THE SEAT OF HOLLYWOOD POWER FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, BEVERLY HILLS ALSO HAS FAR MORE IN STORE FOR VISITORS THAN THE WORLD’S FINEST CELEB SPOTTING AND SHOPPING
BY MATT SCANLON
Though Beverly Hills has, in terms of geo graphic proximity and industry association, long been grouped unofficially into the greater Los Angeles area, it is in fact its own city, and that’s not an incidental fact. Often referred to simply as “90210,” it was incorporated in 1914, after an early group of investors, frustrated at an inability to find oil there (though the Beverly Hills Oil Field, believe it or not, remains a sizable and productive field underneath part of the city), were impressed enough by the relatively ample water supply to establish an all white enclave (sadly, one of many in the Los Angeles area at the time) named after Beverly Farms in Beverly, Massachusetts. Early residents strained to achieve the finest landscaping and garden architecture on the West Coast, and the area quickly drew industrialists and cinema celebrities, among the first royal names Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who purchased land on Summit Drive in 1919.
Part of the “Platinum Triangle” (along with the LA neighborhoods of Holmby Hills and Bel Air), the city quickly acquired a reputation as an enclave of the entertainment elite, one that has endured (average household income, not including minimum wage workers, is $660,000). A list of its most prominent residents would require two magazines of this size to present, but includes Lionel Barrymore, Ira Gershwin, Tony Curtis, and James Stewart, and more recently Jennifer Lawrence, Nicki Minaj, Demi Moore, and Charlie Sheen.
Far too often, experiences for visitors are relegated to de rigueur celebrity home tours, a jaunt down Rodeo Drive, and perhaps a cocktail at the Beverly Wilshire, but the truth is that this place is a multidimensional wonder a time capsule of cinema history, a repository of wondrous art, and a thriving social scene that extends far past celluloid the result an experience that requires no further venturing into West Hollywood or Los Angeles in order to complete a thrilling three or four day stay.
THINGS TO DO
Often referred to as the Hearst Castle of Southern California, this 46,000 square foot Tudor Revival marvel was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann and has been, along with decades as a private residence, one of the most famous filming locations in the nation, including the bowling alley murder scene in Paramount Studios’ There Will Be Blood. June 10 brings an opportunity to tour this incredible residence in a unique way, as the Friends of Greystone present a self-guided tour from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., during which visitors are encouraged to wander freely among the mansion’s 55 rooms. 905 Loma Vista Drive, greystonemansion.org
WALLIS ANNENBERG CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
A triumph of urban renewal, this stunning performance space was converted from the 1933 completed Beverly Hills post office, and offers music and dance performances, along with theater. From June 8 to July 1, the center presents A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville, who tackle Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece that details a fateful summer day in the life of the haunted Tyrone family. Directed by Sir Richard Eyre, the production, according to The Guardian, “leaves you emotionally pulverized.” 9390 N. Santa Monica Boulevard, thewallis.org
The most famous two miles of shopping on the planet although its ultra luxury heart is the three block stretch north of Wilshire Boulevard and south of Little Santa Monica Boulevard this is simply a haj that every lover of fine things needs to undertake once in his or her life. Notable current retail tenants include fashion icons Balenciaga, Fendi, Prada, Chanel, and Salvatore Ferragamo, jewelers Bulgari, Harry Winston, Cartier, and Jaeger LeCoultre, and for after shopping repasts, The Polo Lounge and 208 Rodeo. Although style is and always will be king here, June brings a special draw for the fellas. Father’s Day ( June 18) is further marked by the annual Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, a rolling parade of the world’s most exotic and expensive automobiles, and named by Frommers as among its “300 Unmissable Events & Festivals Around the World.” rodeodrive-bh.com
WHERE TO STAY
BEVERLY WILSHIRE BEVERLY HILLS
Arguably the most famous hotel in the United States, this gem at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard was completed in 1928 and has experienced an unbroken string of hyper elite guests, among them TV and cinema stars, of course, but also President Barack Obama, Japanese Emperor Hirohito, the Dalai Lama, and the Aga Khan. Now in the hands of Hong Kong private equity firm Joint Treasure International, the E-shaped Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts member was built of Carrera marble and Tuscan stone, and is a glory of Italian Renaissance revival style. Seen on the next page is the Penthouse Suite ($25,000 per night); an incredible 5,000 square feet, it features a dining table for 10 with adjoining chef ’s kitchen, a master bedroom complete with an expansive walk in closet and ensuite bath with sleek glass tiles, exotic stones and marble, an oversized shower, and a deep soaking tub. And there’s scant need to venture far for food, as CUT by Wolfgang Puck (its American Wagyu, sourced from Snake River Farms, is indescribable) has been on site since 2006. Rooms start at $595 per night. 9500 Wilshire Boulevard, fourseasons.com/beverlywilshire
THE PENINSULA BEVERLY HILLS
With the distinction of being the only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star hotel in Southern California every year since 1993, this 195 room, 38 suite, and 17 Villa ultra luxury resort an easy walk to Century City and Rodeo Drive features high tea that would make even a seasoned British colonialist blush. It also sports the Terrace at the Belvedere Restaurant, which, while being delicious, to be sure, also has some of the most dependable celebrity spotting on the West Coast, and the Club Bar’s wondrous selection of rare whiskies and wines shouldn’t be missed. The 2,250 square foot Royal Patio Suite, seen here (approximately $6,000 per night), with its cream tones, furniture accented with gilded hand painted finishes, and creamy white linen drapery, features several seating areas, contemporary artwork, and a dining table that expands to seat eight beneath a crystal chandelier. French doors lead to a terrace ideal for al fresco entertaining. Rooms start at $600 per night.
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, beverlyhills.peninsula.com
For our money, Il Pastaio has the best pasta in the city, period, but it’s the incredible siting of Celestino Drago’s first cafe spinoff its outdoor dining space smack dab at the corner of Brighton Way and a pedestrian friendly side street that’s the real draw, one that offers predictably wonderful A lister visual access. Don’t miss the garganelli with broccoli and sausage, the black squid ink risotto, and spelt spaghetti dressed in a simple butter, ricotta, and lemon zest sauce. 400 N. Canon Drive, giacominodrago.com
For a more casual but still deeply cool experience, head to restaurateur Christian Navarro’s brainchild retail spot, wine emporium, and eatery, Wally’s. Cheeses, specialty meats, caviar, and artisanal chocolates are on hand (as well as $85 to $20,000 gift baskets), but it’s the selection of rare spirits and more than 100 wines by the glass that holds our fascination. Drop in for a full meal or a nightcap with afterhours snack (as it’s also one of very few places in the city serving until 2 a.m.). 447 N. Canon Drive, wallywine.com