Los Angeles, November 25, 2014 – Turning down an invitation to stay over at girl’s place that I had just met in a Las Vegas club wasn’t easy. Pimp N Ho party be damned, there was the issue of a flight that I had to catch and it was in Los Angeles. So instead of a night of passion, I found myself dressed in pimp attire, racing through the night in a rental across the Mojave desert. A blinding sunrise in the rearview mirror and several cups of coffee kept me alert. Ensuring I stayed awake the full four hours until I hit LAX in time for my flight back to Toronto.
That was ten years ago and it’s my last memory of my trip to Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. A lot has changed in those ten years. My Pimp N Ho party days for one, are now a distant memory. So I’ve returned to LA thanks to Cadillac being nice enough to invite me to the unveiling of their new 2016 ATS-V at the LA Auto Show. What a great opportunity to become reacquainted with a city I love.
Arriving a few days prior to the show, I checked into downtown LA’s trendy Ace Hotel. This boutique hotel is pretty far from the West Hollywood strip and offers a different kind of LA experience. Admittedly, it’s nice to not deal with all those tourists and enjoy a more local artsy hipster scene. The rooftop is the crown jewel of the hotel complete with bar, restaurant, heated pool/sauna and beautiful view of the city. It’s quite the little oasis in the heart of a gentrified downtown concrete jungle. Ace has an impressive 24hr in-house gym designed by Undefeated and the punching bag is a nice touch. The restaurant in the lobby level is pretty popular with its sunny morning patio. Great brunch spot.
Downtown Los Angeles is no longer what it was ten years ago. It’s a like a mini downtown Manhattan inside Greater Los Angeles. There are many independent restaurants, bars, and coffee shops off Spring, Broadway and Main Streets. It’s also home to a gallery, broadway and fashion district. The fashion district is really more of a garment district. There appear to be a lot of factories and the boutiques are pretty nasty. Most of them filled with tacky 1990s Dick Tracy and Smooth Criminal style men’s suits. The Acne Studios boutique on Broadway and 9th is right by the Ace Hotel and actually the nicest thing you’ll see with respect to fashion in that immediate area. There are a few other cool stores and a small mall with Zara and H&M, but you’re better off getting your shopping done at one of LA’s bigger malls in West Hollywood or just visiting Rodeo Drive.
So Day 1 was spent checking in and exploring downtown Los Angeles. Later that night, after enjoying an Umami burger, I balked at the chance to see DJ Steve Lawler at Exchange LA. The crowd looked really sketchy and the west coast time difference was hitting me hard so after walking up to the front door I bailed and called it a night. Day 2 was all about the Hollywood experience. I dared to take the LA Metro’s red line from 7th street station to Hollywood & Vine. The LA Metro is not all that bad. It’s a lot bigger and cleaner than New York’s subway system and it was reliable enough. Walking around Hollywood can get hot and tiring. I quickly caved and joined a small-sized bus tour (there are tons of them) for a tour of the Hollywood Hills and Sunset strip. We zipped by all the landmarks including the Viper Room, Comedy Store, Sierra Towers, etc. Driving by celebrity homes in the hills and locations where they filmed big movie scenes was fun for about the first 30 minutes. After the tour was over, I went back to the Sunset Strip to eat some late lunch at celeb hotspot called Le Petit Four. Great food and even better people watching from their huge street patio.
The mission for Day 3 was a quick trip to Hollywood to witness Matthew McConaughey’s induction on the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony before making my way out to Santa Monica. The PR running the gig were very difficult, but I got some descent photos of the man himself, his family, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway. Jessica was the nicest stopping to pose for a few photos for me. No trip to California would be complete without visiting a beach. So I made my way out to Santa Monica. Everything seems so relaxed and easy in Santa Monica. It’s like meditating as you walk. The beach is enormous with a cool pier that has amusement park rides and fast food restaurants. Across the street from the beach is Santa Monica Place, a great open-air mall with luxury boutiques including a brand new Kooples.
Few shopping experiences in this world can compare to the Mecca that is Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, LA. My quick power stroll up and down the strip proved that this place is a one-stop-shop for all of the major luxury fashion brands. Popping into Chanel I saw Ashley Tisdale and bumped into Rod Stewart while looking at sunglasses at Saint Laurent. The Tom Ford and Saint Laurent boutiques were my two favourite stops and the Barneys New York had an impressive men’s shoe collection. They looked like fashion museums. With the sun setting and my stomach growling, I headed to In-N-Out Burger with Latvian model Keeana Kee. We killed the a double burger and fries each and had some fun stopping traffic with a few quick photos outside the drive-thru.
Day 4 & 5 were focused on Cadillac and the LA Auto Show. Cadillac threw a bash at Milk Studios LA the night before the big reveal and press conference at the LA Convention Center. It was a great party and very nice event space. Met a lot of cool people and you’ll find more about the ATS-V here. I also scoured that showroom floor looking for the most stylish new cars and you can see my top picks here. I checked out of the hotel Cadillac put me up in the morning of Day 6 and a redeye had been booked back to Toronto for 10:00pm that night. Renting a car in LA is pretty effortless and you do have the option to return the car at the airport, which is really convenient. After brunch at one of my favourite cafés called Bottega Louie, the waiter, a local of Venice Beach recommended I check out the strip on Venice Beach Blvd. and Abbot Kinney Blvd before I leave LA.
As I pulled up to a parking spot at Venice and Abbot Kinney, the first guy I spotted once I got out of the car was wearing shoes that matched the book he was reading. A closer look and I realized that they guy reading, Gentlemen Bankers, The World of J.P. Morgan – was in fact Malcolm Gladwell! Cue the introduction and subsequent selfie. Great meeting a fellow Canadian, especially one whose book I’ve actually read. Loved The Tipping Point.
The Abbot Kinney strip has so many cool surfer shops, fashion boutiques and incredible restaurants and coffee shops. I grabbed a quick bite at another celeb hotspot with great food and ambiance called Gjelina. The large communal tables are great for meeting people because unlike Toronto, people in Southern California actually talk to one another.
Venice Beach is a very inspirational place. It was a real treat for me to visit the legendary Muscle Beach where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Be sure to click on this link for the full Arnold tour of Venice. You won’t be disappointed. I admire the active lifestyle element and surfer heritage of the place. After meeting a few of the locals and taking some photos, I headed back to Rodeo Drive for quick hello with my friend and fellow blogger Sydne Summer. We met at the salon and spa in the Montage Beverly Hills. Always daunting walking into a hair salon. I get some interesting looks, but I assure them I’m here to see a friend. On my way out to grab dinner across the street at Sugarfish (best sushi I’ve ever had) with one of the staff from Cadillac, don’t I run into and meet Jeff Goldblum in the Montage hotel lobby! Cue the introduction and subsequent selfie. This guy is pretty damn stylish and I had fun discussing our mutual admiration for Saint Laurent footwear. The guy is so laid back.
That night, I was invited to the Jimmy Choo X Complex Magazine event at the Jimmy Choo on Rodeo Drive. Lucky for me it was just down the street from where we were eating. After an hour at the event checking out some amazing footwear and grooving to the sounds of DJ Kittens, I had a quick street meeting with friend, celeb stylist and fashion show producer Tod Hallman. And once again, I found myself sprinting in a rental car, on my way to catch a flight from LAX to Toronto. Sans the pimp outfit.
Photos: Spiro Mandylor, www.spiro.ca
Postcards: Seven Days in Los Angeles