Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Houses of Beverly Hills

“You can see all the stars if you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,” as Ray Davies of the Kinks so eloquently put it in his warm and melancholy song, Celluloid Heroes. But if you want to see how the stars of Hollywood live, you need to walk along North Beverly Boulevard.

While attending the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit just over a week ago, most days I walked to and from the Luxe Hotel on North Rodeo Drive where I was staying to the Beverly Hills Hotel where the event was held. Since L.A. is a car-centric city, I had the wide sidewalks much to myself and the only obstacle I encountered was crossing the four-lane speedway known as Sunset Drive.

Judging by the houses I passed each day on the palm-tree lined street, I’d have to say the living is quite good and each house
displayed a bold and tasteful sense of individuality.

Some of the homes on the boulevard would be quite comfortable in a New England setting. Others looked toward Asia and Italy for their
architectural characteristics. Then there are the quintessential concrete structures with terra cotta roofs that are so popular in California. There are basic ranch houses besides elegant mansions. And wooden structures next to houses with slate facades. Traditional structures with elaborate columns that would be at home in the Garden District of New Orleans sharing space with sleek, modern houses at home in a urban setting. The landscaping in front of each is just as diverse in its look and
aroma. If there was one dominate flavor, it would have to be Jasmine.

Every house represents the character of an individual yet manages to enhance and embrace the neighborhood.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

‘Oh No, Not Larry Keengk’

The taxicab driver taking me to the Beverly Hills Hotel for the FT Business of Luxury Summit Monday morning is a native of Iran and is of Armenian descent. He was moaning on and on about the economy and other things when he suddenly yells in an angry, tired, frustrated voice that combines the unique cadence and flavors of the Middle East and Eastern Europe: “Oh No, Not Larry Keengk.”

The fog of jet lag and an early morning rising was still working its way in my head while I wondered, “Who the heck is Larry Keengk?” Then I looked to my right and there’s CNN talk show host Larry King skinny as a rail and wrinkled like a prune wearing jeans and a light brown leather jacket. His one hand was holding a cell phone against his ear and the other a cup of takeout coffee. There is no one else out walking on the commercial part of Beverly Drive.

King is oblivious to the irrational anger and frustration of the cab driver as he continues, “He’s out here every day (stressing the words as if King took a dump on the street in front of him each day). He talks for a half an hour and makes millions of dollars.”

I didn’t want to delve into the irrational anger caused by the site of a television celebrity but this type of emotion, commonplace throughout the world, must be intensified in Beverly Hills where those who ply their trade in television and film cross paths daily with others who have less prolific jobs.

It was a short drive to the hotel and the cab driver was quickly in a much better mood, as if getting that out of his system was what he needed to get though another day. Like a shot of espresso.

I think if Larry King moved, the cab driver would miss him.