As a (former) San Franciscan, I’ve been to Los Angeles on many occasions. But this most recent visit had an agenda: I was going to see celebrities. In a previous career path, I worked as a red carpet reporter, so I’ve interviewed everyone from Ben Affleck to Robert Redford—yet have never once run into any star out and about in his native environment. So I was a girl on a mission: This time that would all change.
Prior to my trip, I hit up every friend in LA asking where I needed to go. I consulted Twitter, my fellow entertainment reporter colleagues, and “reliable” sources like People magazine and US Weekly’s websites. Everyone had a different opinion. “On a Friday or Saturday, you won’t see anyone. That’s when they all go into hiding,” one Beverly Hills bartender promised. My friend countered him: “Don’t go to Mr. Chow on Sunday. Celebs only dine there on weekends!” There were so many conflicting opinions that I wasn’t really sure what to do or who to believe. So I eschewed them all and went with my gut—which didn’t always prove successful.
The first day in town, SVV and I ventured to Beverly Hills. If there’s a place to find celebrities, that’s it—particularly middle of the week. Rodeo Drive, where all the high-end shops reside, was deader than I anticipated, so we nabbed a booth at the Grill on the Alley, a popular spot just off Rodeo where agents like to wine and dine their talent. There was a lot of old money present and likely some retired directors in our midst, but no one we recognized. We quickly forgot our mission—and disappointment—though, as we noshed on the biggest portions of baked halibut and ahi salad I’ve ever seen, then managed to save room for a strawberry shortcake fit for a king.
That night, we meandered over to Malibu, heading to the shopping center that houses Nobu, one of the hottest tables among A-listers, and Taverna Tony, a more low-key Greek spot. Neither yielded results. Of course, I had already missed one key sighting that day; Stefanie, our host for the night, texted as my plane touched down at LAX to inform me she was having lunch at Chateau Marmont—and so was Jessica Biel. This would be a common theme on my trip, friends calling to say Arnold Schwarzenegger was at Barney’s Greengrass and Bill Rancic at the Grill, but never seeing anyone in the flesh myself—or worse, me always being one step behind.
The following day, we spent our time running around Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Celebrities migrate to those neighboring areas due to their chill clientele and beachside vibe. We had breakfast at La Grande Orange on Main Street, a favorite of Kate Bosworth’s (though she wasn’t brunching that day, of course), then walked along the trendy Abbot Kinney corridor. Nothing.
Then, we headed to the waterfront for a decadent brunch at posh resort Shutters on the Beach’s One Pico. We didn’t see anyone famous, but I did run into a family I knew from my teenage years in Tennessee; you’d think spotting a big screen star would be much more likely than that coincidence. Shutters commonly welcomes high-profile clientele, just not while I was there. However, the food was so mouth-watering, I dismissed my defeat to enjoy a meal overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a perfectly sunny Southern Californian day.
Later, we checked into the iconic Roosevelt Hotel, a favorite stopover point for such VIPs as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who like to visit the highly exclusive, on-property Teddy’s. We had no such sightings, but we did take advantage of the fancy digs, sampling an array of cocktails in the Library Bar, prepared by mixologist master Matt Biancaniello, a local celebrity in his own right, and pausing a moment to sit by the pool before turning in for the night in our contemporary quarters.
The following day we returned to Beverly Hills, beginning with brunch at the iconic Beverly Hilton, which effortlessly recreates the days of Hollywood glam and plays host to many an awards show such as the Golden Globes. We heard Renee Zellwegger, Paris Hilton, Pink and others were around for a gala that evening, so we camped out poolside waiting for them. If they came out that afternoon, it was under an unrecognizable guise—and for Paris, I think that would be hard to do—as we never spotted any of them. Still, the brunch at Circa 55 was a pleasant experience, and all restaurant guests are welcome to use the pool; we took full advantage of that.
That afternoon, we met my friend China for a high-calorie snack at Millions of Milkshakes in West Hollywood. One of the newest red carpet spots in town, the younger set like Miley Cyrus frequent the shake shack. Fittingly, each concoction is named after its creator, like “The Heidi and Spencer” or “The Khloe.” We spotted no one, though really, I just wanted an excuse for a milkshake.
We spent that night at the trendy Beverly Hills Thompson hotel, where prominent Angelenos like the Beckhams and Kate Beckinsale like to throw soirees aside the rooftop pool, which is only accessible to hotel guests. Though of course, no one was partying that particular night. (Are you sensing a theme? If there’s a pool, there’s often a Hollywood starlet rumored to be nearby.)
Sunday morning it was off to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset and Holloway, hoping to catch the haggard night owls who needed their early morning caffeine fix. We sipped lattes by a girl who strongly resembled one of the Kardashians, but when she climbed into her Pontiac Sunfire—not a Rolls Royce, not a Bentley, not even an Audi—we realized it wasn’t her.
We decided to try our luck down in Orange County, popular among the “stars” who headline reality shows like the now-defunct Laguna Beach and The Hills, as well as The Real Housewives of Orange County. Many are frequently spotted shopping at Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza, or lounging, again, poolside at the Montage Laguna Beach, but all such hotbeds failed us on this particular day.
Somewhat disheartened by our lack of luck, we returned to LA and checked into our last hotel for the final night, the new and buzz-worthy W Hollywood that had just opened days before. Hundreds of bikini-clad, jewel-adorned twentysomethings filled the common areas hoping to get into the weekly Sunday pool party—it was far more Vegas than California—and amid them all was rapper Timbaland, surrounded by his posse. (Note: I wouldn’t have had recognized him from Adam had the sales manager not pointed him out to me.)
The following morning was a different sight entirely: The vacant lobby had been scrubbed clean of any evidence of the previous night’s follies. SVV went to the valet stand to retrieve our car, then quickly returned to my side.
“Do you want to see Reese Witherspoon?” he asked excitedly.
“Of course I do!” I replied. After all, she’s a fellow Tennessee girl like me, and while she’s had a few duds in the past couple years, you can’t deny the cinematic brilliance that was Legally Blonde.
I rushed over to the valet stand, trying to look “casual” at the same time. One lone guest, who turned out to be JULIA STILES (not Reese Witherspoon…good try, honey), stood next to us as we waited for the valet to bring around our car. I started to say something—“Will you one day revive your career?” (this was early 2010 and pre-Dexter, people) or, more likely, “I loved you in 10 Things I Hate About You!”—but decided against it. Actors are people, too, after all and well deserving of their privacy (unless they willingly subject themselves to being a contestant on a reality show, in which case all rules of civility are banished).
Moral of this story: Don’t go looking for celebrities when in Los Angeles. You’ll never find them. It’s when you end the chase that they come to you.
Didn’t manage to see a celebrity in the flesh? Here are a few spots you’re guaranteed to run into them … in one form or another.
- Starline, to peer down their driveways
- Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, to compare their handprints to yours
- Madame Tussauds, to see them rendered in wax
- Forest Lawns, to glimpse to their graves
Where have you seen celebrities in the Los Angeles area before? Share with this class, so we can get in on that A-lister love!
For those of you who weren’t aware I supplemented my travel writing career by dabbling in entertainment journalism, read my celebrity tell-all here.