Starry-eyed in LA LA LAND
From dog spas to supercars, Lisa Haynes indulges in some LA escapism
P eeping through cracks in the gargantuan wooden gate, I teeter on tiptoes trying to snap a picture with my iPhone camera. Success – a very grainy shot of a very recognisable front door.
I’m outside the former home of the Osbournes in Beverly Hills, the one made famous by the family’s MTV reality show in the early Noughties, where tiny dogs ran riot and Sharon ruled the roost.
Unlike the celebrity residents of this neighbourhood who swan about in chauffeur-driven limos, I’m on two wheels pedalling past mini mansions on the Bikes and Hikes’ Movie Star Homes tours.
Behind those luxurious silk curtains and marble walls, I think of superstar celebrities gearing up for their next big role, chilling by their pools or perhaps sneaking a bite of cold pizza from the fridge. OK, the latter is unlikely, but I can hope!
The A-list is close and I’m in Tinseltown to soak up the starstudded atmosphere for a few days. As we cycle between LA’s most exclusive enclaves, I look up at the cloudless blue sky, punctuated with tall palm trees.
Our tour guides point out the starry houses, including Elton John’s $3-million (Dh11-million) condo overlooking Soho House and Marilyn Monroe’s old apartment at North Doheny Drive.
I get to know one of Hollywood’s greatest icons a little better later at TCL Chinese Theatre, where I step into Marilyn’s shoes – literally. My size six sandals completely cover her tiny heeled footprints and my hands engulf her dainty palms on the 1953
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes imprint, where tourists get to hold hands with their idols via concrete.
This forecourt of paving stones may not have the glamour of the sparkling stars on the nearby Hollywood Boulevard’sWalk of Fame
but they’re steeped in cinematic history, some scrawled with personalised messages like Will Smith’s ‘Change the world’, or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘I’ll be back’. It’s more of a scrawl of fame, but back to the glamour.
It’s no secret Hollywood’s finest in the present day put a lot of work into perfecting flawless complexions ready for their silver-screen close-ups. Dermatologist to the stars Dr Harold Lancer knows this only too well and is solidly booked with A-listers hoping to achieve a red carpet glow.
I manage to follow in the footsteps of celebrities like Simon Cowell, Scarlett Johansson and Victoria Beckham, by visiting his practice to try one of his bespoke multi-step skincare regimes. The exclusive address is wedged between glossy Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani stores on Rodeo Drive, but I’m told celebrity clients park their cars with the valet to avoid paparazzi scrums.
“Beauty hurts but ugly hurts a lot more,” Dr Lancer informs me. “Beauty isn’t just about the face, it’s from the dinner table up,” he continues, as I decided upon his signature Stem Cell Facial. “That’s hands, arms, shoulders and décolletage you know.”
I realise this is important here. Folk in LA visit beauty salons as often as most people back home make a lunchtime sandwich dash.
In buzzyWest Hollywood where I’m staying, there are dedicated ‘blow-dry bars’ – no scissors in sight for trims, just smooth, bouncy tresses. Women (and men) sit with customary toy dogs in lap, mobile phone in one hand, while their nails are being done on the other.
Dogs aren’t left out of the pampering. Everywhere you look; dog spas, pooch parlours and even check-ins at Chateau Marmutt (a play on the name of the famous Chateau Marmont hotel) where over-indulged pooches can slim down on dedicated doggy treadmills.
For an extreme snapshot of designer pooches, supercars and It bags, I put my oversized sunglasses on to stroll down the boutique-lined Rodeo Drive.
Best reserved for window-
This is a place that twinkles by night and day, leaving you starry-eyed
shopping, I found just about every high-end brand’s swish store at this designer paradise – think The Dubai Mall out in the open with Chanel, Dior, Fendi and Gucci to explore.
I spot crowds of tourists ogling a yellow Bugatti Veyron sportscar – I overhear the starting price is around $1.2 million – and pressing their noses up to the windows of exclusive boutiques.
Bespoke fashion is also big business on the pristine paving stones of Rodeo. Stepping into Dior’s VIP suite, where Fashion stylist Joe Katz is waiting for me, I sink into the plush carpet almost losing sight of my feet entirely.
Joe hands me a glass of bubbles just as my gaze floats from the stunning designer archive pieces decorating the room to a plate of pastel-coloured mini macaroons. “I’m here at least once a day,” Joe states, with ‘I’m just used to this’ nonchalance. “My clients require tailored styling sessions, so I pull key pieces from the rails and style them for industry parties or trips overseas.”
Joe works with the jet set every day, but ever the professional he
refuses to name names. With Dream Closet, his personal shopper service, Joe fulfils the ultimate fantasy wish of a favourite celebrity-inspired closet for his clients – plucked straight from Rodeo Drive.
I start mentally calculating how many Jimmy Choos I would get with Joe’s Dream Closet options, where price tags total $10,000, $50,000 and $100,000.
“We’re selling winter coats in the height of summer,” Joe says. “Our customers are very international, from Dubai to Japan and they’re looking for outfits to take them across the FashionWeek capitals like Paris, London and New York. We did have a limited-edition Lady Dior bag in a glass case. It sold for $16,000, which is pretty affordable in Beverly Hills,” he says without blinking.
It’s all too easy to be swept away by the LA dream and think for just a millisecond ‘that does sound reasonable,’ but I give myself a shake.
In search of more independent, cool shops, I take my credit card to Robertson Boulevard where 75 per cent of the stores are dedicated to clothing. Kitson is especially popular with celebrities – Lady Gaga has been known to shop there. You’re always in good company in LA!
Feet aching, I decide to seek refuge in my hotel, the Mondrian, West Hollywood (Hi Elton!), but walking into this fantasy playground of LA with its signature 9-metre-high mahogany doors, I accept there’s no normality in this town. The reception resembles an Alice
inWonderland outtake with a velvet swing, mushroom-shaped concierge desk and feathered lampshades. Even giant swivelling SnowWhite- style mirrors in my room double up as televisions. By day, it’s bright, light and airy and by night it becomes glamorous with the open-air Skybar pulling in the It crowd.
The roof-top pool’s panoramic views of the LA skyline sit behind a faux white wall complete with oversized windows and sills you can perch or pose on.
Camouflaged in bright pink blooms, the outdoor hideaway ‘hut’ is the perfect place for celebrities to relax, unnoticed.
For dinner you can’t miss the flower and fairy light display decking outThe Ivy on Robertson Boulevard. I managed to get a table (remember to book ahead) on the colourful outdoor patio and skilfully hid behind, or rather perused the classic American and Italian menu on the look out for A-list diners. Sadly no famous faces appeared. ‘Probably having a facial,’ I thought, sipping on an ice cold drink. This is a place that twinkles by night and day, leaving you just a little starry-eyed. Now I know why big sunglasses are a necessity and if you want to fit in, wear them at all times.
To find out how celebrities live, cycle through the streets on the Movie Star Homes Tour
Dogs aren’t left out of the pampering so prevalent in LA; dog spas are scattered between the beauty salons
Hollywood Boulevard is famous for its Walk of Fame
Luxury cars attract as much attention from tourists as the exclusive boutiques
Bespoke fashion is big business on Rodeo Drive