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Santa Monica Growing Haven for Celebrities Trying to Go 'Off the Radar'


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 22, 2016 -- If you were on Santa Monica's Channel Road Sunday night, you might have noticed super-celebrities Kanye West and Kim Kardashian trying to exit Georgio Baldi, a restaurant to Hollywood's A list, and climb inside an awaiting SUV.

Chaos ensued as paparazzi clamored around the couple, who had been having a date night, it is said.

However, odds are that if you are the average Santa Monican, you didn't enter the fray that night elbowing for an autograph or a selfie.

According to Santa Monica tourism officials, the city's residents are mostly non-interventionist when it comes to the array of celebrities that appear daily in their midst, which is why big stars are popping up on city streets more often than ever.

"They can be a little more off the radar," said Jackie Alvarez of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism. "They're all around, at the Farmers Market, on Third Street, Main Street -- places where there are more locals who are good about it. They don't gawk."

Santa Monica's increasing popularity with celebrities -- and the nearly daily reports of their sightings in the press -- is boosting the reputation of the city of 93,640 as an international destination, Downtown officials said.

"Having celebrities frequent our businesses and get coverage in media is always a great boost for our brand," said Kevin Herrera. "It helps build awareness throughout the world about how beautiful a place Santa Monica is to work and play."

Bestowed with some of the laid-back charm that made Southern California beach towns famous, Santa Monica is an increasing popular haven for celebrities who want to venture from their luxurious gated estates and engage in normal life, Alvarez said.

They can take a casual stroll, window shop, gossip in a sidewalk café and go for bike ride -- all without being accosted.

Not to brag (which would be very un-Santa Monica), but big names are making an appearance so frequently in Santa Monica these days that keeping tally of each sighting is difficult.

Earlier this month, pop diva Lady Gaga set the gossip world abuzz when she was spotted motoring around the city in a friend’s classic 1968 powder-blue Chevy. It was the day after the December 11 Critics’ Choice Awards, held at Barker Hanger, a popular venue at Santa Monica Airport.

And then there are Ben-and-Jen sightings.

Between September and November, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were spotted twice at Santa Monica restaurants. They soldiered through the sidewalk crowds, looking in photographs very much like two average (although much more attractive) people estranged from each other and weighed down by their thoughts. (The two say they might reconcile; they have three daughters.)

A regular visitor, frmer governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is often seen riding, either on a bicycle or motorcycle, on the streets of the city where he owned a restaurant.

Celebrity has been a part of Santa Monica since the early 20th Century, when William Randolph Hearst built a famed mansion on Palisades Beach Road for his mistress, silent film star Marion Davies.

Such iconic 20th century figures as Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein were guests at the lavish parties held there, and Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were known to frequent the city ("Marion Davies Birthday Bash," January 6, 2016).

Hearst was followed to “the Gold Coast” by Hollywood’s A-list of that era, including legends Irving Thalberg, Harold Lloyd, J. Paul Getty and Douglas Fairbanks.

Stan Laurel lived a much more modest existence in the beach city, settling down in an Ocean Avenue apartment, where he lived until his death in 1965 (“Postcards From Ocean Avenue: Stan Laurel's Final Years,” April 1, 2011).

Celebrities still call Santa Monica home, among them Bob Dylan, who won this year's Nobel prize for literature, and legendary Mexican singer Juan Gabriel, whose death this summer made the city a household name across the Spanish-speaking world.

Jorge Casuso contributed to this article

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