The Sunset Strip never fails. Though this particular stretch of WeHo looks more like SoHo these days, what with how the sun ricochets off all the scaffolding. The construction is incessant, but that’s what happens when a place is as steeped in history as this: it builds off its own heat, up and out until you can’t move an inch without seeing a hard hat.
The beauty of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood though – somewhere around N. Olive and La Cienega – is that the streets ooze all that Old Hollywood charm, but with modern amenities. The Mondrian Los Angeles, which just underwent its own $19 million-dollar renovation, pulses in the heart of it all. Even valet is a scene.
Wanting to check out the makeover, we had the brilliant idea of a doing a day and night of the old and the new on The Strip.
We checked in early enough to catch some sunlight by the Mondrian pool. There’s a beautiful casita known as Sky Bar wrapped in flora, and a little outdoor restaurant, Ivory on Sunset; the views are miraculously unbothered by all the economic growth. After a dip, we headed up to one of the glorious new suites, which are as spacious and appointed as they get, even for glamour puss Los Angeles. A cartwheel would be appropriate; it’s big enough. There’s also a full wet bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing us to continue oohing and aahing at the view.
Right across the way from the Mondrian we hit The Comedy Store, where the top comedians come to work out material and shock the crowd (luckily, we’re not easily offended). The photographic evidence lines the walls of the foyer: Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard…the legends. Even if you don’t catch someone with a “name” (which is pretty unlikely), the cover and two drink minimum won’t be in vain.
We grabbed a seat close to the stage, but not too close. On any given night Harland Williams (aka the serial killer in Something About Mary) will be there doing crowd work for his entire set. You don’t want to get caught in his line of fire…though it’s truly hilarious when someone else does.
Before the comedy and after the pool, we did an old school happy hour at The Sunset Trocadero. (It opens at 6pm.) Don’t be tempted by Cabo Cantina, even though the margaritas are decent and come two at a time. It’s a tourist trap. So is the Saddle Ranch Chop House, though that might actually be worth a visit. After all, where else can you ride a mechanical bull in Los Angeles? Nowhere, pretty sure.
The Trocadero, though, feels like it dates back to the birth of The Strip. Wood-lined bar and paneled walls, friendly bartenders, seafood cocktail, filet mignon tips and sashimi toast appetizers. It’s a locals destination – though it once was schmooze central for the likes of Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow and Judy Garland. Plus, if you catch the timing right and snag a seat on the patio, you’ll see the sun glisten on those multi-million dollar celebrity homes nestled into the Hollywood Hills, and wonder how the hell someone gets that rich when the rest of LA is moving to Highland Park. Real estate, like The Industry, is everything in this town.
Speaking of real estate, The Mondrian of course finds itself in the primest of spots for travelers, or in our case, staycationers. After cry-laughing at The Comedy Store, or getting looks and martinis (both slightly dirty) at Chateau Marmont, or riding the bull or doing whatever else Sunset Boulevard can throw at you, plopping into those incredibly comfortable Mondrian beds feels as close as you’ll get to Heaven while still within the borders of the 90069 area code. But not before we raided the mini bar for fancy chocolate-covered almonds. And took a luxurious rain water shower. And got a little nostalgic and tuned in to network TV. The world was our oyster at the Mondrian!
In the morning, we took breakfast by the pool at the Ivory on Sunset, and made one last trip up the Strip for shopping at the lovely Book Soup and then Fred Segal. Though we would strenuously recommend staying in bed and just ordering room service, while taking in the view of all the soon-to-be high rises next door. Because really, what’s more L.A. than that?