Moving from the opulence of Dubai to the opulence of Beverly Hills. No more tag lines need to be added to these two locals. The culture and the landscape may be as different as their locations are apart from each other, but both showcase the kind of lifestyle that money can buy.
I was accompanying my husband to a work conference at the newest hotel in Beverly Hills, The Montage. A beautiful Spanish styled architecture replete with a central courtyard area, and the famed Bouchon Bakery, Bistro and Restaurant lining the courtyard opposite from the main hotel building. We arrived a couple of weeks after the Oscars, where Meryl Streep hosted an after Oscar party at the hotel’s restaurant, Scarpetta and Prince was playing host to friends behind a curtain by the rooftop pool.
A block to the south of the hotel is the famed Rodeo Drive. It is much shorter than I thought it would be, but the street and stores are pristine. Every high-end brand you know and several you have never heard of flank both sides of the streets for about four blocks, inclusive of “Two Rodeo Drive” – a cobblestone street of more stores for walking traffic only. Each store on Rodeo Drive has minimal, but high-end stock allowing plenty of room to move around in this shopper friendly layout. Apparently, if a store is closed during normal business hours, it is likely there is a major star or somebody with major money doing some major shopping.
Anxious to see the stars homes, a group of us took a 2 1/2 hour tour guided tour bus ride through the Hollywood Hills and high-buck neighborhoods. An iron gate lined with stars denoted the entrance to Ringo “Starr‘s” house. A stand of bamboo and other dense shrubbery and trees shrouded the apparent castle owned by Johhny Depp. A moving van sat in a driveway that eventually lead to the home of Ellen DeGeneres. The rooftop of Jennifer Aniston‘s peaked out over the treetops. So it was not so much seeing the ‘star’s’ homes, but seeing the general areas these homes are located.
The highlight of our tour bus ride was a stop at Greystone Mansion, built by the son of oil magnate, Edward Doheny, Sr. of Wisconsin, back in the late 1920’s. Edward Jr., “Ned”, was shot and killed, at age 36, in a murder suicide by his male secretary who was fired and wanted his job back. Lucy, the widow of Edward Jr., stayed on in the house until 1955 raising their five children. The house was sold a couple of more times, eventually ending up being sold to the city of Beverly Hills for $1.3 million in 1965 and has been used in movie films and shooting of TV and magazine ads ever since – i.e. Batman and Robin, Spiderman, Star Trek 2, the Social Network, The Muppets, National Treasure, the X-Men, the Bodyguard and dozens of other big name movies.
The home sports a red spotlight that was installed during the heyday of the home’s livelihood. This light was directed at the Beverly Hills Police Department so that if there were any emergencies at Greystone the light would be turned on and the police would be alerted to the emergency. It is said this is where the idea of the Bat-Signal came from for the Batman show and movies. The house also had its own fire department to watch over the 432 acre estate.
That evening we are off to be treated to dinner in the Rita Hayworth Room at Sony Studios. We were given a walking tour of the studio grounds where we saw behind the scenes of a sound room where they make they dub in sounds actually made in the room with everyday items to match the exact sound we would think we would hear in the movie – i.e. dropping keys on the counter or footsteps across a cobblestone road. We also saw the inside of the Jeopardy sound stage, although Alex Trebak was nowhere to be found.
The next morning my husband and I decided to do the touristy thing and walk the “Hollywood Walk of Fame” where all the star’s “stars” are lined up on Hollywood Boulevard for blocks and blocks. The scene was anti-climatic with Hollywood Blvd having become more Hollywood Homeless and bustling with has beens and wannabes, especially in front of the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was very evident the heyday of Hollywood Blvd was long gone. Sunset Blvd felt the same way, although it is supposed to still have some great nightlife.
For me, Beverly Hills and surrounding Hollywood highlights is a definite must see, but probably will not be placed on my must return to places to visit. If I did return to the area it would in a more relaxed setting of sitting in sidewalk cafes, walking the beaches, eating at some of the world’s hotspots – all in hopes of seeing the elusive star or two.
Check out more photo highlights of Beverly Hills in the Global Gallery link.