Friday, June 23, 2006

36 Hours:Hollywood

Del NYT:

"Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood, and you'll find the real tinsel underneath," Oscar Levant, that Algonquin wit, once observed. And though the lights do shine brightly for the fabulous here, the back streets of this gritty pocket of Los Angeles hold hidden gems for the everyman. Wander a recently dolled-up stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and cut into side streets that lead to unexpected pleasures. Discover restaurants stylish enough to make West Hollywood blush, or head to the rising hills and discover Hollywood's most becoming angles. Try something wacky — don't even look at Mann's Chinese Theater. Hollywood is on the rise again, and the granddaddy of glamour and glitz has never looked better.


5 p.m.

1) Quiet on the Set

Tucked into the last curve of a residential street in the Hollywood Hills, where Weidlake Drive dead-ends, a plain white sign marks an entrance. Open the gate, make a hard left, and you will stumble on the striking landscape of the Hollywood Reservoir. From this spot at the Mulholland Dam, you can take in sweeping views of the deep blue reservoir, the rolling mansion-lined hills and the legendary Hollywood sign. The reservoir was built in the early 1920's by William Mulholland to try to ease Los Angeles's water shortages, but the history doesn't end there. That enormous pinkish-orange house on the hill to the right of the sign was Bugsy Siegel's and later belonged to Madonna. "Chinatown" was filmed here. Most recently, landslides closed parts of the hiking path that circles the lake; so for now, just sit back and savor the silence.

7 p.m.

2) Try the Elvis

In East Hollywood, a Thai Town is rising. And along the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Bronson and Normandie Avenues there is no shortage of Thai restaurants — but only one has a Thai Elvis impersonator. At Palms Thai Restaurant (5900 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-462-5073), locals knock elbows over steaming noodles to tunes courtesy of a man they call the Thai Elvis. He's Kavee Thongpricha (you can call him Kevin), and he punches in on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 sharp. Culinary nerds will want to head straight to the back of the menu. Listed under Wild Things are peppery, garlicky frogs' legs ($15.99) and crispy fish maw — fried air bladder — salad ($7.99).

10 p.m.

3) Heels on the Bar

There's plenty of scene to be found in the Hollywood night, which is exactly why Birds Cafe (5925 Franklin Avenue, 323-465-0175), a rotisserie chicken-cum-local watering hole, sounds so much better once 10 o'clock rolls around. Sitting on a leafy block of Franklin Avenue, Birds fills up late with spillover from the Upright Citizen Brigade Theater (5919 Franklin Avenue, 323-908-8702; next door and 20-somethings unwilling to cough up the gas money to go to the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood. Slip into an oversize leather booth for a couple of pints or grab a table on the patio and watch the passing hipsters — or, as one regular calls them, Charlie Browns. Word has it that if you stay late enough, you may be pulled onto the bar to dance.
Video: 36 Hours in Hollywood
Cindy Price spends 36 hours in Hollywood and experiences a side of the city that most people never see.


11 a.m.

4) The Egg Man

Right next to the looming presence of a Church of Scientology building, you'll find the charming Square One Dining (4854 Fountain Avenue, 323-661-1109), a three-month-old restaurant that serves a fantastic breakfast all day. Though the menu has more complex offerings, Philip Fox, the owner, prides himself on directing rookies to the straightforward egg dishes to showcase his farm fresh, and often organic, ingredients. "The eggs we'll serve next week are in the chicken today," he swears.

1 p.m.

5) Easy, Trigger

You are welcome to head out on foot through Griffith Park for a distant glimpse of those famous nine letters, but nobody walks in Los Angeles. Opt for a horseback ride at the Sunset Ranch (3400 North Beachwood Drive, 323-469-5450;, Hollywood's last dude ranch. The guided one-hour trip ($25) wanders along canyon edges to allow for stunning views of the park, the Bronson Caves and the inescapable sign. But the horses are gentle, and the guides confident and funny as they punch up the trip with bits of history and legend — and all the gray areas between.

3 p.m.

6) Toxins Out

Ever wonder what West Coasters are going on about with all their sage oils and chakras? Lord knows, but it's high time someone found out. Celebrities and laymen alike flock to Golden Bridge Yoga (6322 De Longpre Avenue, 323-936-4172; for classes, but it's still easy to book a massage at its recent addition, the Amrit Davaa Wellness Center. It offers almost a dozen different treatments, but if you closed down Birds Cafe the night before, it's best to book Hari Narayan. In just over an hour, Ms. Narayan's raindrop-technique massage ($90) pledges to detoxify you physically — and mentally. 5 p.m.

7) Fat of the Land

All right, wheat-grass warrior. Let's get some chili dogs into you before you pass out from clean living. The venerable Pink's still reigns with the fanny-pack set, but Skooby's Hot Dogs (6654 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-468-3647), above, a relative newcomer, has some frankfurter connoisseurs saying it surpasses Pink's. After eating your fill, follow the trail of Hollywood stars and take a left at La Brea. Two Iranian brothers do ice cream with panache at Mashti Malone's (1525 North La Brea Avenue, 323-874-6168), a Hollywood haunt seriously dedicated to uncanny flavors. Celebrities order in bulk, craving Mashti's concoctions of rosewater saffron, or faludeh, a rice-starch sorbet. Dig into a bowl of full-fat orange blossom, and watch the parade of Size 0's file past. Ah, to be young, happy and not looking for an acting job.

7 p.m.

8) Chiller Theater

If the weather is good, snag a bottle of wine and head over to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, 323-469-1181; Every Saturday night in the summer, a kinetic crowd descends on the lawn for Cinespia's ( film screenings. The creepy magic here is undeniable: the palms swaying against the velvet sky, the safety-in-numbers spookiness of walking among the graves, the crystal-clear screenings of classics like "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Birds." Doors open at 6:30 for the 8:30 show, and the lawn fills up fast.

11 p.m.

9) Bowery West

Hollywood is suddenly awash in so many trendy late-night restaurants, you'd think you'd died and gone to Manhattan. Speaking of which, right next door to the hipper-than-thou Magnolia on Sunset Boulevard, is the Bowery (6268 Sunset Boulevard, 323-465-3400), a discreet little joint fitted out to replicate a New York bar. Check out the tin ceilings, which the owner, George Abou-Daoud, notes were shipped in from Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The burger ($9) is top-notch, but more important, how is the Manhattan at the Bowery? Served over rocks on a hot summer night, it's just a touch sweet. But hey, so is the service.


10:30 a.m.

10) After the Big Sleep

Are you tired of being fabulous yet? Even superstars need a day of rest, and so the City of Angels declared: Let there be brunch. Off Vine (6263 Leland Way, 323-962-1900), above, might be the prettiest little restaurant in Hollywood, mostly because it doesn't feel Hollywood at all. Tucked away in a bright, century-old bungalow and surrounded by flowers, Off Vine's large garden patio is the kind of place that persuades you to linger over Bloody Marys ($7) and eggs Benedict ($10.95) all day. And you know what? This is Hollywood, kid. You go right ahead.

The Basics

Besides Los Angeles International, there are several smaller airports near Hollywood, including ones in Long Beach, Burbank and Ontario, that are used by low-cost airlines including JetBlue and Southwest. Check for a comparison of prices.

In a pinch, anyone can find a room in Hollywood — Super 8's and Holiday Inns abound. If you book ahead, though, there is also some nice midrange lodging.

The Hollywood Roosevelt (7000 Hollywood Boulevard, 323-466-7000; was recently overhauled. Weekend rates start at $189. From the dim lobby to the minimalist rooms, the hotel has a young, urban feel. A stroll down to the über-trendy pool will have you dropping your jaw at the scene or giggling — depending on your sensibility. Either way, welcome to Los Angeles.

Just a couple of blocks away, the Magic Castle Hotel (7025 Franklin Avenue, 323-851-0800; starts at $169 a night and has a near-perfect track record among the quarrelsome users of TripAdvisor ( Situated just off the touristy section, this boutique hotel has a residential feel; in fact, the pool area bears an uncanny resemblance to the set of "Melrose Place."


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