If you go | Searching for stars in Los Angeles
Where to stay
Nothing gets star seekers in the mood like Hollywood Boulevard, with its Walk of Fame tributes and Grauman's Chinese Theatre celebrity cement. The search spreads throughout L.A.'s urban sprawl but this is a smart, central spot to bunk down.
Reigning over the boulevard is the venerable Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.; (323) 466-7000 or hollywood-roosevelt-hotel.com), a landmark since 1927. Renovations erased some history, but the Tropicana pool, bar and bistro still attract celebrities in summertime.
Teddy's lounge is a popular watering hole for Hollywood insiders, with Mondays reported to be prime time. Tourists willing to pay $12 per drink are politely tolerated. Teddy's is chic-dark enough that someone might be sitting next to Charlize Theron or Leonardo DiCaprio and never notice. Being prettier than other people helps when bouncers work the velvet rope.
Late in the evening, celebrities may head for the hotel's 25 Degrees, a bistro with bordello decor where burgers ($12) and milk shakes ($6) rate among L.A.'s best. All-nighters can end there with an omelet ($14), although they're just as tasty at half the price across the street at Shelley's Cafe, where Clint Eastwood filmed scenes for Million Dollar Baby.
Rooms at the Roosevelt are practical but pricey; we paid $279 per day plus taxes, $30 daily for mandatory valet parking and $10 daily for WiFi access. Staying there, or the similarly priced Renaissance Hollywood Hotel nearby, is a status symbol for tourists with deep pockets but isn't necessary.
Two blocks away, behind the Kodak Theatre, is our traveler's find, three modestly priced hotels including free parking, continental breakfasts and WiFi. One has a small pool, another rivals the Roosevelt for room decor, and the third is simply budget sensible. You can save money for those Teddy's bar tabs, or any other star haunt.
There's no view from Orchid Avenue, only the rears of the Kodak and Renaissance. But the hotels are clean and quiet, a nice break from the boulevard's bustle only steps away.
We stayed three nights at Hollywood Orchid Suites (1753 Orchid Ave.; toll-free 1-800-537-3052 or orchidsuites.com) for $129 a night, a friendly place with a patio pool and secure underground parking spots named for movie stars; we preferred the Brad Pitt space. Breakfasts were served with smiles by a cheery staff.
I'd return to Orchid Suites but a brief inspection of the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel (1775 Orchid Ave.; (323) 850-6464 or hotelcelebrity.com) two doors away intrigued me. The Celebrity has more pizzazz, with stylish art deco furnishings plus exercise and steam rooms. Parking is on the street, which is a minor concern, but rates are lower (starting at $99) and, what the heck, it's a rental car.
Across the street, the Hollywood Liberty Hotel (1770 Orchid Ave.; (323) 962-1788 or hollywoodlibertyhotel.com) is even cheaper ($79), but without the ambience of the other two.
Where to see stars
The mother lode for celebrity prospecting is the Academy Awards, especially for 700 people who win bleacher seats in the online lottery. Applications are taken in September at oscars.org/bleachers. A reported 20,000 people applied last year.
Outside the Oscars, thousands of onlookers cram between buildings and barricades for hours before the limousines arrived. Pat-downs and metal detectors are in effect. It's a rigorous endeavor for fleeting glimpses of glamor.
We preferred the laid-back Independent Spirit Awards, the day before the Oscars, featuring many of the same celebrities in a beach setting. The event is in tents, about a 10-minute walk from Santa Monica Pier. No security checks, better access, and more people jog or bike past the event than hang around. How the Spirits remain so low-key after 26 years is a mystery.
You can always troll trendy restaurants and nightclubs hoping to spot celebrities. Don't be shy about asking what's hot. But that's a hit-or-miss tactic that can be expensive and often improper for fan requests.
A dependable resource is SeeingStars.com (seeing-stars.com), which lists information about Walk of Fame sidewalk installations, red carpet movie premieres and Grauman's imprint ceremonies. SeeingStars tipped us to the Hall Pass premiere and a Walk of Fame tribute to maestro Zubin Mehta, in addition to our celebrity cemetery jackpot. (There are a couple of movie premieres in Los Angeles every week.)
One of L.A.'s top stops for stars is the Grove shopping district (189 The Grove Drive; (323) 900-8080 or thegrovela.com), known for its fashionable stores. Extra host Mario Lopez tapes segments before a live audience in a Grove courtyard most weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There's usually a celebrity or two being interviewed. Guest lists are posted online (extratv.warnerbros.com) in advance. You never know who will stroll by, like Dancing With the Stars pro Julianne Hough ducking into Anthropolgie the day we visited.
Adjacent to the Grove is the famed Farmers Market (Third and Fairfax; farmersmarketla.com), a melange of fantastic eateries. Angelina Jolie wouldn't distract me from jambalaya ($8.95) at the Gumbo Pot; celebs visit the market because they expect to be upstaged.
SeeingStars.com also includes toll-free telephone numbers and links to ticket request sites for TV show tapings around L.A., including The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Seating is limited and schedules vary, so research and early requests are suggested.
Photography isn't allowed during TV tapings but it's encouraged by Rolling With the Paparazzi (offnrunningtours.com/lapaparazzi.html). For $150 per person, you spend three hours with celeb chaser Rick Mendoza. No guarantee of sightings but Mendoza knows star cars, homes and hangouts. — Steve Persall