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Beverly Hills vs. West Hollywood : It's the 'Mummy' vs. the 'Underdog' in Battle for Trendy Shoppers, Diners

May 30, 1988|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

As rivalries go, it's not up there with the Dodgers and the Giants or even Donald Regan and Nancy Reagan.

But Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, which have coexisted fairly peacefully for decades, have by some accounts developed an escalating competition for restaurant-goers, shoppers and just plain attention since West Hollywood incorporated four years ago and began an aggressive image-building campaign.

In this burgeoning contest, ground gained is measured not only in dollars and cents, but in who is seen where. The winner gets to come back and compete the next day. So does the loser.

"We're now, as the underdog, beginning to take away some of the attention and disturb some of the smugness of Beverly Hills," said Rick Cole, executive director of the West Hollywood Marketing Corp., which promotes the 1.9-square-mile city with an annual budget of $400,000.

"Beverly Hills has become a kind of mummified version of itself," Cole said. "It has become the Mt. Sinai for the living."

"There's something about imitation and flattery," joked Michael Sims, executive vice president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.

"We consider ourselves an island in Los Angeles," he said. "We don't put a list on the wall and say this is our enemies list, and West Hollywood is right up there. . . . We're concerned about competition from a lot of sources."

The battlegrounds are well known. West Hollywood sports part of trendy Melrose and the Sunset Strip. Beverly Hills boasts Rodeo Drive and the glitzy shops and department stores of Wilshire Boulevard. West Hollywood eats at Trumps, Spago, Mortons, Chasen's, Le Dome and Tail of the Pup among others. Beverly Hills dines at such places as the Bistro and Bistro Garden, the Grill, La Scala, the Polo Lounge, Il Giardino and Il Cielo.

West Hollywood boosters claim that it has gained the upper hand in the restaurant and bar arena. West Hollywood eating and drinking establishments edged out those in Beverly Hills during 1986, doing $97 million worth of business to Beverly Hills' $96 million.

But for the first nine months of 1987, the most recent statistics available, West Hollywood widened its lead. West Hollywood's 144 eating and drinking establishments took in $78.5 million while the 159 in Beverly Hills did $70.5 million.

Beverly Hills, however, contends that its restaurants lost substantial amounts of business--estimated between 15% and 30%--during the four months last year that the city had an ill-fated no-smoking ordinance. That law was replaced by a requirement that restaurants have separate smoking sections. "I would say there was a significant aberration," Sims said.

"I never even thought about it (a rivalry) before," said Bob Spivak, managing partner of the Grill and president of the Beverly Hills Restaurant Assn. "Maybe it's the people trying to knock off the ones who are on top."

Says It Tops Disneyland

Countered Peter Morton of Mortons in West Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles: "I don't really consider it much of a rivalry. In West Hollywood you have Mortons, Spago . . . Le Dome. I don't think you could make an equal comparison in Beverly Hills."

In retailing, Beverly Hills is still way ahead in dollar volume, but West Hollywood contends that it is taking an edge as a trend setter. Beverly Hills, of course, disputes that.

"I don't think there is a rivalry," said Francine Bardo, manager of Hermes on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where the average price of a purse is $2,000. "To have a rivalry you have to be the same and compete for the same customers. It's not a rivalry but certainly a very good emulation from one to the other.

Behind the high-priced muck that each side is not above lobbing lie two very different cities and images that both towns are working hard to promote.

Beverly Hills, whose official slogan is "the Garden Spot of the World," is known internationally as a playground of the rich and famous. Movies such as "Beverly Hills Cop" and the cachet of Rodeo Drive have made the area a huge tourist draw, bringing in more visitors a year than Disneyland, the city claims.

"I think what makes a difference to us when compared to West Hollywood is the international traveler, which is probably 20% of our business," Sims said. "Most of our marketing efforts are geared toward positioning Beverly Hills as an international city."

To help promote its glittery image, Beverly Hills is spending $1.6 million on its 75th Diamond Jubilee anniversary celebration that starts July 3. Planned for the 14-month extravaganza are opening ceremonies produced by Radio City Music Hall Productions, a holiday pageant with multiple Santas and real reindeer, a Rose Parade float and a network television special. Beverly Hills jeweler Harry Winston is creating a diamond-studded slice of birthday cake for the occasion.

Beverly Hill's neighbor to the east bills itself as "The Creative City," or, less officially, "The Left Bank of Beverly Hills."

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