In Travel

What It’s Really Like To Stay At Beverly Hills’ Ritziest Hotel

Running into a celebrity can be a discombobulating, tongue-tricking experience, at least the first few times, but it’s something you have to get used to if you’re staying at the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

While you’ll find plenty of stars in the sidewalk a few miles away on the seedy underside of Hollywood, you’re unlikely to see too many in the flesh. But at the Pretty Woman Hotel (as it will forever be known for its appearance in the famous film that featured Julia Roberts classy turn as Sleeping-around Beauty), you’re going to bump into them.

And, because this is a beyond-classy establishment, with the scent of greenbacks wafting through the air, drifting down from the end of Rodeo Drive, which ends at its doors, they’re going to expect you to keep your cool.

This can be difficult at first, as we discovered when we sighted a highly familiar, slightly ginger-looking fellow in the grand drive at the rear/middle of the hotel (with 395 rooms, the Beverly Wilshire is so big, it actually spans two blocks, and the drive runs between those two buildings).

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The Beverly Wilshire is so big, it actually spans two blocks. Credit: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel

What was, in retrospect, an embarrassingly-loud discussion between my colleagues and I ensued over who he might be, before we settled on Kenneth Branagh.

Sadly, instead of just playing it cool and nodding knowingly as he walked past, one of our number continued to protest loudly that he had no idea who he was. Kenneth kept his cool and managed to smile as politely as someone could after biting an onion (“and the Oscar goes to… Tony Abbott!).

“Kenneth Branagh! You idiot. Shakespearean legend? Much Ado About Nothing? Othello? No? Dunkirk, then? God!”

“No, but he is familiar…”

“Right, he was Gilderoy Lockhart in a Harry Potter movie!”

“Oh, him! Wow, he’s famous.”

Yes, poor Mr Branagh clearly would have heard all this. And his love of Australian people probably fell a couple of notches as a result.

After observing other people playing it cool with the famous thespian, and some deep self-analysis over brunch in the excellent in-house Wolfgang Puck restaurant CUT (where the lovely staff quietly advise us that we can have whatever food we like sent to our rooms, regardless of whether it’s on the menu or not, as long as we’re nice to the kitchen staff) we resolve to do better.

A short time later, one of our party managed to prevent Laurence Fishburne from falling down a short flight of stairs, after a less-cool patron screeched out his name and made him jump while whipping his head around in panic.

Vitally, our colleague did not ask for a selfie, a move of which he was rightly proud, but he did find it impossible to say the words rolling around in his brain – “I loved you in The Matrix, I’m from Sydney, where you made that movie, but I don’t think we’ve met” – because he half-froze in shock.

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“Fortunately, the next few minors to sparkle past me in the lobby were the kind I recognised but struggled to put a name to.” Credit: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel

This is the tricky thing about bumping into big stars. Even though you’re in LA, and it’s thus statistically more likely, your brain can’t help being rattled by the experience. On the one hand, your mind recognises them so intently that you instantly feel like you must know them.

Then another part of your brain kicks in to tell you that, far from knowing them, you are a nobody, and that even making eye contact with them could make you look foolish.

Then you may be overcome by a strange desire to express something emotional to them – depending on your fandom for their particular oeuvre – or to take their photo. Even though you know for sure that this will be embarrassing for you, and probably quite awkward for them.

Fortunately, the next few minor stars to sparkle past me in the lobby were the kind I recognised but struggled to put a name to. Reality TV celebrities, I think they’re called, and there were a lot of them. The Beverly Wilshire seems to be a popular venue for network-television soirees.

And then, my moment came. Approaching a lift, I found myself alone with one of the stars of my all-time favourite show, The West Wing. Stilted by shock, I couldn’t remember his actual name (Richard Schiff) and had to resist the urge to address him by his long-running character’s moniker, Toby Ziegler.

I think I may have made goldfish movements with my mouth for a few minutes, and then the lift doors opened, we stepped in, and I knew I was going to have at least a few moments completely alone, and unobserved, with him.

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“The rooms were lovely and the food and service top notch, but it’s the celebrity spotting that really makes it worthwhile.” Credit: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel

Somehow, I managed to lurch forward, stammer something almost intelligible about how great the show was and how much I loved it, and Schiff, who doesn’t appear to have aged a day since 2006, was genuinely grateful and greatly gracious.

We shared what I’m going to call a meaningful conversation and I swear I could see his eyes darting to my hand, to see if I was going to reach for my inside pocket – a move that must feel like a gun being drawn to celebrities – and ask for a photo. I managed not to, but probably only because I’m too old to be a millennial.

The whole thing was magically memorable and, along with Branagh and Fishburne, it sprinkled a bit of magic dust over my stay in this grand and grandiose old hotel.

The rooms were lovely and the food and service top notch, but it’s the celebrity spotting that really makes it worthwhile, even at $870 a night (that’s the base rate, of course).

I just wish I’d seen Julia Roberts. The hotel has, in the past, done Pretty Woman packages, however, for up to $US100,000 for a two-night stay in a suite that includes being whisked around in a limousine to the best shops in the area.

Now that’s star treatment.

(Lead image: Beverly Wilshire pool / image: supplied)

Published 14 March, 2019