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Al Martinez

Life in the Golden Triangle

June 05, 1986|AL MARTINEZ

I spent a few days in Beverly Hills. I was there not because I was kicked out of the house (I just sleep on the porch when that happens) but because I fell prey to a campaign by the Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau to while away some time in the Golden Triangle.

Thanks to the combined effects of Arab terrorism and Russian radiation, the Westside expects to see a bumper crop of tourists this summer from across the United States.

Folks from Hazlehurst, Ga., and Bald Knob, Ark., who have been living on tuna casseroles since 1978 in order to afford that one big vacation of their lives, have apparently decided to skip Europe and remain instead within the borders of Ronald Reagan's America.

No one wants to end up as part of the wallpaper in a foreign airport or glowing in the dark under a pink Chernobyl cloud.

Tourist-oriented cities across the country are naturally trying to cash in on the fear and loathing that abounds in the world, and Beverly Hills is in there pitching right along with everyone else.

Even Culver City, which is a Gothic community roughly south of where God shops, is putting up a spunky little campaign to attract those who prefer a Motel 6 and a Sizzler to the Beverly Hilton and L'Escoffier.

I chose Beverly Hills roughly for the same reason Nick Nolte probably would not star in a movie called "Down and Out in Culver City."

Another reason I decided to stay there is that Beverly Hills, aware of Southern California's persistent summer smog problem, imports its air fresh daily from a secret place in the Andes, while Culver City at best can afford only bottled air from Fresno.

The Beverly Hilton was not my first choice, but at least it offered a corporate rate, and since I am going to have trouble enough with my expense account, I decided against a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The psychology here, you see, is that our accounting department now knows I would have preferred the Beverly Hills Hotel to the Beverly Hilton and will therefore assume I was probably not having a good time where I was.

It is important in newspapering that we not seem to enjoy those activities for which we expect the company to pay.

Ergo, I am quick to say that our $140-a-night room, while adequate, was below the expectations offered in a tourist brochure.

I did not, for instance, "snuggle into a suite bursting with fresh-cut flowers" or "sink into a perfumed bath."

I think part of the reason I was not given that kind of a room at the Hilton was that I was suffering from a sinus infection which tends to give me the puffy appearance of an old drunk, and they are not going to waste cut flowers and perfumed bath water on old drunks.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she said perhaps it would have been better had I worn something other than my corduroy jacket with the elbow patches.

Maybe she was right, because when we tried to get on an elevator later, a hotel security guard would not let us ride in the same car with composer Burt Bacharach.

I probably would have put up a fight except that the guard was 6 feet 8 and no doubt fearless, while I am small and afraid.

"If he'd have known who I was he would have let us on," I assured my wife.

"If he'd have known who you were he might have thrown us out of the hotel," she said.

Naw. Beverly Hills is actually a polite and friendly city--unless, of course, you are trying to turn left off Wilshire on a yellow light, in which case it may be as close to terrorism as you are likely to come.

I especially liked shopping at Giorgio, where a man can sip a little complimentary white wine while his wife looks over the merchandise.

This so pleased me, in fact, that I wanted to reciprocate by pleasing Giorgio, so I asked a clerk to wrap up a couple of those small bottles of perfume.

She said, "Two one-ounce bottles, sir?"

That seemed such a small amount, I asked, "How much for a whole pound?"

The question seemed to confuse her so I stayed with the two one-ounce bottles. When she said, "That will be $319.50," I felt a stabbing pain run from my brain to my wallet and for a moment I thought I might pass out on the floor.

My wife has often warned me that I should always ask the price before I order, based upon an experience in a Marriott hotel where a snifter of Louis XIII cognac cost me $50.

I didn't have the nerve not to buy the perfume, however, so I gave the clerk a credit card and ordered another free glass of chilled white wine which, by way of its seductive appeal, ended up costing me $159.75 a glass.

The Bank of America is just going to have to wait for its mortgage payment this month, but we don't care. To show our utter disdain, we dined that night at the Rangoon Racquet Club, which is going to come as another shock to the accounting department.

I never did like living small, so let the good times roll. And to hell with tuna casseroles.

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