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One of the best clichés about Los Angeles is that if you’re in the right places, pretty soon you’ll see someone that qualifies as a celebrity. I’ve lived in West Hollywood for 15 years, and it’s fairly common to see anyone from reality show regulars to alternative rock stars to sitcom actors to high profile athletes out and about on your daily tasks. There’s a code the citizens of L.A. are supposed to observe when they find themselves in the vicinity of a celebrity – be cool, give them space and never approach them. I’m a fairly shy person, so it’s been easy for me to follow but I still get a thrill out of seeing any sort of star while I’m strolling the aisles of my grocery store.
I’m hardly a Hollywood insider, but I can tell you some great, everyman type of places where there’s a good chance you’ll soon spot a star. You’re probably already familiar with the expensive and paparazzi infested places stars go to get their picture in US Magazine: Robertson Boulevard, Rodeo Drive and The Grove for shopping trips or for dining out at say, KOI, Nobu, CUT and The Ivy. If you’re planning a trip to the West Coast, skip the money pits and go where the locals go. You’ll get a better feel of the city, save some money and possibly see your favorite celebrity!
Eat Breakfast – A late breakfast, at any of these fine dinners offers affordable, yummy morning fare in a comfortable setting (you may have to wait in line on week-ends), Mel’s Drive-in (Sunset location), Swingers, Toast and Canter’s Deli. Keep your eyes peeled for bleary-eyed, shaggy-haired celebs. My favorite sighting over coffee and eggs? Matt Dillion.
Bonus breakfast tip: I’m almost straying over of the affordability line with this one, but since it’s only for breakfast, I can not recommend enough the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Fountain Coffee Room. The most delicious and luxurious breakfast ever in a very quaint setting. Make sure to splurge on the fresh squeezed juices and anything with their Hollandaise sauce. (Last time I went with my Mom and sister, we shared the counter with Ellen and Portia splitting a stack of pancakes.) After breakfast take a stroll around the outdoor grounds of this old school Hollywood haunt as well as the lobby and other restaurants; you never know who’s near the piano in the Polo Lounge or having high tea in the afternoon (Ozzy!).
The Farmers Markets – Happily, there’s a large number of farmers markets in Los Angeles, but two of the best, just happen to be good star scouting sites. Explore the fresh produce, buy some flowers for a gift if you’re visiting friends or family and taste whatever fruits are in season. Try the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sundays for healthy stars and if you are a foodie, you’ll spy L.A.’s best chefs shopping the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market every Wednesday.
Exercise – You might want to squeeze in a work out – I have more food coming up! Star sightings are common at some breathtaking public workout spots. Try one of the trails at Runyon Canyon Park for a great hike and be rewarded with spectacular views sweeping out to the Pacific. Since this is a dog park, there’s a good chance you’ll see a celeb taking their Labordoodle for a walk. Another great option is the Lake Hollywood Trail, a loop around the Hollywood Reservoir. If you want a really hard workout, test your legs and endurance at the infamous Santa Monica Stairs.
Shop for groceries – If you need some toothpaste or sunscreen, don’t grab a tube in your hotel lobby. Stars need to shop for groceries, too! Pick up any thing you may have neglected to pack at the “Rock & Roll” Ralph’s, my regular grocery stop that’s offered a trove of sightings from Real World alum to Degrassi and 90210 actresses shopping together to rock stars buying lobsters and champagne. Some alternatives: Erewhon Natural Foods (keep your eyes on the salad bar) and Bristol Farms in Hollywood.
Time for Lunch – Same idea as breakfast; here’s some affordable and tasty eats in Hollywood that are old favorites of the locals and are great opportunities for a sighting. Have a salad or sandwich at Hugo’s on Santa Monica, study all of the delicious choices behind the deli counter at Joan’s on Third or grab a slab of pizza (take the outdoors seating) at Cheebo.
Let’s go Shopping – There are so many shopping options in Los Angeles, where is a girl to start? If you want to shop where the stars do and be able to afford something, head for these less pap infested paradises for shoppers: Larchmont Village, the Beverly Center, or Montana Blvd. Another great tip, pop into the beauty department of Fred Segel (much more affordable than the clothes) for the latest make up and an almost guaranteed sighting.
Coffee break – If you need a caffeine pick me up to keep going, here’s some of the best coffee bars for star watching: Starbucks on Robertson and Beverly (hey, it’s affordable and you want one look at the infamous boulevard), the Coffee, Bean & Tea Leaf at Sunset and Fairfax (at one time Perez Hilton’s “office”), or the organic Urth Café for your more natural celebs.
Have Some Fun – I’ve sighted some big name stars having a good time the same way we mortals do, going to the movies and hanging with friends. You could catch Drew Barrymore in front of you buying tickets at the Arclight or Laemmle Sunset Five. We’ve seen the stars of Scrubs singing karaoke (pretty well actually) at the Brass Monkey. And stars are known to hit the lanes at Lucky Strike for some bowling or jump into pool games at Barney’s Beanery.
Dinner , Yet More Food – Last one, I promise! But this list wouldn’t be complete without some dinner recommendations. Go for some Brazilian food at Bossa Nova on Sunset and you may be seated next to Kathy Griffin. My new favorite restaurant for food and people watching is the Fabulous Café – they have the best risotto and great pastas and deserve their great reputation. Finally, if you want to have a few options, try one of the great restaurants on the 5900 block of Franklin Boulevard. Stroll this quaint block and browse the book and clothing stores, then choose between Birds, la Poubelle or Prizzi’s for amazing food and a hip atmosphere. Located directly across the street from the Celebrity Scientology Center, you can try to sneak a peek at the fantastic building on the way to your car.
See a Show – By far, my favorite place to see celebrities has been at concerts. One Radiohead show at the Hollywood Bowl netted Brad Pitt and Jen Aniston, Cameron Diaz and Jared Leto, Drew Barrymore, Tom Green, Jeremy Pivens and Gwen Stefani. If you can’t score Radiohead tickets, almost any concert is worth seeing just to sit under the stars in the Bowl. Or you could see an up and coming band by checking out acts at the Troubadour or Largo. Scan the crowd between sets for additional entertainment beyond the stage.
Good luck on your own star search! Tell us about your best celebrity sighting!