Bright lights, Big city: Living la vida LA

2011-07-09 19:10

While the United States may be known as the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, its west coast has cornered the market as the “land of the superficial”.

This is Los Angeles. the City of Angels, as it is known by many.

Ironically, there’s nothing angelic about the place.

In fact, if there were any angels to be found, they would more likely be models for designer lingerie house Victoria’s Secret.

Bodies are waxed, toned and tanned and, thanks to stars such as Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian, the outfits worn here barely cover the D-cup breasts and directly proportional butts on parade day and night.

It is summer in LA this time of the year and each day the thick morning smog clears and makes way for 30 degrees of hot sun and “booty shorts” that show off the female butt cheeks.

I arrived in this town on the weekend of the BET awards, where local hip-hop trio Teargas was attending the ceremony in person courtesy of TopTV.

The trio were nominated for a best international African act award, and the timing ensured that most African-American celebrities were in town.

We were booked into the SLS Hotel on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills, which turned out to be popular with American celebrities as many had booked into the same hotel.

I spotted rappers Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, Drake and their crew members from Young Money, as well as Girlfriends actress Jill Marie Jones among many others.

The hotel’s popularity is no surprise because, as I discovered, it is truly in the business of treating stars to a real five-star experience.

It is secluded enough to hide those who want to remain low on the ­celeb-spotting radar and has all the amenities one would find at the much-lauded W Hotel that rappers always go on about.

The rooms are bigger than an RDP house, with the bathroom big enough to fit a king-size bed and a closet.

The best part was that my room was on the same floor as the pool deck, which is literally a work of art with various transparent painting frames providing the backdrop around the deck.

There are luxurious sun decks where you can chill or, alternately, you can escape to any of the cute cabanas fitted with flat-screen TVs and DVD players.

The pool, by the way, is not for the avid swimmer. It runs more along the lines of a “chilling pool”.

You can’t do a fancy dive into it. You can only wade in with your designer swimsuit and look pretty because that’s what people
do in LA.

Day 1: Starstruck but jet lagged
First I went to explore my surroundings and discovered the hotel was opposite the famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which always features when some A-lister is giving birth, has overdosed on medication or drugs, or is just ‘exhausted’.

Even I have written about it at some point in my career.

Later that day, the BET Networks organisers hosted a mixer where nominees and guests networked and were entertained by R&B singer Miguel.

After the mixer, I went for a late dinner at the hotel’s trendy restaurant, The Bazaar by José Andrés, which has a vibrant mix of sophisticated cuisine and playful lounge spaces.

Sadly, jet lag kicked and I went to bed early.

Day 2: Dining with entertainment royalty
I woke up early on Saturday and headed to the Shrine Auditorium, where Teargas was scheduled for interviews.

That’s when the real celeb spotting started. My groupie moment came when I saw The Game, my favourite rapper.

Later that night, the chairperson and CEO of BET Networks, Debra Lee, hosted a pre-dinner party. Name a celeb, they were there. Boris Kodjo and his wife, Ari Nicole Parker, Trey Songz, Tracee Ellis Ross, Keri Hilson, Idris Elba, Kelly Rowland and more.

The menu included a crab, lobster and rock shrimp cake and a main course of oven-roasted, tender beef fillet with hand-cut fries.

The highlight of the event was when old-school funk group, Cameo, performed Candy. The celeb-filled room loosened up and started doing a line dance, otherwise known as the Codesa. Great fun!

Day 3:
Awards day
On my third day in LA, I woke up bright and early to visit the Beverly Center shopping mall, which was a five-minute walk away.

On my dash back into the hotel, I was nearly mowed down by rapper Rick Ross, who was also understandably in a hurry since it was event day.
By midday, we were ready for the BET awards.

The awards went off like clockwork and by the end I could see the differences between our and their level of production. I sincerely hope we get to that level very soon.

The after party was at a popular downtown spot called Exchange LA, inside the former Stock Exchange building.

The gorgeous, huge space had the perfect lighting and a dance floor big enough to give the celebs some room to dance until the early hours of the morning.

Day 4: Mall crawling
I dedicated the day after the awards to exploring the nearest malls and streets such as Melrose Avenue, the Beverly Center and The Grove, where I quickly realised I was in danger of bankruptcy if I wasn’t careful.

There are shops to cater for every pocket size – from thrift stores like American Vintage and affordable stores like H&M, Forever 21 and Macy’s to expensive designer boutiues like Bloomingdales, Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Other malls that I decided to check out include the Original Farmers Market, which sells fresh food; and Koreatown Galleria and Koreatown Plaza, which are self-explanatory. I couldn’t stop window-shopping despite my protesting feet.

I may not be flush, but if you are, be sure to take a turn onto Rodeo Drive and Two Rodeo, which are designer-store hubs. By the end of the day, my feet and bank account were unhappy.

Day 5: Hollywood, happy to see the Sunset Strip
The next day, I finally went to visit Hollywood. I began my journey on the iconic Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, where I spent some time looking for the stars of my favourite celebs such as Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Destiny’s Child and Charlize Theron.

By the time I reached the busy shopping area of Hollywood & Highland, and Universal City Walk, I had already posed with Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe impersonators, marvelled at a Samuel L Jackson lookalike, laughed at the faux Harry Potter and saw the masked Scream murderer randomly walking around with a huge knife.

The street was alive with colours and people in various characters offering to pose for tips. It’s also here where I walked up to the second floor of the City Walk to get the closest view of the mountain with the Hollywood sign.

Across the road, there’s a venue that advertises tickets for the popular American talk-show Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I was tempted to buy, but I had a sundowners appointment on Sunset Boulevard’s Sunset Strip. The strip is a stretch filled with fun hang-out spots such as rock clubs, restaurants, and boutiques that are favourites with many rock and movie stars.

The street is super gaudy, with showy structures and neon lights. Basically, it has everything that makes it the main place in LA to see and be seen.

On any given day, you will see your favourite celeb dining or partying at spots like The Viper Room, which used to be owned by Johnny Depp; the Rainbow Bar and Grill; the The Roxy Theatre; Whisky a Go Go; The House of Blues; and many others.

Just above the strip lies the celebrity studded condos and residences of stars such as Christina Aguilera, Cameron ­Diaz, Kylie Minogue, Leonardo DiCaprio, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

Day 6: Pamper- session day
I dedicated my penultimate day in LA to pampering myself because one thing you need to do in this town is visit one of the thousands of beauty parlours.

Every street corner sports a nail parlour or hair salon, a tanning room and a

couple of cosmetic surgery practices. People in LA are very bold and unapologetic about enhancing themselves.

Without going to extremes, I got a simple massage and had my nails polished. I had no intention of digging a hole through my purse by pulling a Khanyi Mbau at the surgeon’s office.

Later that day, I met up with friends I had met in town at their hotel, the W Los Angeles – Westwood.

This is one of the most prestigious hotels in the world and has a beautiful bar called Whiskey Blue, where we spent some time before moving on to the next spot, the Colony Night Club.

Day 7: Life’s a beach
I spent my last day at the famous Venice Beach, which always features in popular movies.

Venice Beach turned out to be almost as busy as Durban’s beaches in December.

The beach was full of girls in string ­bikinis walking their small dogs, while the men in tiny Speedos did their best to catch their eyes.

There were also many other active types who spent the day playing various sports such as volleyball and basketball, while artists sold their wares on the side streets among the palm readers, belly dancers and roller-skaters.

As I sat there on the beach polishing off my tortillas as the sun set, I realised that a week is nowhere near enough to get this crazy town into my system. El Lay and I have some unfinished ­business.

»?Seabi was in Los Angeles as a guest of ­TopTV

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