Just because you’re not a film star doesn’t mean you can’t hang out like one – at least for a few days
Alright, credit card ready? Let’s start rolling. Once you finally get out of LAX airport (don’t even think of cracking jokes with Immigration) get a shared mini-bus rather than a cab, they’re much cheaper and you’re going to need to save some money for your accommodation.
If you’re going to do Hollywood in style – which is always the best way – then book yourself into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (9500 Wilshire Boulevard, from Dhs1,634 per night) just off the bottom of Rodeo Drive. It’s the hotel from Pretty Woman (and has featured in hundreds of other films and TV series), but more importantly it’s got old-school class and elegance. Guests get use of the Rolls Royce and driver who’ll take you anywhere within four miles of the hotel. The idea is that they take you around the shops to live out your Julia Roberts fantasies.
But you can do better than that. Get him to drive you to The Polo Lounge (at the Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd.) for cocktails. It should help you look the part as this has been a hangout of A-listers since the 1940s. On any given night there’ll be some face you’ll recognise from a film, TV series or album cover. The barman (Mark) knows his stuff and the food is very good. Just dress smart, look the part and you’ll fit right in.
Next day, the jet lag will hit you like you’re Ricky Hatton, so you’ll wake up early. Use this to your advantage – head to Santa Monica and take a walk down the beachside promenade. Don’t worry about the old hippies juggling glow sticks, just see them as a cautionary tale and move on. Among others, Oliver Stone shot The Doors along here and White Men Can’t Jump was filmed at the basketball court. But, of course, you’ll recognise this first as the Baywatch beach – you’ll have a huge urge to run down it in slow motion just like The Hoff. Oh go on, nobody’s looking.
The whole area has loads of great little shops and cafés if you’re looking to wander for a few hours. If you don’t have a car, then the bus is the best way to get there and back. Alternatively, many of those ‘tours of Hollywood’ include a drive to Santa Monica as part of the trip and can be good value if you want to be driven around parts of the city – including up where the rich and famous live. If you have a bit more time, then get a map of the stars’ homes (you can even buy them in vending machines) and take a walk though the hills – the whole thing is better on foot. It really is calming to wander the winding roads to a gentle soundtrack of honeybees and distant lawnmowers.
Once you’ve had enough peace, head to Koi (730 N. La Cienega Boulevard) for some mid-evening fine Japanese food. You’ll have made a reservation a few days in advance, obviously. The pavement outside is nearly always full of photographers and video-paps as the young hip celebs are all over this place like Demi and Ashton on Twitter. If you don’t see anyone you recognise here – it’s Oscars night.
When you leave, all the paps will quickly hold their cameras up, aiming them at you until they realise you’re not anyone famous. Ahh, but don’t feel too down, Time Out loves you. So that’s why we’re going to tell you to hop in a cab over to a place that has seen it all, served them all and still stands as a totem of cool – Frank & Musso Grill (6667 Hollywood Boulevard). It’s as old-Hollywood as it gets – the oldest restaurant in town, in fact, having set up in 1919 – and used to be the place where the great writers and actors of the day talked shop.
Everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway to Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra may have all been here and gone, but the place has barely changed, giving it that authentic old-Hollywood feel with red leather booths, wooden decor and an antique till at the bar that punches the price on your receipt. The food’s decent (have the steak) but the bar’s the place to be. Charles Bukowski was a regular on the stools and his barman, Ruben, has been here since 1967. He’s still serving up great anecdotes and martinis to this very day.
He’s also one of the coolest guys you’ll (probably ever) meet, so tip him well and listen. The tales come tumbling out. If you want somewhere more modern then Geisha House (6633 Hollywood Boulevard) is just around the corner, but light years apart. The staff look like models, while the punters are your typical MAWs (model/actress/whatever). It’s friendly and the sushi is superb.
Of course, not all celebrities like to spend the equivalent of their maid’s hourly wage on a small bottle of beer. In fact, you really should see a few dive bars while you’re here. Power House (1714 N Highland Ave) is nearby and a cool slice of blue-collar boozing right in the tourist district near Mann’s Chinese Theatre. Somehow it survives. Jack Black occasionally drinks here, but mostly this hole-in-the-wall bar is full of the kind of people you’d normally cross a street to avoid, though they’re actually quite friendly. This is where you can meet some real locals and is far more exotic than any of the five-star places.
If you’re looking to go clothes shopping then you’ll probably think of Rodeo Drive. It has an air of reverence, but is really just shops full of designer gear that you can get in most Dubai malls anyway. Instead, head up to Melrose Avenue. It’s full of quirky independent places. Start in the morning and plan your route from east to west so you end up at the right end for lunch at The Urth Caffé, (8565 Melrose Avenue) which is where they often film (and where the writers write) a lot of the series Entourage. It’s celeb heavy, and the food is worth the hassle of trying to get a table.
If you find yourself in East Hollywood and prefer a cheaper, pre-fame celeb lunch then go to the 101 Coffee Shop (6145 Franklin Ave 323 467 1175). This diner was not only featured in the film Swingers, it was also where Jon Faverau wrote most of the script while hanging out with fellow struggling actor Vince Vaughn. The peanut butter shake’s a big hug in a glass.
You can’t visit Hollywood without walking Sunset Strip. Start at The Rainbow Bar & Grill (9015 Sunset Blvd) where the pizza is outstanding, the drinks cold and the crowd hot. A few doors down is Whisky A Go Go (8901 Sunset Blvd) which is the rock club that once had The Doors as its house band and has enough history to fill the mag you’re holding 10 times over. Bar Marmont (8171 Sunset Boulevard) is also excellent. The front bar is one of the few places indoors that you can smoke in the city. It’s part of the celebrated Chateau Marmont Hotel, but you can walk straight into this place off the street.
The celeb count is always very high, yet, unlike other places, people just mingle rather than stand and stare over each other’s shoulders. Once you’ve got over the fact the cast of The Office is sat on one side of you and Lindsay Lohan’s posse is on the other, get a ‘Damn Good Burger’ (it lives up to its name) and party with one of the best crowds in town.
If Hollywood seems shallow that’s because it is. It’s the epicentre of fame and there’s nothing more corroding than that – but in small doses it’s fun to wallow in, just don’t take it too seriously. Pop in, party and get back on the plane. Marilyn Monroe once said, ‘Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and 50 cents for your soul.’ The blonde wasn’t dumb.
Need to know
Get there Time Out flew to Los Angeles with Virgin Atlantic premium economy. They fly daily (via London), with more films and TV shows available on demand than any other airline. Prices start from around Dhs5,000.
Where to stay 9500 Wilshire Boulevard at S Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills (1-310-275-5200). Where 19th-century French splendour meets modern amenities in one of the world’s most iconic hotels. Everything about this place is just how it should be. Prices start from Dhs1,634 a night.