Beverly Hills ... a treasure trove for tourists

You don't have to be a movie star to sashay down the streets of Beverly Hills, but it doesn't hurt if you are. Most people know the town from its high-society connections with show business, but it's also a treasure for the tourist.

Only 10 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and eight miles from the beach, it's the perfect place for some serious shopping and stargazing.

Though most people think of Hollywood as the gathering place of the bold and the beautiful, Beverly Hills is their real habitat. The stars shop at Barney's New York or Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue or any of the other chi-chi boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

The town is rich in the history of Hollywood, too. It was Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Tom Mix who first fought to keep Beverly Hills separate from Los Angeles.

While most people realize you can have your body herbed, nails lacquered, nose straightened and golf swing improved in Beverly Hills, they probably don't know that it features a television museum, John F. Kennedy's favorite California church and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's barber.

It doesn't have to cost your first-born to visit, either. There's actually a shop that sells nothing over $15. Beverly Hills has its own little market, its own hardware store and a real souvenir shop — complete with tacky T-shirts.

Beverly Hills is so celebrity-conscious that if someone in a car is being stalked, he need only pull into a special "safety zone" off Rexford Drive by the police department, where an officer will offer "drive-in" assistance, with camera and audio surveillance.

With 14 hotels in town, you have your choice. The Regent Beverly Wilshire on Wilshire Boulevard is probably the most famous. It was here that Warren Beatty lived for eight years, where scenes for "Pretty Woman" and "Bullworth" were shot and where Princess Diana stayed.

Celebrity sighting is great at the Four Seasons on Doheny Drive. The street is actually the dividing line between Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. And though the Four Seasons pretends it's in Beverly Hills, it's really not. Movie stars don't care. An hour doesn't go by without spotting someone like Clint Eastwood, Selma Hayek or Tom Selleck over lunch or a power breakfast.

Two Rodeo, the shopping cluster across from the Regent Beverly, hustles all the name brands you'd expect: Tiffany & Co., Badgley, Mischka, Versace. Greg Donovan, the official greeter, is on hand to welcome you along the cobblestone promenade. There are less expensive boutiques along Dayton and Brighton ways and a real, old-fashioned souvenir shop (the only one in town) on Dayton Way north of Wilshire Boulevard.

The Rodeo Collection at 421 N. Rodeo Drive is known for its designer vendors. The Clothes Minded store features items never exceeding $15, a real steal on this street of dreams.

You might want to stop by Nate 'n' Al's, the town's first delicatessen, for a great pastrami sandwich or visit the Cheese Store, which is packed with heady European cheeses of every variety. For chocoholics, there's K Chocolatier, a tiny shop on South Santa Monica Boulevard. Diane Kron imports her own chocolate beans from Africa and South America to concoct delicious morsels. Try her vodka-filled chocolates for a taste indescribable.

You can have your Nikes custom-designed at Niketown, and even join the jogging crowd on Thursday nights at 6:30 for a three-, five- or eight-mile walk or run. All levels are invited to join in. For more details, call (310) 275 9998.

Though you can pay a sheik's ransom for a hotel room here, there are some wonderful boutique hotels with reasonable rates within walking distance of what is called Beverly Hills' "Golden Triangle."

The slick, art-deco Avalon on Olympic Boulevard was built in 1949 and updated five years ago. Once the home of Marilyn Monroe, the hotel is made up of three buildings. The hotel boasts an hour-glass-shaped pool and discreet cabanas where a drink under the stars is way too romantic. For more information, call (800) 670-6183.

Lillian Gish's one-time home is now the quaint Maison 140 on South Lasky Drive. Full of antiques, wild colors and a laid-back atmosphere, this hotel even has a tiny parking lot adjacent to it for easy access to your car. Call (800) 432-5444 for more information.

If you don't mind going about seven miles outside of Beverly Hills, there's a real find in Santa Monica. The Viceroy is located only a block from the beach and boasts one of the most popular bars in town and a fabulous restaurant. The Cameo Bar starts jumping about 9 p.m., with the locals mixing with the beach crowd for plenty of atmosphere. The Whist restaurant offers a wide variety of entrees, from lip-smacking abalone to Kobe beef rib-eye. The hotel's decor is breathtaking — from the walls dotted with white plates to the unorthodox lobby. It's not far from funky Venice Beach or the Santa Monica pier with its fabled carousel. The Viceroy is located about 15 minutes from Beverly Hills via the 10 Freeway. For more information, call (800) 622-8711.

There are about 40 plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills. One hotel, Le Meridian, on La Cienega Boulevard, dedicates an entire floor to patients recovering from cosmetic surgery. With an unobtrusive entrance, a full-time staff of nurses and nurses' aides, and medical equipment, it's a place to go that first day or two when recovery must be constantly monitored. One Beverly Hills plastic surgeon even includes a day or two at the hotel in his fee.

It seems as though most everyone in Beverly Hills is on a diet, but you don't have to forget Atkins or the Beverly Hills Diet to eat here. Mr. Chow's draws the stars to its lean Chinese cuisine, and Lawry's Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard and Ruth's Criss Steak House on South Beverly Drive are great for Atkins dieters. And if you want to just go for broke — without going broke — there's the Porterhouse Bistro.

For a quick view of the city, there is a 40-minute trolley ride around town. And officials serve up free walking tours the first Saturday of the month. The Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau can also arrange your own professionally trained docent to lead a private tour.

Other sights worth seeing include Good Shepherd Catholic Church, considered to be John Kennedy's favorite California church — and where Elizabeth Taylor said her first marriage vows and Frank Sinatra had his last rites. There is also Le Grand Passage, an arcade that houses Schwarzenegger's barber, Giuseppe Franco.

The Greystone Mansion and Park is a large family estate. This 55-room mansion has been featured in countless movies, including "The Witches of Eastwick," "Batman and Robin," "Spider-Man" and "Indecent Proposal." And it's open to the public. Call (310) 550-4796 for more information.

Want to catch some TV or take in a movie? The Museum of Television and Radio on North Beverly Drive boasts a library of more than 75,000 radio and TV programs, and is open to the public. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, of course, has its headquarters in Beverly Hills. The center on Wilshire Boulevard offers Academy screenings, seminars and other special events. For more information, go to www.oscars.org.

Article from: www.naplesnews.com by: LUAINE LEE