HOLLYWOOD'S STYLE STORY

  • Back in 1939, this is where the Munchkins are said to have run riot. Standing, monolith-like, in the centre of Culver City, the Culver Hotel is the red-bricked birthplace of a whirlwind world of style, glamour and fame; one that can be summarised in one language-defying, globally understood word: Hollywood.

  • In the 1920s, studio giants MGM and RKO set themselves up in Culver City, keen to exploit California’s cheap land and 329 days a year of film-friendly sunshine. The Culver Hotel became a home-away-from-home for the likes of Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton and Ronald Reagan, as well as the 124 actors who played The Wizard of Oz’s Munchkin townsfolk. The level of mischief they apparently got up to during their four-week stay still stands out in Hollywood folklore.

  • It’s this star-studded history that makes Culver City the perfect starting point for our journey. In 1949, MGM star Clark Gable was one of the first Americans to buy a newly imported Jaguar XK120. As Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Steve McQueen and Charlton Heston followed his lead, it helped imbue Jaguar with a sense of Hollywood glamour to match its already well-proven record for performance. We’ve brought the modern Jaguar XFR to Los Angeles to explore this Hollywood passion for glamorous, sought-after style, and learn how it’s evolving into a new vogue that – like the XFR itself – is all about a more refined, intelligent display of luxury thinking.

  • The XFR feels a perfect fit for modern Hollywood. Press the glowing start button, and the air vents open theatrically, turning the leather-clad cabin into an air-conditioned sanctuary from the 27C heat outside. LA’s traffic is legendary, but a quick twist of the JaguarDrive Selector means the six-speed automatic transmission can take the strain, while still allowing us to tap the XFR’s raw potential when needed. Clark Gable, who raved about his XK120 in the pages of Road & Track magazine, saying: “to call the XK my favourite car is putting it mildly”, would no doubt approve.

  • Culver City is undergoing something of a 21st Century rebirth. The booming Town Plaza district is attracting Hollywood hipsters tired of the lavish venues and tacky tourist spots to the north. A few blocks away, the white art deco of the former Helm’s Bakery is home to a wealth of high-end furniture stores, galleries and bistros with a fresh take on traditional cuisine. Here you can buy an Eames lounge chair at Room & Board, then dine on contemporary Asian dishes with an American twist at Beacon – all thanks to the imagination of Kazuto Matsusaka, a former chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois and LA starlet staple Spago. Even the hot-dog stands in Culver City use free-range, grass-fed organic beef. It’s the first evidence of a new Hollywood philosophy that a carefully considered less is worth a lot more.

  • Eager to avoid the opulent, old-school feel of some of the Beverley Hills’ more famous traditional haunts, we head to the Thompson Beverly Hills. Just off the main drag of Wilshire Boulevard, it feels pleasantly hidden away. Celebrated designer Dodd Mitchell – a key player in Hollywood’s modern renaissance – has helped Thompson transplant its sophisticated, moody New York-chic to California with a still-fresh redesign. The ebonized hardwood floors and dark brown leather and wood fixtures in the expansive rooms feel wonderfully homely, and are a perfect welcoming match for the hand-crafted Warm Charcoal and London Tan trim in our equally spacious XFR.

  • The place to dine on La Cienega Boulevard is Koi – a restaurant that is one of Hollywood’s current hotspots, its dark candlelit, Zen-like interior making it a popular haunt for the likes of George Clooney, Jennifer Garner and Leonardo DiCaprio. Here we sample several of Koi’s signature Asian fusion dishes – a salmon carpaccio with black truffles and citrus sauce, Kobe beef carpaccio with yuzo vinaigrette and Koi’s acclaimed geleno spicy tuna rolls  – which helped make Koi, in the words of USA Today: “a big fish in the rarefied world of Hollywood hotspots”.

  • The next day, we head to Hollywood itself and the Mondrian, part of the HIP Hotels collection. The celebrated Ian Schrager resting spot, on the apex of Sunset Boulevard, has recently undergone an extensive makeover by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, who has taken the original Philippe Starck design and made it even more welcoming. Huge scarlet mirrors dominate the rooms, which, when lit by red neon, give the stark white decor the feel of a playful boudoir. It’s tempting to take up the Mondrian’s offer to buy the entire contents of your room if you like it enough.

  • One of the top venues for Hollywood’s younger jetset is Katsuya. Located just off the Walk Of Fame, it features a dark geisha-themed Philippe Starck design of giant pouting lips and fluttering eyes. It’s a dark, provocative contrast to the flagship Brentwood location in which Hollywood’s power-brokers dine, but it perfectly suits Hollywood’s lively vibe. As one of the staff jokes: “Brentwood is where the people who write Hollywood’s cheques eat; this is where the stars come to cash them.” But, whichever location you’re at, the cuisine of master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi – dishes such as Kobe teppanyaki beef, fresh Spanish mackerel sashimi and panko-encrusted chicken – more than lives up to its reputation.

  • The night we’re there, acclaimed TV drama Mad Men is holding its gala red carpet premiere just a few blocks away. Hollywood’s famous faces are out in force, and as we climb into our XFR for the drive back to the hotel, the vibrant interior phosphor blue mood lighting of the centre console and instrument panel is lit up by a chorus of paparazzi flash bulbs. Sadly it’s not for us, but one thing is clear. On our journey through the hotspots of Hollywood style, the Jaguar XFR has been the perfect companion. Stylish, refined, ever-ready to perform and comfortable to work with. If it were an actor, it would be a director’s dream casting. Yes, in this Hollywood story, it’s the car that has emerged as the star.

  • Photography by Anton Watts

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