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Winter 2004 | Out in Beverly Hills

Winter 2004 | Out in Beverly Hills

With a hip boutique hotel scene, innovative cuisine and a glittering array of shopping options, West Hollywood-adjacent Beverly Hills is sharpening her gay edge

"Everyone here looks like they stepped out of a music video. I don't even have the right hair!" --Brenda Walsh, Beverly Hills, 90210

If you feel a bit like Brenda upon venturing across the border of gay ghetto West Hollywood into the less-than-six-square-mile "scene" known to postal workers and trash-TV junkies alike as the 90210, you may be overreacting. Though visitors can certainly find a bevy of willing stylists to right their errant dos, there's much more to this town than its well-manicured surface suggests. A quick window-shop on Rodeo Drive before zipping down Santa Monica Boulevard to the well-trod WeHo clubs does not a proper Beverly Hills vacation make.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, even I had never spent considerable time in the 90210--unless you count driving through on the way to the beach or showing visitors the restroom where George Michael was arrested (it's in Will Rogers Park across from the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset). So staying three nights in the Crescent Hotel, a recently renovated boutique hot spot located in the city's glamorous Golden Triangle business district, was nothing short of a revelation.


Reimagined by hotelier Gregory Peck (no, not that Gregory Peck), the Crescent is a cozy modernist gem with a thriving lounge scene and small yet comfy iPod-equipped rooms. By the light of the lounge-bar's fireplace, it was hard to distinguish the metrosexuals from the homosexuals, especially after a few mojitos--but that was part of the fun. An equally challenging game was figuring out which stud or starlet went with which soap opera. The young, the restless, the bold, and the beautiful were out in full force.

Woody Allen once remarked, "In Beverly Hills...they don't throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows." While the world's most famous zip code may be infamous in TV land as the well-heeled haunt of Elly May Clampett, Donna Martin Silver (Tori Spelling), and the salon don of Bravo's Blow Out reality series, few know that the Museum of Television and Radio ), designed by superstar architect Richard Meier, also resides here. It's a vast repository of over 120,000 television and radio programs you can enjoy on your own private monitor and headphones. Talk about on-demand programming! Just make a reservation to use the library at the front desk when you arrive.


After watching 25 back-to-back episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you may be hungry for a little red meat, not to mention a fresh array of pretty people. Head directly to the hub of Beverly Hills' boutique hotel scene: Blue on Blue at the ultracool Avalon Hotel, built in 1949 as the Beverly Carlton, was named one of Food & Wine's 50 Best Hotel Restaurants in 2003. Executive chef Jeffrey Everts's uncomplicated gourmet cuisine can be enjoyed at a poolside table or semiprivate cabana. Seated blissfully at the latter, I couldn't tell if the surrounding models were eying me or my Blue Avalon, the restaurant's signature blend of coconut rum, pineapple juice, blue curacao, and Sprite, served in a martini glass. Later, as I glided toward the restroom, some shallow conversation near the shallow end of the hourglass pool caught my attention: "Where's my boyfriend?" asked a perplexed Gucci-clad girl. "Oh, my God, I thought you were a lesbian," answered her straight-faced girlfriend.

Regardless of gender tastes, you can push your taste buds to the limit at an ever-growing assortment of upscale Beverly Hills eateries. Chef Massimo Ormani prepares refined Northern Italian dishes in the trattoria that bears his name and, on the ceiling, his enormous portrait. If you don't trust your "to go" antipasti to withstand the long flight home, you can import Massimo's secret recipes by taking one of his Saturday morning cooking classes. The $90 fee includes a cooking demonstration, recipes, lunch, and wine.

Secrets will most definitely not be revealed at Crustacean, where the An family guards their famous garlic noodle recipe in a clandestine kitchen accessible only to family members. After sampling five Euro-Vietnamese courses, which included cracked whole roasted Dungeness crab, colossal royal tiger prawns, and New Zealand green lip mussels broiled with Asian pesto, I had to be rolled out, right over the feng shuied restaurant's glass aquarium floor.

The next morning, my first inclination (natch) was to hit the gym. Almost very exercise machine at the Sports Club L.A. has its own cable TV monitor, but you don't need one if you just want to watch celebs--such famous personages as Kim Cattrall, Kevin Spacey, and the Bush twins have been known to sweat here. For a day pass to the club's state-of-the-art facilities, you must be a guest at one of its affiliate hotels (the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Beverly Hilton, Hotel Bel Air, the Four Seasons, the Peninsula, or the Park Hyatt Century City) and pay a $35 fee.


The club's adjacent caf?-lounge is a bright, sleek, mid-century-inspired jewel box encased in a circular glass facade. Oliver features an assortment of dietitian-approved dishes. If you prefer your health food on the rocks, you can even order up a wheatgrass martini. How Beverly Hills!

In a city where the pawn shops are called "collateral lenders," the shopping options naturally trend toward the astronomically priced, which is not to say that you can't entertain yourself on Rodeo Drive without spending a dime. A walk through the inviting new Prada "Epicenter", designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus, is like visiting a small contemporary art museum. If you manage to escape the Prada store's gravitational pull, pop over for a peek at the rare jewels sold by Harry Winston (, known as the Diamond King for gilding Hollywood's starlets on Oscar night.

Walking across one of the city's diagonal crosswalks (a pedestrian's wet dream), I caught a glimpse of Heidi Bressler from the first season of The Apprentice. Let's just say she ain't stuck in some dingy cubicle anymore--Trump must have given her a lovely parting gift after she was fired. Glancing up and down the street, I imagined myself surrounded by nouveau riche reality stars.

It was time to duck in to the only North American location of the French-based Le Palais des Th?, which offers over 200 teas from around the world. At the bar, sipping a Turkish tea of rose petals and orange flower water, I learned more about the history and cultivation of tea from owner Randy Arnold than I ever gleaned fussing over high tea in London.


If you happen upon a man in a red overcoat with white gloves and a black top hat, don't run. That's Gregg Donovan, the ambassador of Beverly Hills, who bills himself as "the world's only walking concierge." Not only can Donovan can greet visitors in over 40 languages, he can make hotel and restaurant reservations at any Beverly Hills establishment, including elegant bed-and-breakfasts like Maison 140, five-star hotels such as the Euro-Asian-influenced Raffles L'Ermitage, and classic Hollywood glamour pads like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows. Located mere minutes from the uberqueer clubs and bars of West Hollywood, all are gay-welcoming.

Whether you're recovering from extreme plastic surgery, pining for world-class dining, or just hoping for some ritzy-kitschy glitz to rub off, Beverly Hills is a perfect weekend escape. My biggest celebrity spotting of the weekend? "Oh, my God, it's Chandler!" Yes, I admit, a Matthew Perry sighting made me slightly kill me!

Links From This Article

Crescent Hotel
Museum of Television and Radio
Avalon Hotel
Sports Club L.A.
Prada "Epicenter"
Le Palais des Thé
Maison 140
Raffles L'Ermitage
Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows
Harry Winston

The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. We suggest that you confirm all details directly with the establishments mentioned before making travel plans. Please feel free to e-mail us at if you have any new information.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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