Imagine it’s getting on toward lunchtime, and you and your mom and your siblings, who all share your first initial, are feeling a gnawing sensation around the midsection. Imagine that they hunger, as you do, for not just a grilled vegetable salad with fresh Maine lobster ($39.75) but for the kind of attention that can be paid only by a phalanx of paparazzi with telephoto lenses.
You hop into your Range Rover and head for the Ivy, jammed between designer boutiques on Robertson Boulevard. There, videographers from the Web site X17 (among others who’ve taken up permanent residence across the street) dutifully capture your repast on the brick patio that’s dotted with white umbrellas and ringed by a quaint picket fence. Within hours, images of you appear on YouTube beneath the headline: “The Kardashians Cause Total Chaos at the Ivy.” Ah, another satisfying meal!
The famous and aspiring have long used the tiny cottage’s alfresco deck as a conduit to the tabloids. Want to quell rumors that your marriage is on the rocks? Book a table out front and make eyes at each other. (You’re actors, right? You can sell it.) Want to show pregnancy hasn’t ruined your figure? Don that wrap dress and work it.
Paris Hilton has frequented this Ivy (there’s another in Santa Monica) with her latest boy toys. (“He makes her happy!” the U.K.’s Daily Mail announced in a headline that topped photos of Hilton’s 2013 lunch with a Spanish model.) Athletes, too, have joined the parade. (“So precious!” gushed bossip.com in 2014, when running back Reggie Bush dined outside with wife Lilit Avagyan and daughter Briseis.) And then there are the models. (“Kendall Jenner Stuns in a Striped Crop Top & Culottes at the Ivy,” blared perezhilton.com last year.) A steady stream of such items makes the Ivy seem like the commissary for all boldface names—even another Kardashian.
Of course, as with any ingenue, the restaurant’s allure has frayed a bit in its 33 years. Jenner’s appearance made Perez Hilton recall the good ol’ days when the Ivy was “always packed with celebs. We’d nearly forgotten about it.” But its reputation for drawing A- (or B- or C-) listers remains intact outside L.A., as I learned while eating there once myself.
I was seated on the patio, waiting to meet with a group of publicists, when I noticed a sunburned family—mom, dad, and two teens, a boy and a girl—at the next table. Tourists, for sure, I thought, as I watched them scan the place for familiar faces. When my lunch partners arrived, I turned away. Suddenly there was a tug at my sleeve. The teenage girl stood over me. “Can…can I have your autograph?” she stuttered, offering a pad and pen. I’m rarely speechless, but now I was. My autograph?
“I’m sorry,” I said after way too long a pause. “Who do you think I am?” By this point everyone around us was staring. “Um, Téa Leoni?” she asked miserably. You’ll have to trust me on this, but alas, I look nothing like Leoni. I tried to be gentle as I broke the news—“I’m not her”—before the girl fled, stricken. Only later did I see that my autograph seeker, in her embarrassment, had run right by the actress Lara Flynn Boyle.