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Bi-weekly podcast

Exploring West Hollywood

Uncover the electric energy of this Los Angeles County community from a trio of storied experts

On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores the culture, music, and iconic attractions of West Hollywood through the eyes of three prominent locals. 

First, Johnson speaks with Rod Gruendyke, longtime general manager of the famed A-lister haunt, the Sunset Marquis. Gruendyke shares some of the stories he’s accumulated over the decades, including tales of Green Day’s prank wars, Paul Newman’s culinary preferences, and an impromptu photo shoot with ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons. From Bono to Billy Bob Thornton to Rihanna, celebs swear by the Sunset Marquis, and our lead guest helps explain why the property is such a draw. 

Next, David Cooley, founder and CEO of the world-famous gay bar The Abbey, takes the California Questionnaire. The West Hollywood trailblazer shares how his California dream day would unfold, where he would like to go on the ultimate road trip, and his go-to place for a Golden State splurge. 

Lastly, Johnson connects with Tommy Black, musician and longtime GM of The Viper Room. Hear his song “Summer Took Me” play as Black chats with Johnson about the irresistible energy of the Sunset Strip and WeHo’s evolving music scene, plus an anecdote from a memorable show with Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson. 


Rod Gruendyke, general manager of the Sunset Marquis

David Cooley, founder and CEO of The Abbey

Tommy Black, musician and general manager of The Viper Room


Rod Gruendyke rubs elbows with A-listers every day at the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood. 

Sunset Marquis 

West Hollywood 


BAR 1200

David Cooley is the founder and CEO of iconic gay bar The Abbey in West Hollywood. 

The Abbey

Rodeo Drive 

Melrose Shopping 

Palm Springs 

Hearst Castle 

San Luis Obispo 


Tommy Black is the general manager of The Viper Room as well as a former member of Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts. 

The Viper Room

The Sunset Strip 

“Summer Took Me” 

Creators of West Hollywood – Tommy Black 


Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis in 2016. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson uses the California Now Podcast platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.