Hinch Travel

Visiting the Beautiful People

Aaaah… Los Angeles. LA. The ‘City of the Angels.’ Home of Hollywood and the ‘boulevard of broken hearts.’ The place they call ‘a freeway in search of a city.’ LaLaLand. The home of the so-called Beautiful People. 
The place where everybody is a star. Or is about to be. Or, sadly, used to be. ‘Didn’t you used to be?’ The place where every waitress is an MAW. That translates as ‘model, actress… whatever’.
The city about which Manhattan habitué and playwright Neil Simon once wrote:
‘When it’s 90 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in California. When it’s 30 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in California.  There are 10,000 interesting people in New York, there are 72 in California.’

Recently I went on a mission to experience, in about 24 hours, where those Beautiful People (if not Neil Simon’s 72) really hang out. A day and night of indulgence Hollywood-style.
And there is no better way to get into pampered mode than on board V Australia’s new Melbourne-Los Angeles service in Business Class.
As I’ve written before you get a genuine lie-flat six-foot bed (and a pair of PJs) to give you a surefire seven hours in Lala-land before you hit California’s  LaLaLand. The place Australians still mispronounce as ‘Los Angeleese’.

 Then it was on to the whiz bang plush newest Beverly Hills hotel, TheMontage Beverly Hills…. only a few Gucci loafer steps from Rodeo Drive.

To encapsulate The Montage:  The hotel can arrange for two limos to pick you up.  The first gets you as soon as you land and whisks you off to the Spanish-influenced five star hotel while the  second hotel driver waits for your luggage and deposits it in your room.

(Actually, I always use a cheap, reliable, Town Car service called Valentino’s Limousine Services).
If you order a Corner Suite or grander at the Montage they’ll also throw in a complimentary Mercedes for you to drive during your sojourn.
We stayed in a massive Garden Suite with a balcony to breakfast on. It immediately passed the SWIAR hotel test from She Who Is Always Right:  a massive, gleaming bathroom with built-in spa and TV screen above the bath and mood lighting and piped music. 

  For her, a perfect bathroom can excuse any other perceived faults. Not that ours had any. There was even a comfy, huge, sofa bed in the sitting room with bi-fold doors separating it from the bedroom.

So where do the Beautiful People lunch in LA?  Well, in Beverly Hills you have to go to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel just up the road.

It’s been a traditional favourite of mine for forty years. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the octogenarians living there have been there for even longer.
As I wrote years ago: Hooray for Hollywood! Nothing should shock you about this place. Ask Fatty Arbuckle or Errol Flynn if either were still alive. It is bizarre but it is exciting. And The Beverly Hills hotel on Sunset Boulevard probably sums it up as much as the fabled Hollywood sign.
Sure, it sometimes looks like a plastic surgeons’ convention. And there are fat old cigar smoking men with young blondes who think they will be the next Marilyn Monroe. But that’s Hollywood. Anybody can dream
And you overhear conversations of blowhards saying ‘and then Michael Caine told me this’. But… it’s Hollywood.
 My favourite memory (and you’ll quickly understand why) was in the bar.  Brenda Vaccaro, of Midnight Cowboy fame, heard my Australian accent, loudly shouted: ‘I want to make a movie in Australia. Tell a director, I’ll do anything to get there’ and promptly dropped to her knees to simulate oral sex. We had met before in Australia.

On a quieter visit just before Christmas, the courtyard trees were twinkling with lights and the bright red and green poinsettias were ablaze. Under the green and white striped ceiling sat aged, supposedly ageless, cosmetically-enhanced Hollywood matrons. A beautiful blonde piano player tickled the ivories and the bartender thought he was auditioning for Cheers. It was the Polo Lounge as I remembered it.
The food is always good at the Polo Lounge. It’s not Vue De Monde but I had a perfect piece of grilled wild salmon that was crispy-skinned but moist on a bed of garlic bulbs and white beans with a terrific tempura of ‘sea beans’.
Mrs. Nosebag had a salmon burger which was fine once she got past the huge bun. You’ve already had your fill of bread before the food arrives because of the massive basket of lavoche and sour dough and a stunning blue cheese bread.
It was at the Polo Lounge they wanted to charge me $50 corkage on a bottle of Edenvale non –alcoholic  wine I’d brought from Australia but discovered they actually had a local alcohol-free red wine on the menu.

During the lunch I was approached by an old man in a wheelchair who looked like a film director from Central Casting who said: ‘I want to meet the guy they wanted to sting fifty bucks for corkage.’
For a late dinner we headed for an ‘in’ place far removed from the old Hollywood of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  We managed to get into the new Geisha House on Hollywood Boulevard just down the street from the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Stars.

A lot going on. The Scientologists were having their Christmas party. The welter of tattoo parlours and tacky t-shirt shops were doing a good trade. But the biggest change is the blossoming of marijuana dens, and Hookah shops  and smoke shops and ‘chemist’ shops. A real doctor outside will give you an instant prescription for your medical condition if you ‘can’t sleep’ or ‘feel anxious’ or feel ‘stressed’. 

No wonder they are putting it on the election ballot in November to try to legalise it and tax it. Hollywood is the new Amsterdam. Didn’t make me want to rush in and try it because I hate smoking.
In the midst of all this is the Geisha House.
I don’t usually call a Japanese restaurant sexy but this place has night fever. It’s young. It’s hip. It’s dark. There’s a 50-foot crowded bar (with a Saki sommelier), A real DJ and a real touch of Hollywood Nights.  This is the heart of a supposedly revitalized Hollywood. The place is multi-storey with red walls and a spectacular two storey wall of fireplaces. There are geisha girl waitresses and the food was good, surprisingly cheap and served quickly even though there were large tables of party groups.  Especially young Japanese girls on hen’s nights. 

We had top class sashimi and sushi including ‘geisha lips’ served without rice. There’s Kobe beef Carpaccio and robatayaki skewers.  The best value was a plate of lobster tempura. I counted 15 pieces for $12. 

(That’s what struck me in many restaurants in Los Angeles and New York on my last trip: how cheap even top restaurants are. Visiting Americans must gag at some of the prices in Sydney).
So after all that, where do you ‘do’ brunch on the Sunday. Stick in Beverly Hills and go to Gardens at the Four Season Hotel on Sth. Deheny Drive. You can’t miss it. In the driveway is a lifelike statue of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt billowing from the famous Seven Year Itch movie moment. There’s another of an artist with his palette and easel. In the courtyard there’s a busking fiddler with what looks like real dollars in his violin case.

The walls of the Four Season are hung with 18th century Italian paintings and tea and coffee are served on Limoges china but for brunch the style is elegantly casual. Especially if you sit outside… which is wise.
It’s still Hollywood. You overhear conversations with the young oh-so-earnest female hanging on every word as an older man, with hand on her knee, beseeches her: ‘Yeah, sure, go with that 20-page synopsis. It’s good. Trust me. They’ll like it.’
At Gardens on a Sunday you’ll get the best smorgasbord brunch you’ll ever eat for $65. There are separate breakfast and brunch rooms so you can have the usual brekkie of hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes.
But for brunch/lunch there is everything. Honeyed ham off the bone, carved beef or lamb, instantly made donuts, yum cha, dumplings, won ton, piles of salads. Japanese sushi and sashimi, a mountain of prawns, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, fresh strawberries, melon, raspberries, pineapple. And the best cheese selection imaginable.
Mrs. Nosebag worked out there were two entrances… so by alternating it didn’t look like you were going back to the trough that often.
Spending a day or so in the habitat of the Beautiful People was fun. And not too expensive if you stay away from Rodeo Drive where they are so considerate you can spend $10,000 and take it all away on the one coat hanger.
And keep in mind the warning about places like The Ivy, a favourite watering hole for the BP.  A tour guide says ‘if your face is not particularly beautiful or well-known, be prepared for a cool reception’. In other words if being turned away offends you -- don’t bother. That’s so Hollywood.
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