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Hidden Los Angeles finds an audience on Facebook

May 25, 2010 |  7:55 pm

To some, Hidden Los Angeles is simply a charming name they use to decorate their Facebook profiles. To others, it's a landmark guide for finding things to do or places to go on any given night in their city of L.A.

For the project's founder, Lynn Garrett, it just became a full-time job.

The Hidden Los Angeles website is a mosaic of local events, historical tidbits and snapshots of notable residents. To fit into that last category, you don't have to be Ashton Kutcher or Paris Hilton. In fact, you're more likely to get a plug if you're, say, an L.A. transplant with a stomach for ant larvae tacos.

The companion Facebook page has an audience exceeding 150,000. To reduce clutter in the Q&A section of that page, Garrett spun off separate ones for local food and events, which have 54,000 fans combined. Not bad for a project that began nearly a year ago.

Under the guise of the Hidden Los Angeles Facebook profile, Garrett plays the role of city expert, contributing answers to questions alongside others on the page. It's not totally out of her element. For a while, she was a city tour guide.

"Need a great romantic restaurant to celebrate my 1 year wedding anniversary," wrote Chelsea Cohen on the Facebook page Monday. "We are real big on great food & great wine. Suggestions?"

"Il Cielo on Burton Way," Garrett replied after five others riffed on the topic.

Input a query like "romantic restaurant with wine" into Yelp or Citysearch, and you'll instantly get a wide range of results. That leaves a lot of the guesswork up to you.

If you can wait a couple hours for some folks to chime in on Hidden Los Angeles you're bound to get a response more profound and targeted in many cases. And maybe a few follow-up questions that lead to a better recommendation.

"What it's about is the heart of Los Angeles," Garrett explained on the phone recently, "because a lot of people don't even know that L.A. has a heart."

Garrett, a professional designer who grew up in San Diego, left her job on Friday to focus all her efforts on Hidden Los Angeles. "Needless to say I'm terrified but excited," she wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. "Should be an interesting summer."

To celebrate minor milestones in the course of the young project's existence, Garrett has arranged parties to meet fans. When the Facebook page attracted 3,000 members in January she threw the first event -- a cocktail meet-up at Tonga Hut in North Hollywood. Twenty people showed up, she said.

As more people began attending her events, Garrett discovered there were ways to make money. On Sunday she's throwing a sold-out Margaritas and Mexican Wrestling event. On June 26 Hidden Los Angeles plans to celebrate its first anniversary with a sponsored and catered gathering at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

"I have no doubt in my mind that this is something that will be profitable," said Garrett, who also takes donations through the site. She hopes to hire her first employee soon.

Considering Garrett's project was born out of a somewhat dismal period of unemployment, she's hoping to help other residents find their own redemption in the City of Angels.

-- Mark Milian

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times