From celebrity encounters in Madame Tussauds to Oscar moments at the Kodak Theatre and star-spotting in the Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles may be a town where entertainment is a business but there are still some classic Hollywood experiences to charm Tinsel Town travellers.
Justin Timberlake’s gaze is fixed on Hollywood Boulevard and there’s a queue of guys waiting for selfies with Beyonce. Will Smith lounges on a red sofa, Johnny Depp is looking the essence of cool and I’m sitting next to George Clooney. Madam Tussauds waxworks on Hollywood Boulevard is tourism’s ground zero and at $300,00 a figure, celebrities are caught in a time warp that’s way better than botox. On the legends level, Casablanca’s Ingrid Bergman is waiting for Bogart, Audrey Hepburn is enjoying breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charlton Heston is still parting the Red Sea.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…..
Next to legendary Grauman’s Chinese Restaurant where countless stars have left lasting impressions in the concrete pavement, a guided tour through the Kodak Theatre in the Hollywood and Highland Centre delivers the skinny on a typical Oscar night. We’re told that even the stars have to show photo IDs and tickets before entering the David Rockwell-designed building which took 2,000 craftsmen 4 years to build at a cost of $94 million. Unlike today’s endless Oscar presentations, the first ceremony in 1929 ran for just 9 minutes at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel just across the road. And if you have dreams of being an Oscar night seat-filler, it helps to know someone at the production company. However, with no pay, no food and 12 hours on heels, it sounds like one tough gig!
Clubs, restaurants and bars populate Sunset Strip, a street that’s been immortalised in song and on celluloid. The former ‘riot Hyatt’ has thrown off its bad boy image (think rock stars throwing televisions off balconies) to become one of Sunset Strip’s hottest spots with its sleek transformation into Andaz West Hollywood. A magnet for celebrity gossip both in the restaurant and the rooftop pool bar, while its days as a refuse for rock’n’roll renegades may be over, you’ll still see fabulous somebodies hanging at the cocktail bar. www.westhollywood.andaz.com
WE GO TO WeHo
Wedged between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, West Hollywood (WeHo) is an art and design neighbourhood with life, soul and enough cutting-edge designer boutiques to satisfy global fashionistas. Stella McCartney trail-blazed by opening in WeHo. Victoria Beckham can be spied buying vertiginous heels at Christian Laboutin while the silver VIP dressing room in the Balenciago store resembles a spaceship. To see what Hollywood A-listers, Middle Eastern royalty and Russian oligarchs are putting in their homes, head for Phyllis Morris at 655 North Robertson Boulevard. www.phyllismorris.com www.visitwesthollywood.com
On a balmy LA night, listening to music at the Art Deco-inspired Hollywood Bowl is a classic moment. The site was selected in 1919 due to great natural acoustics and it has showcased everyone from The Beatles in 1964 to present-day jazz and classical greats. A small percentage of the 18,000 seats are retained for sale at one dollar ensuring that the Hollywood Bowl remains a place that’s affordable to all. Dining under the stars is part of ‘going Bowl-ing’ with gourmet meals delivered to your box – a sectioned-off square with detachable table. As the bleachers fill, bottles of wine are uncorked and picnic boxes opened. “A Night at the Movies” was the theme when we visited and under the baton of legendary screen composer John Williams, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played the unmistakable introduction to ‘Star Wars’. With a cheer, the crowd unleashed light sabres, punctuating the blackness with straws of red and green light. Hollywood magic indeed. www.hollywoodbowl.com
There’s nothing macabre about wandering amongst Hollywood’s immortals as they lay under palm trees in Los Angeles’ tranquil cemeteries. Founded in 1899 at the back of Paramount Studios, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery includes some beautiful mausoleums as the final resting place for old-school Hollywood greats. The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park on Glendon Avenue is packed with celebrity sightings from crooner Dean Martin to comedian Rodney Dangerfield, novelist TrumanCapote and sex siren Marilyn Monroe. Ensuring his reputation as the eternal lothario, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has apparently reserved his plot next to the screen goddess!
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