Starry-eyed in LA LA LAND

From dog spas to su­per­cars, Lisa Haynes in­dulges in some LA es­capism

Friday - - TRAVEL -

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

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