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At the ‘dumb’ and ‘wholesome’ Ryan Rave, everyone belongs — and everyone’s Ryan

A large group of people stand and cheer in front of a stage.
A sea of Ryans cheer during the Ryan Rave in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 2, 2023.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning. It’s Monday, Sept. 11. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

  • A Ryan embraces community at L.A.’s Ryan Rave
  • New poll finds California voters oppose cash reparations for slavery
  • The hospital bringing beloved stuffed toys back to life
  • And here’s today’s e-newspaper

At the ‘dumb’ and ‘wholesome’ Ryan Rave, everyone belongs — and everyone’s Ryan

In an area full of warehouses, down graffiti-rich alleys and past a filthy mattress, a line formed for one of downtown L.A.’s most exclusive events.

Bouncers checked IDs multiple times in a three-tier security system. But it wasn’t to check ages — they were looking at names. For free entry into this party, your name had to be Ryan. Lucky for me, it is!

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A hand reaches out toward another person holding a name tag with the word Ryan
A bouncer hands off the essential Ryan name tag to a Ryan about to enter the Ryan Rave.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)

This was the Ryan Rave, where anyone named Ryan could meet, chat, eat, drink and dance, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

I attended the event this month to learn more about my community of fellow Ryans. In a culture that so often feels divided, it was surprisingly joyful to gather with people around such a basic, comical commonality that created an instant sense of belonging.

“There’s no losers in the corner here,” said organizer Ryan Cousins. “Everyone loves you here…. Everyone wants to give you a hug because of your name and because you automatically fit in.”

Well, almost anyone fit in. There was one main rule to the Ryan Rave: No Bryans allowed. Seriously.

This was a safe space from the tragic social blunder all Ryans endure: having that insufferable “B” inserted in front of our names when we just want our coffee or a pleasant introduction.

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“I’m a girl, so you would think that wouldn’t happen to me,” Ryan Diz told me. “No, it happens to girls, too. I’m like, ‘Hey, my name is Ryan — Wait, did you say Brian? — RYAN.’”

But not here. There was no mistaking the Ryans, who all donned name tags — a badge of honor. Entering the event, every Ryan received a kingly greeting.

“Hey, Ryan’s here!” one Ryan would yell, followed by cheers and chants of “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” from the sea of Ryans between two food trucks.

People wearing Ryan name tags cheer as a woman wearing a Ryan name tag smiles in the background.
Ryans cheer as they greet fellow Ryans arriving at the Ryan Rave in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 2, 2023.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)

“As absurd of an event that it is, I think that it’s wholesome,” said Ryan Leader, a comedian based in L.A. “We just share the name Ryan. That’s all that this is.”

The overwhelming majority of attendees were named Ryan (a few dozen non-Ryans joined, but had to pay a cover charge). The DJs performing throughout the night were all named Ryan. The drink and photo booth vendors were both Ryans. Anyone not named Ryan had the opportunity to legally change their name to Ryan, courtesy of official paperwork organizers brought.

“It’s such a stupid idea… It’s so dumb,” Ryan Cousins said. “The further you take it, the dumber it gets and the funnier it gets.”

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The night’s festivities also included an award for the Ryan who traveled the farthest. It went to Ryan Racela, who flew in from the Philippines.

“I feel like we got a good rap,” he said. “The Ryans in Hollywood — Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds — no scandals, just great movies…. I’m just trying to live up to the Ryan name.”

People with Ryan name tags cheer from a stage under a sign that reads "Ryan Meetup."
Ryan Rose, left, celebrates as Ryan Racela, with mic, accepts The Ryan Who Traveled Farthest To Attend The Ryan Meetup Award. Racela flew in from the Philippines. “I just want to thank all the Ryans for being Ryan,” he told the crowd, adding “F— the Bryans!” to thunderous cheers.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)

Ryans whose birthdays fell over the weekend were invited onstage for cake, with hundreds of their namesakes singing “Happy Birthday.”

Organizer Ryan Le later estimated about 550 Ryans turned out over the course of the night, which “exceeded every single expectation that I had.”

“People are flying in from everywhere to attend this silly little event and it’s incredible to me,” he said.

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There were Ryans who work at Costco. A Ryan who works on a flower farm. College student Ryans. An actor Ryan. An IT Ryan. A Ryan who works on an offshore oil rig. A clothing designer Ryan. “Vegas” Ryan. I was dubbed reporter Ryan, naturally.

“It’s essentially the Spider-Verse for Ryans,” Ryan Chu said. “Everyone has their own unique personality [and] quirk.”

A man poses in a t-shirt featuring various images of actor Ryan Gosling.
Ryan Clark represents another Ryan as he waits in line for the Ryan Rave, a meet-up of hundreds of people named Ryan, on Sept. 2, 2023.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)

The Ryans’ name origin stories were as unique as they were. For Chu, his grandmother had worked for a Ryan whom she considered wealthy and kind. She sought to “bestow that fortune” onto her grandson.

Ryan Le, who is of Vietnamese heritage, said his parents wanted him “to have a white name … to fit in better in America.”

The story in Ryan Bravo’s family is that, as a baby, his parents couldn’t agree on a name. While they looked at a book of names, he reached out and his finger landed on “Ryan.”

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Ryan Moody, a Black woman, said her parents had a specific goal: “[They] wanted a name that would make me seem like a white guy on resumes.” This was her second Ryan meet-up and she’s met several fellow Black girl Ryans, who now share a group chat.

“It’s awesome to have something in common [with] strangers that is largely irrelevant,” she said. “Your name is not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s super cool to be able to meet people with similar experience.”

This was the fifth organized Ryan Meetup event and the second on the West Coast — and by far the largest gathering to date. It all started after Ryan Rose, a photographer living in New York City, sought to make new friends with fliers that read “Is your name Ryan? Wanna meet other Ryans?”

One of those fliers was just outside the apartment of Ryan Cousins.

“Instantly I was like, ‘I need to meet the person that created this,’” he said. Soon after, he, Ryan Rose and Ryan Le met up at a bar. They clicked and decided to expand the meet-up.

Roughly seven months later, seeing her “crave for community” grow to a party of hundreds of Ryans was “surreal and beautiful” Ryan Rose said, explaining:

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“Being amongst people with the same name as you is very cosmic. It just feels right. It feels like we already know each other and there’s no icebreaker — like we’re friends that are just reuniting after a long time.”

Bringing several hundred Ryans together was major, but the organizers are working to take things to the next level.

Their goal is to host a Ryan convention and entice some famous Ryans to join. And they have their eye on possibly breaking a world record for the most people with the same first name gathered in one place. That record is currently held by 2,325 Ivans who gathered in Bosnia-Herzegovina in July 2017.

But Ryan Rose said they’re not in any hurry.

“It’s so fun just to host the small events and see people come from all over,” she said, sharing that she met a 6-year-old Ryan that night who hates her name. She could relate as someone who was teased for having a so-called boy’s name.

“I [told her] you’re gonna love it when you’re older — you’re unique, you stand out,” she said. “Now that I met more Ryans through this, I’m just so grateful for my name.”

A trash can with a "Bryan" name tag.
The only Bryan I could find at the Ryan Rave.
(Ryan Fonseca / Los Angeles Times)
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Today’s top stories

A man in dark suit and tie gestures with one hand while speaking
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in this file photo.
(Patrick T. Fallon / AFP/Getty Images)

Spotlight on Sacramento as session ends

  • California voters oppose cash reparations for slavery by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by The Times. State lawmakers are set to consider the idea next year.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to transform California’s mental health system faces its final hurdle this week as lawmakers decide whether to place a pair of measures on the March 2024 ballot that would expand substance abuse treatment and generate $4.68 billion to build facilities to provide care for 10,000 patients.
  • California legislators have passed a bill that aims to close a long-standing loophole in the state’s water laws: Until now, regulators haven’t had clear authority to investigate the water rights of some of the biggest water users.

California confronts COVID-19 policy (again)

  • Despite rising coronavirus outbreaks across Los Angeles County, officials said they have no plans for new public mask mandates. Here’s why.
  • A bill expected to pass this week would put an end to the saga of AB 2098, a well-intentioned, poorly worded and ultimately doomed effort to punish doctors who spread COVID misinformation.

Wacky weekend weather

More big stories


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Commentary and opinions

Today’s great reads

A woman holds a stuffed bear surrounded by toys and fabric
(Michaela Vatcheva/For The Times)

At Realms of Gold stuffed toy hospital, animals and dolls come out rejuvenated. Some arrive with the love nearly squeezed out of them. Some have had run-ins with family pets. Some have survived natural disasters. But no matter how they arrive, Beth Karpas makes those beloved toys feel like new again at the toy hospital she runs out of her home studio in Los Altos.

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Other great reads


How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


For your downtime

two women smile and hold pickle ball paddles on a red court with white lines and pink walls
Pickle Pop co-founders Steph McCaffrey, left, and Erin Robertson stand inside their pickleball club on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Going out

Staying in

And finally ... a great photo

Show us your favorite place in California! Send us photos you have taken of spots in California that are special — natural or human-made — and tell us why they’re important to you.

A neon sign featuring a cartoon cat with green eyes and the word FELIX
(Cliff Thompson)
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Today’s great photo is from Cliff Thompson of Los Osos, Calif.: The sign at Felix Chevrolet in University Park, Los Angeles. Cliff writes:

The Felix Chevrolet sign brings a smile to my face every time I see it. Built in 1957, the dealership owner wanted to attract the attention of drivers on the soon to be constructed 110 freeway. It worked as it became the largest Chevy dealership west of the Mississippi.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Laura Blasey, assistant editor

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