A Tourist In My Own Backyard (part 1):


Things I Learned on a “Celebrity Homes Tour” of Hollywood and Beverly Hills

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

I thought I knew a lot about my hometown…that is until I took one of those “celebrity homes tours” on Saturday. I’ve never taken one before, even though I’ve lived in Hollywood for fifteen years. Their roofless, fifteen-passenger vans are ubiquitous, especially when the weather gets warmer. Our tour departed from Hollywood and Highland, adjacent to the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater (with its handprint-adorned forecourt) and the equally famous Walk of Fame. The van took us to a lookout to see the Hollywood Sign, down the Sunset Strip, and to tony Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Along the way we drove past dozens of celebrity homes owned by stars like Drew Barrymore, Richard Simmons (whose colonial-style home has a matching mailbox), Laurence Fishburne, Charo, Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, and Christina Aguilera. We also saw two of Madonna’s former homes (or rather, the tall bushes blocking the views of her former homes) and houses where Frank Sinatra, Ron Howard, Britney Spears, Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, and Lucille Ball all lived at one time.

On the tour we also learned several interesting “facts” that I didn’t know before, too. Of course, these tours are geared to out-of-towners so it’s possible that they aren’t entirely true. Here are some of the things I discovered while being a tourist in my own backyard:

Las Palmas Hotel from Pretty Woman

1)  I’ve driven past certain buildings many times before, not knowing they were the locations for popular movies. For instance, the church at Franklin and Highland Avenues in Hollywood was the location for the Sister Act movies with Whoopi Goldberg. Also, the dumpy looking Las Palmas Hotel was used for the finale scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere pulls up in his limo to “rescue” Julia Roberts (and she “rescues him right back.”) Another movie location, the gaudy Saharan Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, was where Borat stayed on his quest to meet Pamela Anderson.

Standard Hotel, by Leonardo DiCaprio & Cameron Diaz

2) Many businesses on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood are owned by celebrities. For instance, Italian model Fabio owns the popular Mexican restaurant Cabo Cantina and Cindy Crawford owns the SkyBar nightclub atop the Mondrian Hotel. Also, Saddle Ranch Chop House was originally called Thunder Roadhouse Café, which was opened by Easy Rider’s Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. And most surprising of all, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz co-own the  trendy Standard Hotel.

3)   If you look hard enough you actually will see a celebrity!  Advice given to us: stare at people driving really expensive cars—they might be famous! However, if someone waves back at the tour bus, then they’re obviously a “nobody.” We actually did see David Faustino (Bud Bundy from “Married With Children”) walking in his neighborhood in the hills. He was very friendly and even welcomed us to L.A.  Evidently he and our tour guide are Facebook friends. Also, while cruising down the Sunset Strip we saw Jason Bateman (or possibly his doppelganger) putting quarters into a parking meter.

Elvis Presley’s former house

4)  There are some eerie coincidences when it comes to celebrity homes in Beverly Hills. For instance, the house where Michael Jackson died (100 Monovale Drive) is directly across the street from Elvis Presley’s final house (144 Monovale Drive). Who would have thought that Lisa Marie’s father and future husband would have been neighbors? Next door to Michael Jackson’s rented estate is a house that at one time or another was lived in by Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio, Sonny & Cher, and Burt Reynolds & Loni Anderson—talk about a house of doomed relationships!

Two Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

5)  Rodeo Drive might be one of the most famous shopping streets in the world—with exclusive boutiques like Chanel, Prada, Dior, and DeBeers—but no one actually buys anything there. Or so it seems. When our tour bus drove down the glamorous street we saw hundreds of people milling about, but not one of them was carrying a shopping bag. It was all (poor) tourists!

Marilyn Monroe’s star on the Walk of Fame

6) On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it’s possible to have up to 5 stars—one in each of the following categories: film, television, radio, recording artist, or live performance. Gene Autry is the only celebrity with all five stars. The first star  was awarded on February 9, 1960, to actress Joanne Woodward. Another piece of interesting trivia is that there are two stars for Harrison Ford—but for two different actors with the same name.

Sierra Towers, West Hollywood

7)   Lots of famous celebs live or have lived in the Sierra Towers building, the tallest in West Hollywood. Notable residents include Adam Sandler, Cher, Elton John, Joan Collins, Rob Lowe, Sidney Poitier, Robert Wagner, Evander Holyfield, Matthew Perry, and Lindsay Lohan. No wonder there’s constantly paparazzi out front!

Below are some of the celebrity homes we saw on the tour. Stay tuned for another edition of “Tourist In My Own Backyard” when I review some of the best tourist sights in L.A. and visit “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

Drew Barrymore’s house

Tom Cruise’s House

Christina Aguilera’s house

Judy Garland’s former home

Richard Simmons’ house

Saddle Ranch

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