Look for the golden keys.
They will be on the lapel of Rick Castaneda, senior concierge at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel. What they signify is his membership of Les Clefs d’Or, the elite concierge association that has around 3,500 members globally, including just 358 in America.
At the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, Castaneda and four uniformed team members handle over 50,000 requests a year from a huge desk he likens to the fictional starship USS Enterprise.
“We have everything in these drawers,” he says, rattling off a list of bathroom, travel, and life essentials. His personal special items are collar stays, which he always has on hand to straighten a shirt or smarten up a suit.
Castaneda, 60, credits a love of cycling for his youthful looks, and now describes himself as more of a “magician” after some 25 years’ service at the Beverly Wilshire.
“I remember when my vital tools were the Thomas Guide and a huge Rolodex,” he laughs and then admits that the hotel’s first in an experiential series (based on the personas of those drawn to L.A.) is called “The Dreamer,” and it will be a challenge.
At a hefty $200,000, the same kind of price that buys one of the sleek sports cars often seen parked outside the hotel, it should be.
That kind of money brings to mind millionaire Edward (played by Richard Gere), who spent the night with his escort Vivian (Julia Roberts) in this hotel in the 1990 classic, Pretty Woman.
Castenada and his staff still get asked about it every day and it inspired the vodka and champagne Feeling Pretty cocktail, which is topped with a red rose and served over 4,000 times a year at their THEBlvd Restaurant.
Drawing on this iconic movie moment, “The Dreamer” package will see up to two guests staying for three days in one of the newly refurbished suites. Mixing old Hollywood glamor with an inspired, contemporary twist, they have floor-to-ceiling windows and double-width balconies with views of the Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills.
After breakfast the next day, they will start off being guided smoothly through their own Hollywood story, with a top-tier team treating them to the glamor of a celebrity photo shoot with renowned portrait photographer Art Streiber.
Streiber knows the Beverly Wilshire intimately, having photographed Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman at the hotel, and he has designed an exclusive, A-list portrait session complete with the lights, cameras, and action mere mortals rarely see.
The photoshoot will be catered and all location fees covered, so it can take place almost anywhere, not just in the hotel, explains Castaneda, who will already have made his first call to the guest “dreamers.”
“This part is a dance,” he says.
“I need to remain approachable yet professional, and I want the guest to know I can be here for whatever they need—and also to feel comfortable enough to have them open up and give me a true sense of who they are. What is their personality, where are they from, what do they enjoy doing in their free time?”
In a whirlwind of phone calls and near-surgical preparation, he’ll arrange a tasty welcome treat, and for a chauffeured car to be at their “beck and call.” He will also personalize their room with florals (having found out their favorite color, naturally), and assemble a playlist of their favorite music to be played during the shoot. A tour of the historic hotel is available, too.
“Portraits are very personal, so all this information will help me better understand them in order to help curate a memorable experience. This information helps me decide which stores to suggest for their shopping expedition, for which I’ll pass on an in-depth style questionnaire.”
Before the photo session, guests will head out the front door onto Rodeo Drive, just a few yards opposite, and shop with celebrity stylist Nicole Pollard Bayme of LaLaLuxe. She’ll help them find the perfect outfit for the shoot, which can be rented or bought outright for the occasion.
Then the “dreamer” will get camera-ready, sitting for a make-up session and getting their hair done by celebrity hairstylist Lea Journo before stepping in front of Streiber’s lenses.
Afterward, the hotel will roll out the red carpet for a “wrap” party in the Michelin-starred private dining room at CUT by Wolfgang Puck, with all culinary favorites—and any potential dislikes or dietary restrictions—already noted by Castenada and passed on to Chef Drew Rosenberg.
“Depending on the budget and preferences, the sky is truly the limit for any guest. I can hire paparazzi to follow them down the red carpet, arrange for a helicopter to fly them to a secret location for their shoot, and so much more. I am here to make their dreams truly become a reality!”
Soon after returning home, the guests will receive several retouched, finished portraits to go with what he hopes are “countless memories.”
Having met so many people over so many years, does he ever tire of coming to work?
“She’s a beautiful and elegant lady, Miss Beverly Wilshire,” says Castenada, with genuine feeling, “and I love my job.”
An icon on Wilshire Boulevard, the hotel has played host to countless notable names over nearly 95 years, and Castaneda admits he has been offered lucrative personal assistant positions, including by a member of a prominent Middle Eastern family.
“But no amount of money could take me away. Working here I have helped a nervous groom select a wedding ring and picked it up, played the role of Barney (Hector Elizondo) from Pretty Woman for a couple of fans of the movie, and had a private in-room singing lesson from a legendary musician.”
“Dreamer” or not, Castenada happily offered a couple of insider tips about must-see places in Los Angeles.
“The Getty Museum in Malibu is stunning, but the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, which is located in a house in Holmby Hills, has artworks including Picasso, Rothko, Warhol, and many others, is a hidden gem,” he reveals. “There’s also the Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills, which has plants from around the world. It was the first house in Beverly Hills, and it had the first tennis court. All the celebrities of the day came there to play.”
Naturally, he will be able to make a call and get you a reservation. Just look for the golden keys.
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