It almost didn't happen, but the 80th Annual Academy Awards is back on track. Hollywood is scurrying to pull itself together following the Writer's Guild strike.
While award seats have long been allocated and guest lists topped off, Oscar season offers a red-hot opportunity to see the inner workings of Hollywood, even for those lacking an actual ticket to the Kodak Theater.
For those that want to live like a true Oscar nominee, there's a new array of hotels, restaurants and exhibits that allow you to get up-close and personal with the white lights of paparazzi and inner workings of Tinseltown.
Thompson Beverly Hills
Nothing says Hollywood like a makeover; and hotels are no different than stars. Formerly the Radisson Beverly Pavilion, complete with cottage-cheese ceilings and noisy plumbing, this designer adult playground has been debuted by
Thompson Hotels and Jason Pomeranc (60 Thompson, Hollywood Roosevelt) a short catwalk away from the shops of Beverly and Rodeo Drives.
The lobby features the West Coast's first outpost of BondSt sushi restaurant, decorated in a whimsical nod to '80s hedonism, patronized by local agents and their starlet arm candy. Although a little chilly in February, a private rooftop bar and pool lounge is perfect for ab-flexing and swimsuit show-offs.
Budget Luxury Collection
You are what you drive. Nothing is more humiliating than arriving to a 1 p.m. lunch at
The Ivy in a nurse-white colored
with window bar code and Enterprise Rental license-plate holder.
Book yourself a new Bentley Continental, Porsche Targa, or Maserati Quattroporte at Beverly Hills' premiere upscale car-rental location. While rates vary between several hundred and several thousand dollars per day, the added cachet of a fly-ride may get you faster entrance to the area's hot nightclubs and prime restaurants.
Julian Schnabel at the Gagosian Gallery
One of America's preeminent art galleries offers its annual Oscar showcase, this year celebrating the life and work of
Julian Schnabel. Many know Schnabel for his recent work at the
Gramercy Park Hotel and as director of the Oscar-nominated
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Returning to his artistic roots, Schnabel exhibits his latest series of work highlighting the themes of sexuality, obsession and suffering. The showcase utilizes a diversity of materials including broken plates, Kabuki backdrops, and hospital X-rays dating from the early 20th century.
Mauro's at Fred Segal
Paris Hilton and the rest of the paparazzi gang may be at The Ivy, but Mauro's at Fred Segal is Hollywood's star-studded cafeteria. Located in the center building of the Fred Segal complex on Melrose, this one-room café is a local legend for starving starlets indulging in creamy bowls of porcini pasta, Caesar salad and homemade soups. On any given day a mixture of
Ryan Goslings and
Lindsay Lohans make their way to the cozy tables, covered in white paper and tablecloths, in a dining room lined with iconic black-and-white images of Hollywood's past and present.
If you've ever flipped through the pages of
US Magazine's fashion roundup, you've inevitably seen the vintage couture pieces offered at Decades. A two-store boutique accessed via doorbell and private security leads to a treasure trove of custom vintage designs from
Katie Holmes recently wore one of their vintage Lanvin dresses to a local premiere and made one of the biggest splashes of the season. The staff assists in fashionable history lessons as well as preventing you from mixing up your Pucci and your Gucci.
Just don't mess with the covered racks reserved for top-notch stylists pulling for stars like
Nicole Kidman and
Kinara Day Spa
Located on a furniture and gay bar-laden strip of West Hollywood, the Patina Group's Christine Splichal and Yugoslavian skin expert Olga Lorencin offer this boutique day spa, beauty center and macrobiotic café.
The two-story structure features a front boutique with extensive collection of beauty products favored by celebrities like
Hilary Swank and
Kate Beckinsale. Upstairs is the central spa area, which offers the signature Kinara custom facial individually created for each customer's skin type. The process custom-blends ingredients and remedies chosen to enhance deep pore cleansing, exfoliation, face firming, and skin moisturizing.
It feels a bit like an office park, but it happens to be the headquarters of one of Hollywood's top talent agencies,
CAA. Two iconic aluminum-clad skyscrapers frame a new center courtyard where
Tom Colicchio created the West Coast outpost of Craft.
A combination of businessmen and fast-talking agents devour sizzling steak specialties as waif actresses toss their entrée salads around oversize white plates. It was rumored to be the new location of the annual Vanity Fair post-Oscar bash, but the party was canceled due to the writers' strike. Lucky for everyone else, it's open to us all on Oscar night.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.