Ladies and gents,
I’ve just winged back from my old stomping grounds: Los Angeles, California. I had my gripes about the City of Angels when I was a full time resident, but I must say I find it to be most agreeable as a visitor. The weather is, of course, divine this time of year … or, really, most any time of year. And there’s In-N-Out Burger. But the real draw is something much more ethereal. It’s a feeling, at once familiar and mysterious, that wafts through (almost) every corner of that sprawling landscape– a feeling as pleasant and subtle as the aroma of night jasmine that is so ubiquitous in LA’s wealthier enclaves. I never miss it when I’m not there, but the minute I land at LAX it all comes flooding back and I’m suddenly wistful, excited, devastated, and eager. But most of all, I’m hungry – because trying to get a decent meal on a United flight is akin to finding a martini at Disneyland.
I found myself holed up at the divine Hotel Bel Air. It’s, admittedly, out of my price range but I had heard that the great David Rockwell had done a total redesign on the classic property and I just had to see it. What I’m going to say next will sound like hyperbole but I assure you, dear readers, it’s not: it’s now the chicest property on earth. It has always been chic, of course – dozens of Mediterranean-style structures dotted around those lushly landscaped grounds hidden away in one of the world’s most exclusive zip codes. But now, with that singular Rockwellian touch, it’s become something else entirely. Something distinctively modern and still gloriously classic! Rockwell is at his very best when collaborating with a fellow visionary, and there’s no better example of this than at Bel Air’s handsomely appointed and breezily comfortable Wolfgang Puck eatery. And if you think the restaurant is comfy, wait until you enter a guest room! Even with my famously strong body clock, I managed to snooze until 9:00 a.m. (That’s noon my time, if you do the math.)
The Bel Air’s sister property, The Beverly Hills Hotel, has also undergone a recent (if less successful) renovation, but their famed eatery, The Polo Lounge, has yet to receive its facelift. Craving one last memory there before it’s changed forever, I booked a table and took the house car over from the Bel Air. The room is as charming as ever, if a tad long in the tooth, and I was delighted (or maybe relieved) to find it well populated when I made my entrance at half-past nine. Just as I was finishing my wedge salad, a familiar figure approached my table and said rather dryly, “Is it a ghost or is it really you?” I knew the voice immediately: Warren Beaty. “It’s me, W. It’s really me.” (To a certain circle, Beaty was “W” long before Bush was “W.”) And just like that, I was transported to a different era, when the Polo Lounge was the hottest spot on earth and the biggest movie stars in the world would meet there for steak and soufflé and everyone knew everyone’s name. And then I realized, that era never ended. You just need to know where to find it.
Tidbits from around town…
Spotted Conan O’Brien dining on lobster tacos at Ivy at the Shore.
Overheard Nancy Pelosi raving about SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark.
Witnessed Kate Mulgrew shopping for boots at Saks Fifth Avenue.
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!