"[a] large vineyard of wild grapes and an infinity of rose bushes. After traveling about half a league we came to a village of this region. People came into the road, greeted us and offered seeds."
Friar Juan Crespí, Chaplain of the Portala expedition.
When Friar Crespí wrote in his journal this description of the first known European visit to the area in 1769, little did he know that within two hundred years this site would have become the place where some of the wealthiest people on earth go to shop. This present-day reality could not be further from the holy site of precious water and abundant food that was named by the native inhabitants The Gathering of the Waters, translated by the Spanish as El Rodeo de las Aguas. However, celebrities and the super-rich of Los Angeles still view Rodeo Drive as a luxurious tailor-made oasis.
Picture arriving in Beverly Hills nowadays, and our movie framed memories summon up the brilliant blue California sky fringed by the stately palm trees that divide the avenue and flank its sides. The central divider is planted with beds of exquisite and colorful flowers that are rotated with arrangements that complement the season.
Now a global icon of fantastic excess, Rodeo Drive’s development into the chic and exclusive shopping district that we see today was driven by the arrival of the star-studded boutique Giorgio’s in the 1960s and 70s. Its relatively limited size as a commercial district only adds to Rodeo Drive’s exclusive atmosphere. Three blocks in length, this zone of boutiques and shops runs from Wilshire Boulevard -which maps the original Indian trail followed by the Portola Expedition- to Santa Monica Boulevard, where it turns into an affluent residential zone.
The long list of fashion and design houses, premium jewelers and elite brands with a commercial presence on Rodeo Drive reads like an A-Z of luxury retailing, from Giorgio Armani to Yves Saint-Laurent, through such icons as Chanel, De Beers and Christian Dior.
With its romantic archways and balconies, fountains, and piazza re-creating the intimacy and class of an old European avenue, the Two Rodeo center is a state of the art blend of classical architectural styles. Here at this most recent addition to the boulevard, well-heeled shoppers stroll down the faux street on nostalgic cobblestones, and wrought-iron black streetlamps illuminate the polished brass fixtures and planters bursting with trees and flowers. At a cost of $200 million, this small outdoor mall ingeniously creates the illusion of two and three storey freestanding storefronts faced with brick, stone and marble. Alongside a chic sidewalk café and two posh restaurants, shoppers can browse at elite stores such as Tiffany & Co., Gianni Versace and Jimmy Choo. Such is the allure of Two Rodeo that it is next to its Spanish steps and fountain that has become the Rodeo Drive tourist photo opportunity.
The Rodeo Collection at 421 Rodeo is a marble clad and ivy draped outdoor shopping center, with a sunken atrium courtyard served by a glass elevator and which can be surveyed from two glass pyramid skylights. The five terraced levels, three below street, boast a roster of tenants such as La Perla and Montblanc as well as a host of exclusive interior design and jewelry stores.
Given its opulent pedigree and celebrity status, Rodeo Drive also features prominently on the Hollywood social calendar. One such event is the annual Concours on Rodeo, a vintage car show held on Fathers’ Day (the third Sunday in June). Free to the public, the show features a parade of vintage and luxury automobiles, live music and is also frequented by car loving celebrities like Tim Allen and Jay Leno.
Rodeo Drive may offer the briefest glimpse of a celebrity as they are whisked from a blacked-out limo to a boutique closed to all but the rich and famous. However, the more imaginative visitor is presented with an unrivalled peek behind the silver screen, an opportunity window shop on the luxurious reality of the lives led by the Hollywood aristocracy.
- Ben Stewart
Address: Beverly Hills, 90210