A Starbanger’s Guide to L.A.L.A.’s Comedy HotspotsThe Best Way to Score a Table Next to Tom FordA Guide to the L.A. Restaurant SceneHow to Get a Room at Sunset TowerThe Art of Avoiding LAXHow to Crash a Private BeachThe L.A. Art Crawl Miami Sydney
It was Quentin Crisp who nailed it. He said, “Los Angeles is New York lying down.” And never are those words truer than in the months following the Academy Awards—that petite mort in L.A. calendars that leaves Angelenos mildly incapacitated after the interminable build-up and (usually disappointing) climax to the protracted awards season. Crash, the dark horse Best Picture winner set in and about this town, finally put a cinematic face on the terror that lies deep in the heart of every L.A. resident: not the simmering threat of racism—everyone seems to be getting along just fine, thank you—but the fear of getting sideswiped by an uninsured motorist. Chills you to the very bone. Luckily, with summer fun almost here, the marrow should be thawed in no time. Folks are looking forward to the Coachella Valley Music Festival at the end of the month. The Getty Villa in Malibu has just reopened after a nine-year, $275 million face-lift, with its magnificent collection of Greek and Roman sculptures (perhaps the only chiseled figures in the area who managed to achieve the look without the help of a team of personal trainers and plastic surgeons). The first Dodger Dog of the season is pending. Skis are racked, and surfboards waxed. Randy Newman nailed it too: “Everybody’s very happy / ’Cause the sun is shining all the time.”
If you like watching tabloid items unfold at the Gansevoort’s GSpa, you’ll love the bar at the Roosevelt.
If you love the discreet elegance of the Carlyle, you’ll love L’Ermitage.
If you like the pool scene at the Soho House, you’ll love the Viceroy Hotel’s cabanas.
Next: A Starbanger’s Guide to L.A.
A Starbanger’s Guide to L.A. Nightlife
In a city with as many “celebrities” as Los Angeles, you’d be amazed just how achievable it is to sleep with someone “famous.” It’s all about knowing where they breed and being liberal with definitions.
Every Tuesday night, assorted XXX performers along with their S.O.’s, industry functionaries, porn-gossip columnists, and a smattering of fans, including, yes, John Goodman, get together at Sardo’s (818-846-8127), on other nights a pretty typical Burbank sports bar, for ogling, flirting, tall-tale-telling, and lounge-act attempts. The probabilities of going home with a playmate are not much greater than those of discovering the next Wayne Newton, but the viewing is first-rate.
THURSDAY AT CHA CHA
Jaded Williamsburg hipsters might find their hearts’ desire at the new Cha Cha Lounge (323-660-7595) in Silver Lake, where Captain Dream Muffin himself, Jake Gyllenhaal, was spotted on the Saturday before his Golden Globes no-show.
No place is packed with more horny gay celebrities looking to cash in on their notoriety than the Saturday-night party at the WeHo hot spot Club 7969 (323-654-0280). Show up and who knows? You could end up wearing a free sample of Alan Cummings’s signature fragrance, Cumming in a bottle.
Next: L.A.’s Comedy Hotspots
Who’s Laughing Now
America’s comics may hone their chops in gritty comedy hubs like New York and Chicago, but if they’re serious about making it, they’ll eventually end up in L.A. That means on any given night, you can catch some of the country’s best talent at the mike.
Claim to Fame
Favored venue of A-list alternative comics like Louis C.K. and Sarah Silverman.
Name to Watch
San Francisco stand-up Brent Weinbach.
Paul F. Tompkins’s (of VH1’s Best Week Ever) variety show on the last Monday of each month.
Claim to Fame
Launched Will Ferrell’s career.
Name to Watch
Surrealist sketch comics Kent Sublette and Hugh Davidson.
SNL-style sketch-and-improv show on weekend nights.
Claim to Fame
Bred top acts like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, and Drew Carey.
Name to Watch
Nineteen-year-old cerebral wit Taylor Williamson.
“Saturday Night Special,” featuring crowd-pleasers like Marc Maron and Patton Oswalt.
Claim to Fame
Hint: Its experimental stage is called the Andy Dick Black Box.
Name to Watch
Improv team Trophy Wife.
The bad-lounge-act shtick of The Lampshades, every Saturday at 8 p.m.
Next: The Best Way to Score a Table Next to Tom Ford
THE BEST …
METHOD FOR SCORING A TABLE NEXT TO TOM FORD
Tower Bar Restaurant
8358 Sunset Blvd.
When it comes to L.A.’s toughest reservation, your only chance is to impress maître d’ Dimitri Dimitrov. His taste runs toward elegant style, not trendy flash: While Ford and class acts like Anjelica Huston often hold court, Dimitrov reportedy gets perverse pleasure out of turning away the likes of Lindsay Lohan.
CORRECTION FACILITY FOR UNWANTED TATTOOS
8500 Wilshire Blvd.
This laser center has a pop-in atmosphere: West Hollywood types slouched on couches, free wi-fi, and the Verve remixes on the stereo. From $39 per square inch per visit, Dr. Tattoff removes all manner of roses, tribal armbands, and, of course, lots and lots of names.
IRONIC SILK-SCREENED T-SHIRT OF THE MOMENT
1716 Silverlake Blvd.
At press time, the slacker must-have tee was Dangerous Breed’s ski iraq, $28 at A+R.
WAY TO FIT IN WITH THE LOCALS
150 S. La Brea Ave.
In the land of conspicuous denim consumption, you’ve simply got to have the right pair of jeans. Right now it’s about the super-skinny look—in black or gray. Go to American Rag for Earnest Sewn’s model-slim LC.87 Jean ($240), debuting in June, or Tsubi’s Jet Black SuperSkinny style ($215).
Next: Guide to the L.A. Restaurant Scene
Sushi & Salads
In L.A., why eat anything else?
Modern salad traces its roots to Wolfgang Puck, who invented the Chinese chicken salad at the old standard Chinois on Main (310-392-9025). There are also the small, sophisticated salads of celebrity chef Suzanne Goin at the popular A.O.C. (323-653-6359)—try the frisée, served in bread; and, in Venice, the constantly rotating menu of salads piled on open-faced sandwiches at Axe (310-664-9787), where all the produce comes from a local farmers’ market. Also check out L.A.’s take on the Caesar at industry spot Campanile (323-938-1447), where the leaves are served whole, or at the retro-kitsch Jar (323-655-6566), where romaine is replaced with red endive. Raw fish? L.A.’s high end is Matsuhisa (310-659-9639), in Beverly Hills. Also try the equally expensive Nishimura (310-659-4770), and nosh in beautiful, minimalist environs across from the Pacific Design Center. Katsu Michite’s Tama Sushi (818-760-4585) in Studio City is considered the best in town by some, and it offers a very affordable omakase lunch ($30). There’s even an L.A. “Sushi Nazi,” a.k.a. Studio City’s Sushi Nozawa (818-508-7017): Goopy, complicated rolls are not allowed, and there’s a blinking neon sign behind the chef that reads trust me.
the top five
From sushi bars to burger joints, many of L.A.’s most popular restaurants are word-of-mouth jewels inexplicably nestled in strip-mall eyesores.
1. Zankou Chicken: Next to a tobacco shop in a seedy Hollywood strip mall, this Middle Eastern rotisserie is always packed with locals happy to tolerate the fluorescent lighting and Formica for gut-busting plates of sliced shawarma and the addictive garlic sauce that accompanies it (323-665-7842).
2. Alegria on Sunset: If you eat one Mexican dish while you’re in L.A., make it the carnitas quesadilla at this friendly spot in Silver Lake that shares a parking lot with Baskin-Robbins (323-913-1422).
3. Ye Rustic Inn: While there’s nothing “Ye” about it, this Los Feliz dive bar has the best burgers in the city and a hair-metal-stacked jukebox to boot (323-662-5757).
4. Blue Hen Vietnamese Kitchen: Like the name suggests, poultry is the guest of honor at this Vietnamese oasis in Eagle Rock: Try “Grandpa’s Porridge,” a rice-porridge-and-shredded-chicken concoction that works miracles for a hangover (323-982-9900).
5. Hirozen: You may feel packed in tighter than a slice of unagi in an eel-and-cucumber roll, but food in this tiny Beverly Boulevard mini-mall gem is worth it. Don’t leave without trying the buttery toro, Kobe-beef tataki, or the “Toro & Foie Gras Tower,” layered with banana and black-bean sauce (323-653-0470).
Instead of the usual California-French cuisine, eat. on Sunset (323-461-8800), located in the old Pinot Hollywood space, offers an All-American menu (oysters, pork belly) and non-fussy décor (pairs of daybeds and an outdoor patio). Ford’s Filling Station (310-202-1470), a gastropub opened by Ben Ford (Harrison Ford’s son), has a seasonal menu with organic produce and cured meats from Mario Batali’s dad. If you’re more in the mood for burgers, macaroni and cheese, or fried chicken served with a considerable scene, seek out the alleyway entrance to Citizen Smith (323-461-5001), on the south end of the Cahuenga Strip. New Yorkers addicted to Maury Rubin’s ginger cookies will be relieved to know his melted chocolate-chip ones at the new City Bakery (310-656-3040) in Brentwood are just as good.
Next: How to Get a Room at Sunset Tower
Right now, L.A.’s “It”-est “It” hotel is the Sunset Tower. But with so many famous guests falling all over one another in the clubby-chic lobby, it can be a challenging scene for unknowns. Here’s how to get the most out of your stay: Avoid going during awards shows and events—that includes May’s upcoming E3 gaming convention; request a room on the eighth floor or above (these are the renovated floors); and book a junior suite ($325), which is, shockingly, only $60 more than a standard room (323-654-7100; from $265).
Next: The Art of Avoiding LAX
The Art of Skipping LAX
Los Angeles Airport holds the high honor of having one of the worst runway-safety records in the country. And if that’s not enough to scare you away, there’s the traffic, the security checkpoints, and the ever-longer delays. At the smaller regional airports—Bob Hope in Burbank and Long Beach—security is just as tight, but the lines are much shorter and the employees friendlier. JetBlue to BUR is still the best bi-coastal carrier, but be sure to check United.com’s “Deals” page for last-minute weekend fares to LGB. Burbank is north of LAX and Long Beach is to the south, but if you can avoid landing at rush hour, you can reach downtown in 40 minutes from Long Beach, or in 20 from Burbank. Even more critical than a rented convertible is a GPS navigation system (Hertz offers it as an upgrade for $10 a day) that’ll show you shortcuts you never knew existed.
Next: How to Crash a Private Beach
map no. 3: Malibu
How to (almost) tresspass on a billionaire’s (almost) private beach
One by one, Malibu’s private beaches are opening up to the rest of us, and none with more fanfare than the stretch of sand in front of David Geffen’s house. For years, the billionaire sued to thwart a deal he struck in 1983 with the Coastal Commission to trade public beach access across his property for a permit for a swimming pool. But he lost. Today, behind a white carved door (22132 PCH) alongside Geffen’s home, there is a sandy path to the beach.
But depending on where you spread your towel, you might be trespassing—or completely within your rights. “We have this crazy patchwork of easements because all these rich people in their multimillion-dollar homes get upset about lookie-loos peeking into their houses,” says Nancy Hastings, Southern California field coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation and an open-beach activist. Keep your towel between the lines and wave this map in the face of Geffen’s goons and you’ll be fine.
Next: The L.A. Art Crawl
The Downtown Scene
Program your GPS, and drive deep into downtown, where the Art Deco skid row is in the process of being converted into luxury condos and the derelicts are panhandling with a verve not seen in New York for years. First stop: the just-opened Crewest (110 Winston St.) for O.C. skater art.
Bert Green (102 W. 5th St.) is the neighborhood Gagosian. Across the street, there are three fun galleries on the storefront level of the scuzzball Million Dollar Hotel (a.k.a. the Rosslyn; Fifth St. and S. Main St.), still about as sketchy as it was in Wim Wenders’s film.
If you search, you’ll find two of the classiest non-hotel bars in L.A.: the Golden Gopher (417 W. 8th St.) and Broadway Bar (830 S. Broadway). Just be sure to leave the area by sundown.
If you have time to kill, giveDisney Hall (Grand at First Street) a drive-by on your way to MoCA (250 S. Grand): Check out the gift shop (which is almost better than the museum itself) and the surrounding Little Tokyo. Sushi in the neighborhood is universally good.
Don’t miss the all-pedestrian Chung King Road in Chinatown for “Art Walk.” On the second Thursday of each month, the galleries throw open their doors, tap a keg, and stay open till 9 p.m. We especially like the Black Dragon Society (961 Chung King Rd.).
End with a drink at the Jorge Pardo–designed Mountain Bar (475 Gin Ling Way). Consider buying that scruffy stranger on the next stool over a few drinks. Get lucky and you’ll go back to the Brewery Art Colony (620 Moulton Ave.), a nearby 300-loft community of artists in the former Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery. Ask for a postcoital tour. -V.G.