Last Saturday I went back to Rodeo Drive, the place which was kind of etched in my memory from a few years back during my last visit to LA and Beverly Hills. It reeks of exclusivity and its evident to one and all who pass through, the tree lined avenues, the perfectly manicured gardens, the beautiful houses, the opulent hotels and the world's most expensive shopping street, Rodeo Drive is quite something.
Last time I came here on a Sunday so there weren't much people around but all of a sudden a gentleman dressed in a red coat stepped out of somewhere and started speaking to me in fluent Hindi, he greeted me, asked where I was from and hoped that I would enjoy my day in Beverly Hills. I was more than astonished and very much pleased to hear my language in a country far away from India. That memory has always remained with me and it is what that took me back to the place.
On reaching, I find the very familiar, portlier and older "Mr Beverly Hills" in his element on a Saturday when the place was thronging with tourists. He never let a person pass by without asking where the person came from and promptly spoke a few words in his or her language, the reaction was always one of amazement and then happiness. He gave me his usual line, 'Aap bahut sundar hain" and then added that he said the same to Ash (Aishwarya Rai) and Shabana Azmi who had come there to shop. He also put his arm around Ash and took a picture (which is usually frowned upon by Indians but she let him put the arm around), which sent me into a fit of giggles. I said that I was pleased to see him again, he promptly fished out a few brochures to show that he was the mascot of Beverly Hills and on every possible travel brochure which mentioned it.
Right across Rodeo Drive is a well known hotel, also the hotel which was featured in the movie "Pretty Woman", a group of Japs were standing there and gazing at the entrance. Mr Beverly Hills said in a loud voice "You know why those guys are standing there? They are suffering from the Pretty Woman Syndrome"! Another round of giggles from everybody and then suddenly he announced "You see this lady out here? She has come all the way from India to take a picture with me", he snatched the camera from my hands and handed it over to someone who obediently clicked. He sure knows how to get visibility!
After a highly entertaining time, I walked down the street and did some serious window shopping, all the world's fanciest shops, shops where one could shop with prior appointments only, the worlds most expensive men's clothes store (Bijan's) where only royalty, the rich and the heads of states all across the globe shop, Valentino, Chanel, Prada, van Cleef & Arpels, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Guess ... You name it, every possible upmarket store had a presence.
Finally I took this Beverly Hills Trolley Tour which was a very charming ride around the small city, the houses of the celebrities (actors), the witches house from Hansel & Gretel, the Beverly Hills Hotel which is owned by Sultan of Brunei, who forgot for a while that he owned it, the big mansions of the businessmen, the grand limos, the Ferraris and the associations of the streets with a particular movie. Beverly Hills had showbiz, glamour and affluence stamped all over it but thankfully lets us in to see it as well!