Want to come face-to-face with Jennifer Aniston or James Franco? Julie Miller names five of the best ways to spot a celeb in Los Angeles.
I've been visiting LA for 15 years and not once had a brush with fame. Unless you count the actor who played Greg from The Brady Bunch, and I'm not sure he rates. I, like so many others, hate to admit that I'm celebrity obsessed ... but just once, I want to be able to say, "I met so-and-so and, gee, he's much shorter than he looks on film".
On my latest visit to La La Land, I decided to take chance out of the equation. Hollywood stars, after all, are real people - they need to work, eat, sleep and play. So what better way to spot a star than by stalking them in their everyday life?
Here are five ways to see a celebrity, guaranteed. Just don't quote me on that.
1. Do a star-spotting tour
For reporters working on celebrity gossip TV show TMZ, it's their job to track down stars and film them as they play, party and are arrested. So why not invite the public along on their daily mission, making a sweet buck on the side? Starline's hugely popular TMZ Hollywood Tour is a little like a safari around popular celebrity haunts in the vague hope one will pop out and say hi. Apparently, it's happened - Cee Lo Green, seen buying a Rolls-Royce, jumped on board the TMZ tram to greet fans. The tour is fun and trashy, with clips from the show blaring from a TV screen. The tour guides are actual reporters, armed with video cameras "just in case". tmz.com/tour.
CELEBRITY COUNT Zero. Though the executive producer of TMZ and a star in his own right, Harvey Levin, did turn up to greet our tour. I had no idea who he was.
2. Do a studio tour
Forget Universal Studios - that's just Hollywood. The real stars are at work at Warner Bros, the world's busiest motion picture and television studio. This little-known backlot tram tour takes you among sets, stages and props of famous movies and TV shows, including series in production such as True Blood, Pretty Little Liars and Hart of Dixie, as well as past the sound stages for talk shows Ellen and Conan. According to our tour leader, these two hosts are the most likely to be seen: Ellen Degeneres once "kidnapped" a tram as a stunt, while Conan O'Brien is more than happy to stop and shoot the breeze. The Warner Bros tour is a fascinating insight into film and television history, with visits to the largest props store in the world; the "retired" set of Friends's Central Perk; the actual working set of The Big Bang Theory; a car museum featuring three Batmobiles and Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino; and a movie memorabilia museum. wbstudiotour.com.
CELEBRITY COUNT Zero. Most series were in spring hiatus during my visit. I did photograph DeGeneres's car space, however.
3. Stay in a hip hotel
It seems some stars don't have homes - they prefer to stay in West Hollywood hotels. The magnificent Chateau Marmont's long-term residents have, over the years, included Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Robert De Niro and Keanu Reeves, while starlets such as Lindsay Lohan and Christina Ricci are regulars at the hotel's restaurant and bar (Lohan is also known to frequent the fabulous Roosevelt Hotel, channelling her heroine, Monroe, by staying in her old bedroom).
Plenty of stars also love to be seen lounging around at the Mondrian's SkyBar, whose rooftop swimming pool was recently reopened after extensive renovation.
The latest West Hollywood celeb lure is the extremely cool Palihouse, a quirky boutique hotel owned by entrepreneur Avi Brosch.
Set around a Melrose Place-like community courtyard, it offers long and short residential stays in spacious crash pads for eccentric writer/producer types.
The dimly lit lobby bar features regular sessions by celebrity DJs and has been known to attract Gerard Butler and Rose McGowan. palihouse.com.
CELEBRITY COUNT Zero. Though that man casually wandering through the Palihouse Cafe in his dressing gown was too scruffy not to be famous.
4. Dine at a Hollywood haunt
While attention-seeking B-listers make a point of being seen at paparazzi-surrounded restaurants such as The Ivy, Mr Chow and Nobu, Hollywood power players and privacy-loving stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Sean Penn, James Franco and Johnny Depp prefer the low-key intimacy and high security at the Tower Bar, Sunset Tower Hotel. This elegant, old-school restaurant with walnut panelling, white linen-covered tables, a jazz pianist and waiters wearing traditional white jackets is, according to owner Jeff Klein, "an elegant safe haven for the players, where a duchess can be a devil, and a celebrity can dine with his family one night and his mistress the next". Stars deemed out of place, such as Britney Spears and P. Diddy, have been known to be turned away, while a ban on media leaks about celebrity high-jinks or high-profile business meetings is strictly enforced. With a retro menu including a shrimp cocktail, filet mignon and even a build-it-yourself sundae list, a meal here is as much an institution as the landmark hotel. sunsettowerhotel.com.
CELEBRITY COUNT Zero. But it was a Friday night, apparently a no-go zone for celebs. If all else fails ...
5. Go to Coachella
So that's where all the celebrities were! My weekend in Los Angeles clashed with the world-famous rock festival Coachella, held at Palm Springs over two weekends in April. And with headline acts in 2012 including Radiohead, Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, the Black Keys and our own Gotye, as well as a posthumous performance by rapper 2Pac, it's little wonder Katy Perry, Rihanna, Emma Roberts, Lindsay Lohan and Vanessa Hudgens made a beeline for the mosh pit. Rumoured acts for 2013 include the Rolling Stones, Lana del Rey, Fiona Apple and Daft Punk. coachella.com.
CELEBRITY COUNT Countless, apparently. Only I wasn't there. Hollywood, I forgive you - it wasn't your fault. Just make sure stars are on call next time we cross paths.
Julie Miller was a guest of United Airlines and Visit West Hollywood.
Getting there: United Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles. united.com.
Staying there: A one-bedroom apartment at the Palihouse Hotel costs from $US350 ($330). palihouse.com.