Star spotting in LA

By | Category: Travel destinations

The famed themed parks, resurgent downtown district, stellar shopping centres and year round warm climate may have all played a part in luring you to LA. However chances are the real reason you’re headed to Hollywood, is in the hope that you’ll see stars. Make no mistake: no trip to the City of Angels is complete, if you don’t spot at least one celeb. Kaye Holland reveals how you can up the odds…

Say hello to Hollywood
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You can’t come to LA and leave without ticking off the Dolby Theatre, where the stars shimmy along the red carpet for the annual Academy Awards every January. If you want to see inside the actual auditorium, VIP room and gawp at a genuine Oscar statuette, fork out for a 30 minute tour which take place daily between 10.30am and 4pm. 
Close by lies the Hollywood Walk of Fame, whose pink stars – embedded in the sidewalk – honour the rich and famous. And do check out the TCL Chinese Theatre, where screen legends throughout the ages have left their imprints in cement in Grauman’s famous forecourt, before heading to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard.  Famous residents include Johnny Ramone – best known for being the guitarist for the punk rock band, The Ramones – Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B de Mile. However if you want to pay your respects to legends like Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe, you’ll need to wander to west to the postage-stamp sized Memorial Park graveyard in Westwood Village.

Let your hair down on the Sunset Strip
LA’s nightlife venues tend to be guarded by bouncers who take their jobs a tad too seriously (so you’ll need to look the part and dress up). It’s worth the effort though: evenings out on the legendary Sunset Strip – a 1.5 mile stretch of clubs, boutiques and restaurants between Crescent Heights and Doheny Drive – are the bomb, and the perfect place to rub shoulders with celebs. Try the Troubadour (Joni Mitchell started her singing career here), Viper Room (where actor River Phoenix famously overdosed in 1993 and Tommy Lee Jones once attacked a pap), Bar Marmont (located in the exclusive Chateau Marmont and a favourite haunt of Jonny Depp’s), Sky Bar at the Mondrian hotel and the House of Blues – a celebrated Sunset Strip music hall, owned by actor Dan Aykroyd. Regardless of which ‘spot’ on The Strip you visit, the odds of seeing a star are high as many live close by above Sunset Boulevard in the exclusive enclaves of Laurel Canyon and the Hollywood Hills.

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Schlepp to South Park
Despite what the name suggests, South Park isn’t actually a park. Rather it’s a huge complex that houses the dining and entertainment hub that is LA Live, the Nokia Theatre (the MTV Music Awards and American Idol finals take place here) and the Staples Center. This flying saucer shaped arena is the home of the LA Lakers baseball team whose die hard fans – think Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Zac Efron and Tobey Maguire – regularly turn out to root on their side. The Staples Center also hosts the Kings ice-hockey team. Should you manage to nab tickets for a game you could find yourself sitting among celebrity Kings’ fans including Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson and Michael J. Fox to name but a few. You can also see celebrities performing on stage  –  Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber have both headlined here.

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Seek out Union Station
Situated in downtown LA – an area that has undergone an urban renaissance in recent years – Union station was built in 1930 and is the last of America’s grand rail stations. On arrival, chances are the North Alameda Street station’s glam art deco interior will be instantly familiar, having featured in films such as Speed, Blade Runner 24 and many more. With all day parking costing a mere US$6, why not stop off at the station? Who knows: if Lady Luck is on your side, you might just see a TV show being taped so keep your camera close!

Shop till you drop at The Grove
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LA is – as you would expect for such a celeb studded city – ridiculously image conscious. If you want to shop for some new threads with the stars, go to The Grove – a Disney-esque al fresco shopping centre that’s popular with the likes of Paris Hilton, Heidi Klum, Khloe and Kim Kardashian, Ashley Tisdale and countless others. Or make a beeline for Beverly Hills and march your manolos down streets such as Rodeo Drive (aka LA’s most iconic strip), Melrose Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard  – chock full as they are of fashion forward, celeb friendly stores.  A word of warning: the aforementioned streets are pricey (and pretentious) so the likelihood is you’ll need to take out a loan, drain your trust fund and pull out your credit card if you’re planning on making any purchases…

Make for Malibu
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Magical Malibu – which spans 27 miles of the Pacific Coast Hwy – is celeb central. Hollywood heavyweights – take a bow Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman et al – all own homes (read mega mansions) here. Malibu’s celebrities can be spotted shopping at the Malibu Country Mart – another al fresco shopping mall bursting with boutiques, galleries and restaurants – working up a sweat at Malibu Creek State Park or chill-axing on one of Malibu’s many beaches. There are over 20 stretches of golden sand to choose from but standouts include Surfrider, Point Dume State Beach and  Zuma Beach (you’ll recognise it as the backdrop to Baywatch and I Dream of Jeanie, amongst others.)

Pop to a plastic surgeon
LA is a city that celebrates eternal youth and, as such, the slebs have their plastic surgeons on speed dial (the late Michael Jackson famously remarked that if everyone in Hollywood who had undergone plastic surgery went on holiday, there would be no one left in town!) During my sojourn in the Golden State, I spotted a crazy number of nose bandages (word on the street is that students at Beverly Hills High are ‘gifted’ nose jobs as a 16th birthday present). It sounds a little bizarre, but don’t forget this is Kardashian territory – the youngest of whom, Kylie Jenner, had her first round lip fillers at the tender age of 17. I also saw a lot of Angelenos wearing sunglasses indoors – which my Airbnb host, Cassi, informed me  – usually signifies that someone has had their eyes done. But the most popular plastic surgery procedure in LA is, by far and away, breast augmentation. Angeleno ladies are famed around the world for their ample cleavages (Pamela Anderson in Baywatch anyone?) but it’s still something of a shock to see a pair of LA breasts with your own eyes… The man the stars turn to when something needs smoothing, lifting or tucking? That would be Toby Mayer who says: “Everyone in Hollywood has had plastic surgery. They make their living out of what they look like and they want to look good.”
Don’t fancy going under the surgeon’s knife? Treat your tresses at The Chris McMillan salon in Beverley Hills. Chris is the maine (sorry!) man behind Jennifer Aniston’s iconic ‘Rachel’  haircut. He’s also something of an A lister himself having appeared on former ABC series Extreme Makeover.


Best bookstore
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LA isn’t completely vacuous though – promise! One of my best LA evenings was spent in The Last Bookstore – a gorgeous (think marble columns and giant doors), independent bookstore housed in what used to be an old bank building – listening to Joshua Fields Millburn, aka one half of The Minimalists, explain why living with a lot less is ultimately more. Or as Joshua and his similarly minded guest speakers such as Colin Wright (an author, entrepreneur and full time traveller ) and writers Skye Steele and Matt Sumell termed it: “Love people and use things. Because the opposite never works.” Check the website (www.lastbookstorela.com) for details of upcoming appearances from esteemed authors.
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Tour a TV studio
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Want to see modern day stars? Bag tickets to watch fellow Brit, James Corden, tape The Late Late Show for CBS. I mangaged to nab tickets two weeks in advance and got to see the incorrigible Corden (slimmer than he appears on screen) and famous guests  – here’s looking at Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Elisabeth Banks in person. For free tickets try CBS or Audiences Unlimited. It’s also possible to take tours of all the main studios – think Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Studios. Tours vary from studio to studio but will typically show you around the sets and stages and inside the wardrobe department.

Climb Runyon Canyon
The rest of America may be suffering from an obesity crisis, but not so in LA. The City of Angels’s adoration of the body beautiful knows no bounds and subsequently menus at most LA dining spots are full of lactose, dairy and yeast free, low sodium dishes. Seriously.
However if you really want to tune into the Cali vibe, start your day by following in the footsteps of celebs such as Robbie Williams, Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jake Gyllenhaal – and models of the moment Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner – by hiking up Runyon Canyon. 
Alternatively make like Brand Beckham and sign up for a spinning class at SoulCycle. Victoria, David and offspring Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper have all been spotted working up a sweat at the Brentwood branch of the spin studio – as have Vanessa Hudgens, Jonah Hill and Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper.

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