous cruising spot is located right by our office, and it felt right to shoot at an old-school non-‘gay gentrified’ location in WeHo,” says Joakim Andreasson, Creative Director of the Tom of Finland Store. “The alley is right behind Gold Coast Bar, so amidst day drinkers, guys staying put in their parked cars and locals ‘unloading’ at Out of the Closet, there’s enough traffic for some XXX tension throughout the day and into the night.”
Visually, Vaseline Alley makes for a great photo shoot setting as well.
“The buildings’ worn-down characteristics have some great, vibrant colors, which is a refreshing contrast to the otherwise polished Santa Monica Boulevard,” Andreasson says. “With signs like ‘Wrong Way’ and ‘Out of the Closet,’ there were some fun visual narratives to build on, too.”
The theme of the shoot was “Cute kid gets lost on Santa Monica Boulevard and wants to get some,” Andreasson tells us. Snapping the photographs — of model Bryce Belyeu, who you can find on Instagram here — was Josh Paul Thomas (find him here), an L.A.-based queer photographer who over the past years has collaborated closely with the Tom of Finland Store and has been featured in Vogue and Interview magazines.
Asked about any funny stories from set, Andreasson tells us, “We had some onlookers, particularly one guy closely lurking around with his crotch seam broken and his dick hanging out. As guests at his home, we felt very welcome.”