Hollywood drips with international glamour.
But how can you break through the Tinsel Town mystique and bask in the stardust?
On my most recent visit, I set myself the mission of staking out some old-school glamour, celeb-heavy haunts and trending hotspots.
All roads lead to the Hollywood Strip, or “the boulevard of broken dreams”, as my Red Line walking tour guide, Michael, preferred to call it.
Red Line’s Behind the Scenes tour has become part of Hollywood folklore, expertly narrated and spiriting you into many storied nooks and crannies, that most tourists miss. www.redlinetours.com/la
After admiring some of the legendary names lining Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, Michael ushered us in what I think is the most unsung vestige of Hollywood glam: the Egyptian Theatre.
Extensively restored and earthquake re-strengthened in recent years, this picture palace was the birthplace of the movie premiere and the movie star.
Built by Sid Grauman in 1922, he used search lights for a premiere and it was where red carpet was first rolled out all the way to the street.
Egyptian music and incense wafted through the courtyard, adding to the Egyptian motif, which was all the rage, given the epic excavations and discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
Inside the theatre, I admired the two Egyptian dog statues, gifted by 20th Century Fox, which featured in Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor. The Red Line Tour is a great way to get inside this heritage-studded shrine.
Five years later, Sid Grauman launched another lavish movie palace, the Chinese Theatre, which continues to host more world premieres than any other theatre on the planet.
I’ve often wondered how the celebrity hand, and footprints, immortalised in the forecourt, first came about. Red Line’s Michael had the good oil.
Sid Grauman created the first footprints by mistake – stepping into wet concrete as his theatre was being constructed.
The foreman remarked: “Those footprints are going to be there forever,” and the rest is history.
Pop into the Hollywood Museum, housed in the 1930s Max Factor building, where so many screen legends were transformed in the famous make-up rooms. Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor were all primped and styled here – as was Marilyn Monroe. It was here that the brunette became the blonde bombshell.
Pop into the landmark Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is where Shirley Temple learnt to tap dance and where Marilyn Monroe’s first magazine shoot took place, shot by the Tropicana pool.
That location is now a top celeb hideaway that you can gain access too. A true Hollywood oasis, the poolside Tropicana Café & Bar is a seductive all-day retreat.
Enjoy a late breakfast or cheeky cocktail here. A star-studded haunt for close celebrity encounters – and the permanent presence of paparazzi, is The Ivy in Robertson Boulevard.
It’s a great spot for breakfast or lunch: order up the cheap and cheerful homemade buttermilk pancakes and fresh ginger tea.
If you notice swarms of tourists photographing the fast food joint, El Pollo Loco, on the corner of Serrano Ave and Sunset Boulevard, the reason is this is where a struggling young actor named Brad Pitt, would beckon customers into the store, dressed up as a chicken on the roadside. Nearby, on the Sunset Strip, pop into the auction house, Bonhams.
They stage regular auctions and the loot inside this place rivals a museum. It is the number one clearing house for second-hand celebrity goods.
I had a major star moment, in the elevator of my hotel, The Redbury. Cyndi Lauper swept into the lift with her entourage, chatty, charming and looking half of her 62 years of age. The Redbury, a boutique all-suites hotel, sits across the road from the iconic Capitol Records building.
Glamorous, colourful and spacious, the 57 guest suites come complete with record players and vinyl collections. I played Duke Ellington on repeat.
The quirky and eye-catching art pieces, sprinkled throughout the property are pure escapism.
I loved the hip Middle Eastern-inspired Cleo restaurant and the indoor-outdoor library for handcrafted cocktails. Plus there’s a complimentary BMW house car available for pick-up or drop-off within three miles.
Accommodation rates are not eye-watering – and you never know who you’ll bump into. www.theredbury.com