Travel - Going to Los Angeles
February 20, 2005
Why Go Now
The historian Carey McWilliams once said that being in Los Angeles was like having a "ringside seat at the circus." Never is that truer than during the entertainment industry's high holy days - the awards season - which culminate in the 77th annual Academy Awards at the (1) Kodak Theater on Feb. 27.
Between the frenzy of award-related parties, the rush of the "-ists" (stylists, publicists, hair and makeup artists) to properly adorn their clients, and the flash of celebrities at every turn, it's difficult not to get caught up in the "Hooray for Hollywood"-soundtracked excitement - even if a ticket, guest-list inclusion or Oscar nomination evades you.
WHERE TO STAY
Although Los Angeles has a premium selection of hotels, the more centrally located luxury fare offer the best vantage points. The elegant 285-room (2) Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, 300 South Doheny Drive, (310) 273-2222; www.fourseasons.com/losangeles, is the entertainment industry's year-round home away from home. Leading up to the Oscars, the hotel celebrates its Hollywood family with specialty cocktails, a three-week exhibition of the pastry chef's confections inspired by each nominee for best picture and a viewing party for the few guests who don't attend the ceremony. The hotel's famously grand floral arrangements seem much more lush, and the pool and lobby bar seem much more glamorous when you spot Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett or Morgan Freeman around them. Double rooms start at $375.
Down the street, (3) The Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel, 9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, (310) 551-2888, www.peninsula.com, takes a more subtle approach to its Oscar revelry. As a result, its guests are often heads of state, privacy-seeking stars and, most notably, Miramax Films executives (the Weinstein brothers hold court there). The French country estate decor and over-the-top service, with amenities like free monogrammed pillowcases (upon request) and 24-hour check-in and check-out, add to the hotel's refined ambience, though the lobby still gets its share of rushed stylists and harried assistants during Oscar week. On Oscar Sunday, when an onslaught of limousines surrounds the hotel, the crisply uniformed valets coordinate the departures with aplomb, calling up to the room as a guest's car enters the cobblestone driveway. The subsequent lobby walk is the first red-carpet parade of the day and worth the price of admission, which is $425 to $575 for a double and a place on the general manager's tightly controlled reservation list.
In 1929, when the first Academy Awards were given out at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the legendary (4) Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard, (323) 656-1010, www.chateaumarmont.com, was being built a few miles west. Thanks to the high profile of its current owner, Andre Balazs, and a smartly done renovation in the 1990's, the European-style Chateau remains the hotel of choice for cosmopolitan creative types. Originally a luxury apartment complex, most of the rooms have kitchenettes. But the nightly goings-on in the salon-like lobby - more living room than entrance hall - are the reason to stay there. Place your entourage in one of the period seating vignettes and watch Javier Bardem, Leonardo DiCaprio and Pamela Anderson inhale the same smoke-filled air. Doubles start at $315. Belushi's infamous bungalow: $1,500.
WHERE TO EAT
(5) The Ivy, 113 North Robertson Boulevard, (310) 274-8303, is on one of the most popular shopping streets in town, making it an ideal spot for lunch, though securing a table on the street-front patio is like getting a ticket to the Oscar ceremony itself. The never-changing menu of crab cakes, chopped salads and grilled items takes a back seat to the rubbernecking to see celebrities, or the ducking from paparazzi by the stars. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Perhaps a slightly easier reservation, but just as much a power lunch or dinner spot, the (6) Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Boulevard, (310) 887-2777, a k a the Pink Palace, with its banana-leaf wallpaper and standard-playing pianist, packs an old-school Hollywood punch but is just as popular with the young set. Order the famous McCarthy salad ($20) and look out for regulars like Warren and Annette.
Across town, there is never a dull moment at (7) Mauro's Cafe in the Fred Segal Center, 8100 Melrose Avenue, (323) 653-2874, where a selection of delicious pastas is shunned by the carb-free likes of Paris Hilton and Jennifer Garner for the spinach salad or vegetable sautes. Others embrace the traditional Italian fare, tiramisu and all, before a calorie-burning session in the adjoining trendy Ron Herman boutiques.
If you want to follow the "it" crowd to dinner, head to (8) Koi, 730 North La Cienega Boulevard, (310) 659-9449, for sushi and sake and sightings. It's open nightly, except on Oscar Sunday, when it's being rented for a top-secret Oscar party.
WHAT TO DO DURING THE DAY
On any other visit, a jaunt to the surf breaks of Malibu or taking in a performance at Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall would be compulsory. This time, Oscar prep time is essential. Nominees, presenters and their stylists spend the week attending private in-suite shopping sprees at hotels. But apparel worthy of the red carpet is readily available around town for everyone else.
The second-floor couture department at (9) Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Boulevard, (310) 276-4400, is the best place to start. Unless it's the afternoon before the Oscar ceremony, when most stars attend the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, you're bound to spot a few descending the grand staircase. The dizzying shoe department has the best collection of Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs and Prada around.
For gowns, resist the temptation to hit the Rodeo Drive stores - you can see those anywhere - and go to (10) Decades, upstairs at 82141 - 2 Melrose Avenue, (323) 655-0223, a vintage couture boutique where the owner, Cameron Silver, expertly edits classic eveningwear from the 1920's to the 1970's. To secure a fitting of the apple-green Galanos chiffon gown from the 1970's ($3,600) or the Nina Ricci strapless floral gown from the same era ($4,200) that have been on display, visit the salon Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The reigning queen of a new generation of jewelry designers is (11) Erica Courtney, 7465 Beverly Boulevard, (323) 938-2850, www.ericacourtney.com, who has taken her rightful place on the red carpet next to Harry Winston and Neil Lane. On view at her boutique are platinum, diamond and colored-stone baubles (for $9,000 to $120,000) that you just might see at the Awards show.
After shopping, it's time to get ready for your close-up - an industry in its own right, with every Beverly Hills spa trying to entice nominees with new treatments containing diamonds, caviar or other potentially luck-enhancing ingredients. But dedicated clients of the (12) Face Place, 8701 Santa Monica Boulevard, (310) 855-1150, which include Sofia Coppola, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp, prefer this West Hollywood hideaway's year-round anti-aging approach: a no-nonsense facial using galvanic current.
The (2) Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, 300 South Doheny Drive, (310) 273-2222, is the only place in town to get Sun FX ($85), a new, odor-free Australian airbrush tanning treatment that will cast a streak-free bronze. Exfoliate with a chamomile body scrub ($85) first, and the tan will last through the week.
Christophe and Frederic Fekkai may be too busy to create your updo on Oscar weekend, but who goes to a salon anymore, anyway? Fred Segal Mobile, from (13) Fred Segal Beauty at 420 Broadway in Santa Monica, (310) 451-3808 or on the Web at www.fredsegalbeauty.com, will bring all of its services - from a basic blow dry ($125) to a make-up application ($125) to a wardrobe styling ($175 an hour) - right to your hotel room.
While you're at it, have a customized, delivered workout from (14) Absolution, 8535 Santa Monica Boulevard, (310) 657-7878; www.absolution-la.com, a fitness center in West Hollywood that dispatches instructors in myriad practices, including Pilates, yoga, rock climbing - even strip tease.
WHAT TO DO AT NIGHT
(15) ArcLight, 6360 West Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, (323) 464-4226 or at www.arclightcinemas.com, offers an only-in-Hollywood movie experience, and for a city of film buffs, every detail - including reserved seating, double-wide cinema chairs, THX systems and real butter for popcorn - counts. Look for "21+" shows, when you can watch nominated films while sipping a martini or margarita from the lobby bar.
If yours was not one of the 300 names drawn on Oct. 1 for a bleacher seat at the Kodak, or you aren't Joan Rivers, you should plan on screening the red carpet arrivals on your television of choice. But if you later head to the Vanity Fair party at (16) Mortons Restaurant, 8764 Melrose Avenue, (310) 276-5205, you can stand behind velvet ropes across Robertson Boulevard and watch the parade of stars. Who knows? You might just be discovered.
YOUR FIRST TIME OR 10th
Started in 1934 when a contingent of farmers displayed their produce on their truck's tailgates, the charming (17) Farmers Market at 6333 West Third Street at Fairfax Avenue, (323) 933-9211, www.farmersmarketla.com, now has more than 70 shops and stalls (selling everything from gumbo to goat cheese). This place is the real deal: a unique melting pot of octogenarians, Japanese tourists, businessmen on lunch and yes, celebrities, gathered daily for the varied food choices and a respite from the city's other star attractions.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Don't even think of public transportation: in Los Angeles, it's all about your car. To fit right in, forgo the Kia and call Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car, (800) 479-5996 or at www.bhrentacar.com. They will meet you at the airport or a hotel with one of a fleet of luxury cars, which includes a Hummer H2 ($349 a day), a new Rolls-Royce Phantom ($2,995 a day), and, for Leo-lovers, an economical, but trendy, Honda hybrid ($89 a day).