Seeing Stars: Where the Stars Live

  

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Tourists arriving in Southern California often confuse Hollywood with Beverly Hills.

Many visitors come to Hollywood expecting to find a gleaming city filled with movie stars, posh restaurants, grand mansions and expensive shopping areas. They are, of course, very disappointed; the actual suburb of Hollywood is far from glamorous. The real "Hollywood" is a state of mind, not a place; it's not so much a city as it is shorthand for the general movie and entertainment industry.


 But if that fabled, glittering Hollywood of the tourist's imagination exists anywhere, it exists in Beverly Hills. It is in Beverly Hills, not Hollywood, where many stars actually live, dine and shop.

Only a few minutes drive southwest of downtown Hollywood, the City of Beverly Hills offers all of the glamour and opulence that anyone could reasonably hope for, including:


 
Rodeo Drive
, probably the wealthiest and most famous shopping district in the world.
 
Numerous well-known restaurants, many frequented by movie stars, including the legendary Spago, The Grill, the Polo Lounge and Crustacean (and home to such past legends as Chasen's, Trader Vic's, Jimmy's and Planet Hollywood).
 
Posh hotels, such as The Beverly Hills Hotel ("The Pink Palace")and the Beverly Wilshire (where "Pretty Woman was filmed).
 
The homes (and former homes) of countless movie stars and TV personalities; their grand mansions line such Beverly Hills streets as Roxbury Drive, Carolwood Drive, Bedford Drive, Crescent Drive, and Benedict Canyon Drive.
 
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences headquarters and library (the people who give out the Oscar awards), as well as the Museum of Television & Radio.

But what is Beverly Hills really like?

Beverly Hills is, above all, a small town for the wealthy. Less than six square miles in size, Beverly Hills is strictly a neighborhood of homes and shops. The city has churches, but it has no smokestacks; it has restaurants, but no industry; boutiques, but no billboards; parks, but no eyesores. There's not even a hospital or a cemetery in the city to remind the residents of their mortality. It has been said that, technically, no one is born or dies in Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills is a place for the fortunate to live in comfort, and to shop and dine at their leisure. It just so happens that many of these fortunate few are celebrities. On the city's tree-lined streets, you'll see more stretch limos, shining Mercedes-Benzes, and sleek Ferraris per square mile than at any other place on earth. Even the fireplugs in Beverly Hills are painted a gleaming silver. The city's first mayor (back in 1926) was a celebrity: actor Will Rogers.

It is also a place where the wealthy can feel secure. The Beverly Hills police department prides itself on being able to respond to any call in less than a minute.

They don't care much for pedestrians here. Of course, you are encouraged to stroll on Rodeo Drive's commercial strip. But if you start roaming around the residential areas of the city on foot, chances are pretty good that you'll be stopped by a Beverly Hills cop, who will check your ID, and generally make you feel as if you are intruding. In the past, minorities (especially African-Americans) have complained that they were routinely stopped by the police if they so much as drove down some Beverly Hills streets. Some say that is still the case today - let's hope that the situation has improved.

This is a city where the pawn shops are called "collateral lenders," and make quick loans on Mercedes and Ferraris instead of toasters. This is a city where some of the clothing stores require customers to make advance reservations to shop, and where shoppers may routinely drop $100,000 or more in a single visit to a boutique. A city where the post office offers valet parking. This town's "Sister City" is none other than Cannes, France.

In between Wilshire and Sunset Boulevards, you will find what is sometimes called "The Golden Triangle," bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard (on the northwest), Wilshire Boulevard (on the south), and Canon Drive (on the east). Within the "Golden Triangle" is a grid of seven smaller commercial streets filled with shops and restaurants. At the center of this triangle is none other than Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills' fabled shopping avenue.

Beverly Hills is, undeniably, an extremely handsome neighborhood. Its commercial streets are immaculate and filled with exclusive boutiques and sophisticated shoppers. Its Civic Center is a gorgeous, mission-style landmark. Its residential thoroughfares are lined with multi-million dollar mansions, towering trees, and miles of manicured green lawns. This is how most people would probably like to live - if they could afford it. Just visiting beautiful Beverly Hills can lift your spirits.

While the homes south of Sunset Boulevard are handsome, most of the city's truly spectacular mansions are located north of Sunset. If you ever wondered where to find the most expensive real estate in Southern California, look no further. The homes north of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills hold that title, beating out nearby Bel-Air and sunny Malibu. You will notice that (with the obvious exception of the "Golden Triangle") most of the homes and businesses south of Santa Monica Blvd are rather modest, by comparison.

Ironically, this same land once sold for less than $3 an acre, back in 1868, when the 3,600-acre Rancho La Rodeo de Agua was bought by a dentist. Of course, back then it was essentially a swamp.

(Also see the separate pages on Rodeo Drive., Beverly Hills High, the Academy Buildings, Greystone Mansion, Good Shepherd Church, the Witch's House, the Monument to the Stars, the Museum of Television, Beverly Gardens Park, Will Rogers Park, the Beverly Hilton, the Four Seasons, the Peninsula Hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, Edelweiss, Stars' Salons, Mulberry Pizza, Nate & Al's, Chasen's, Spago Beverly Hills, and Planet Hollywood.)

 Getting there: The city of Beverly Hills is located west of Los Angeles and southwest of Hollywood. It is surrounded by Bel-Air and Westwood (to the west), the Santa Monica Mountains and West Hollywood (to the north), Hollywood and the Fairfax district (to the east), and West L.A. & Century City (to the south). / From Hollywood & Vine, drive two blocks south to Sunset Boulevard, then turn right (west) and take Sunset Boulevard west (about four miles) to Beverly Hills. You'll know you're in Beverly Hills when the scenery changes from concrete sidewalks to lush green lawns, from high-rises to mansions. It's a sea change that can't be missed. Head west down winding Sunset Boulevard, past the Beverly Hills Hotel, and turn south onto the residential section of Rodeo Drive. This will give you a chance to see some of the homes of the stars before reaching the central shopping area of Rodeo Drive. / From west L.A., take the San Diego (405) Freeway to either Wilshire Boulevard or Santa Monica Boulevard, and drive northeast (about three miles) into Beverly Hills.




[For more information on this subject, you can access Beverly Hills' official websites at: http://www.bhvb.org or http://www.beverlyhillscc.org,
or another good website at http://www.beverlyhillstourism.com.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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