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HOLLYWOOD NOW

Conspicuous Consumption

Power Spots and Their Dominant Species

March 22, 1998|ANNE BEATTS | Anne Beatts writes a regular humor column, "Beatts Me!" for The Times' Sunday Life & Style section. Her last piece for the magazine was about the mystique of eyes

There's no people like show people; they lunch when they are low. Thus almost every restaurant in Los Angeles, including In-N-Out Burgers, is a "Hollywood" restaurant in the sense that some celebrity has probably stopped in at some time in its history. But there's lunch, and then there's Lunch--the kind of meal where at least one of the participants has an agenda, whether it's cutting a cushy studio deal or simply demonstrating that, yes, you can eat lunch in this town again. Knowing who goes where, when and why is a survival tactic in a world where the rule is dine or be dined out on, along with the latest gossip about Anna Nicole Smith.

Celebrities, like herd animals, tend to band together for comfort. Each breed--the stars, the agents, the studio heads--has its favorite watering holes, though they never stray too far afield. Certain establishments enjoy their 15 minutes of fame and then recede faster than Kevin Costner's hairline. Others remain on the Hollywood restaurant star map for decades.

The following is a highly subjective catalog of spots where the elite meet to eat. Like all anthropological studies, it's flawed by the presence of the anthropologist. Would the Samoans have behaved the same way if Margaret Mead hadn't been around to study them? We'll never know.

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SPAGO BEVERLY HILLS: At Spago, everything old is new again, though I'm not positive that applies to the clientele. At lunchtime, it's very much a place for the business of show business. Table-hopping does transpire, but it's relatively subdued--no one wants to interrupt a deal in the making. Marvin Davis has his own special chair, and I can't picture him getting out of it until he's finished eating. At lunch recently, Tony Curtis and Robert Shapiro are at the next table, not far from William Morris chief Norman Brokaw, within hailing distance of mogul Kirk Kerkorian. Polite nods are exchanged all around. It's not a stuffy place, but Spago's renown weighs almost as heavy as the gold jewelry on some of the lunching ladies, all cast in the "Barbie Grandma" mold. Expansion frequently spells death in the restaurant business, but Spago Beverly Hills has survived, perhaps because the service and the food remain consistently good. Spago is every tourist's idea of a "show biz" restaurant. All the more amazing that it actually is a show biz restaurant.

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MORTONS: Mortons is the kind of place where, when Sumner Redstone or Ron Perelman or Frank Biondi shows up, the staff recognizes not only the name on the American Express card but also the face. It's a place where players go to be stroked. One typical Monday, I bump into Marvin Davis again. Jackie Collins and producer George Schlatter huddle a hard roll's toss away, not that you'd dream of tossing a hard roll in today's Mortons. This incarnation has a clubby feel to it, with comfortable banquettes and flattering lighting that's just a little too low to show off the admirable '80s art. Uber-manager Sandy Gallin, producer Leonard Goldberg and his wife, Wendy, and DreamWorks' Dan McDermott often stop in after a hard day of deal-making. If you want to catch Jeffrey Katzenberg, try Tuesdays. Mortons recently pulled together a major Motown anniversary party for Suzanne de Passe on a week's notice--that's the kind of thing you can expect when you're a regular. When Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche attracted a horde of paparazzi, they were protected on their way out by a flying wedge of waiters. Now, that's service.

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2424 PICO: A trendy restaurant in an area where there aren't any, 2424 is a new kid in town that draws a dining crowd as eclectic as its cooking: Michael Keaton, Steven Bochco, Dustin Hoffman and Cindy Crawford have all eaten there, not necessarily together. It's an easy run from Fox for dinner, and if it's the driver's day off, 2424 Pico may be the only in joint that has its own parking lot. On a rainy Friday night, the place is jampacked with young people in damp black with that "I'm-not-famous-yet-but-wait-'til-next-year-at-Sundance" look. If this restaurant had a queen, Parker Posey would be it. The wine list is interesting, the food tries too hard to be, and the service is, shall we say, independent. But should you want to hook up with the next hot young Brit who hasn't been discovered this side of the Atlantic, 2424 could be the place to look.

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