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January/February 2006 | Stay Like a Hollywood Insider

January/February 2006 | Stay Like a Hollywood Insider

Avoid the tourist traps and check into these unique digs on your next trip to Tinseltown

Looking to capture a bit of quirky Hollywood glamour on your next visit to La-La Land? These one-of-a-kind stays will make you feel like an insider while you work on your tan, talk to your agent, and wait to be discovered:

Right in the midst of downtown Hollywood (yet feeling a million miles away) is the world-famous Magic Castle. What the Olympics are to athletes, the Magic Castle is to magicians. Also known as the Academy of Magical Arts, it has links to everyone from Houdini to Copperfield. The labyrinth-like haunted house feel of the old Victorian mansion is worth the trip alone, even if you aren’t into magic. Also, the food in the elegant dining room is great, with entrées such as prime porterhouse and Alaskan king salmon. Hidden theaters and magic rooms are weaved throughout the complex, but the trick is getting in to see the magicians perform: The Magic Castle is a members-only club (with strict dress code), but if you don’t know one of the 5,000 members, stay at the adjoining Magic Castle Hotel (7025 Franklin Ave., 800-741-4915), which gets you access to the actual castle (a magic trick even many locals aren’t aware of). The hotel has a decidedly more ’50s vibe compared to the circa 1908 castle, but the renovated property is very nice, with large modern studios and suites with fully equipped kitchens making for an easy extended stay. And there’s a very Los Angeles, Melrose Place–style swimming pool in the center of the complex.

Poolside at the Bel Age

The nearby Sunset Strip, still party central for straight nightclubbers, is actually located in the queer city of West Hollywood. Get a taste for both sides of the city at the all-suites Bel Age (1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., 310-854-1111) [], which towers over Johnny Depp’s always-hip Viper Room club. Beyond the vintage classical art collection in the lobby and halls, the hotel features the classy Diaghilev Lounge, where guests can get a drink and a light bite in very plush, low-lit surroundings, as well as the TEN20 Piano Bar, where world-class jazz musicians perform in front of windows overlooking the city lights. On Thursdays the hotel’s popular cabaret night packs in the gays. And don’t forget the best pool in Los Angeles, on the Bel Age’s rooftop, with stunning views of the whole city basin (on a clear day, mind you). Another must: Swing by on Sunday for Della Reese’s (Touched by an Angel) rousing church sermon, held right off the lobby. Best of all, the hotel is within walking distance of everything in West Hollywood as well as the Sunset Strip.

Hotel Bamboo

And last but not least, the gay-owned Hotel Bamboo (323-962-0233, two night minimum) is one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood (they won't even publish their address, as a courtesy to famous guests). Created from a renovated house in the Hollywood hills near Beachwood Canyon (yes, right under the Hollywood sign), the three-bungalow hotel has explosive views. The creator and designer of the hotel, former fashion model Robert Clay, mixes state-of-the-art style with old world Zen ambience and Japanese decor. Touches like koi ponds, retractable walls and windows to reveal the hillside views, private verandas, glass showers, and gorgeous Asian art make this the home away from home of choice to top music, film, and television talent on assignment in L.A. And the stylish gay owners on site couldn’t be friendlier. Who says you can’t rub elbows with the in crowd in Hollywood?

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