California: A starry-eyed dream

Beverly Hills, California

Beverly Hills, California

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From dog spas to super cars, Lisa Haynes indulges in some LA escapism ahead of the Oscars.

Peeping through cracks in the gargantuan wooden gate, I wobble on tiptoes trying to snap a picture with my iPhone camera. Success – a very grainy shot of a very recognisable front door.

A Beverly Hills mansion in California.

A Beverly Hills mansion in California.

I’m outside the former home of The Osbournes in Beverly Hills, the one made famous by their MTV reality show where tiny dogs ran riot and Sharon ruled the roost.

Unlike the celebrity residents of this neighbourhood who swan about in chauffeur-driven limos, I’m on two wheels pedalling past mini mansions on a Bikes and Hikes’ Movie Star Homes tour (www.bikesandhikesla.com).

Behind those luxurious silk curtains and marble walls, celebrities are gearing up for The Oscars tomorrow night, and I’m in Tinseltown to soak up the star-studded atmosphere for a few days.

As we cycle between LA’s most exclusive enclaves, I look up at the cloudless blue sky, punctuated with tall palm trees.

Our tour guides point out the A-list houses, including Elton John’s $3m condo overlooking Soho House and Marilyn Monroe’s old apartment at North Doheny Drive.

I get to know one of Hollywood’s greatest icons a little better at TCL Chinese Theatre, where I step into Marilyn’s shoes – literally.

My size six sandals completely cover her tiny heeled footprints and my hands engulf her dainty palms on the 1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes imprint, where tourists get to hold hands with their idols via concrete.

This forecourt of paving stones may not have the glamour of the sparkling stars on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame but they’re steeped in cinematic history, some scrawled with personalised messages like Will Smith’s “Change the world”, or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back”.

At this time of year, dermatologist to the stars, Dr Harold Lancer, is solidly booked with A-listers hoping to achieve a red carpet glow.

I manage to follow in the footsteps of celebrities like Simon Cowell, Scarlett Johansson and Victoria Beckham, by visiting his practice to get clued up on bespoke multi-step skincare regimes.

“Beauty hurts but ugly hurts a lot more,” Dr Lancer tells me after I emerge glowing from his signature Stem Cell Facial.

“Beauty isn’t just about the face, it’s from the dinner table up,” he says, clarifying, “that’s hands, arms, shoulders and decolletage.”

The exclusive address is wedged between glossy Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani stores on Rodeo Drive, but I’m told that celebrity clients park their cars with Dr Lancer’s valet to avoid the paparazzi scrums and make a covert entrance.

During my visit, I discover going to the beauty salon is like picking up a sandwich.

In buzzy West Hollywood where I’m staying, there are dedicated ‘blow-dry bars’ – no scissors in sight for trims, just smooth, bouncy tresses. Women (and men) sit with customary toy dog in lap, mobile phone in one hand, while their nails are being done on the other.

Dogs aren’t left out of the pampering.

Everywhere you look, there are dog spas, pooch parlours and even check-ins at Chateau Marmutt (a play on the famous Chateau Marmont) where over-indulged pooches can slim down on dedicated doggy treadmills.

For an extreme snapshot of designer pooches, super cars and It bags, I put my oversized sunglasses on to stroll down the boutique-lined Rodeo Drive.

I spot crowds of tourists ogling a yellow Bugatti Veyron sports car (start price approx £1.2 million).

Bespoke fashion is also big business on the pristine streets of Rodeo. Practically losing my feet in the plush carpet, I meet stylist to the stars Joe Katz in Dior’s VIP suite, where designer archive pieces decorate the room and champagne and mini macaroons are served on arrival.

He’s summoned at least once a day by clients who require tailored styling sessions, pulling key pieces from the rails for jet-set lifestyles and industry parties.

I start mentally calculating how many Jimmy Choos I would get with Joe’s ‘Dream Closet’ options where price tags total $10,000, $50,000 or $100,000.

“We’re selling fur and big coats in the height of summer,” Joe explains. “Our customers are very international so they’re looking for outfits to take them across the Fashion Week capitals like Paris, London and New York.

“We did have a limited edition Lady Dior bag in a glass case. It sold at $416,000, which is pretty affordable in Beverly Hills,” he says without blinking.

It’s all too easy to be swept away by the LA dream and agree for just a millisecond. This is a place that twinkles by night and day, leaving you just a little starry-eyed. Now I know why big sunglasses are a necessity.

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