I have never, ever been more aware of my inadequacies as a bloke. Yeah, yeah: I knew I had chicken legs, and I’ve suspected for a while I could pass for a bloke with kids (I have none) because I’m developing, well… a dad bod. But it’s not till I walk through the doors of the world’s sexiest gym, with the world’s sexiest clientele, that I understand how beautiful people just look different

My trainer says he can start my transformation, and I’m banking on it that he can. But as I lower into my first squat, I’m worried I just don’t belong in Hollywood. West Hollywood, that is: LA’s hippest post code, 4.9 square kilometres of fantasy-land. Here’s where you’ll find the coolest bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels and boutiques in the whole USA. And gyms. Especially this one, Dogpound, where famous people come to look like famous people: tight, taut, terrific super-humans. Spiderman (Tom Holland) owns part of it, along with that bloke with the famous triceps, Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. There are free protein shakes on arrival, and fluffy white towels anywhere you plan to sweat. There’s a boxing ring in the middle; Rocky meets The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It’s so Hollywood that it’s actually across the road from the headquarters of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

I leave Dogpound feeling not conquered, but as a conqueror. This town may point out one’s deficiencies, but nowhere on Earth makes you feel so confident you can overcome every one of them. West Hollywood is the place stars come to fix themselves, and if it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me. I’m banking a mancation on it.

I’m booked on a program of uber-hip wellness within an environment of uber-hip coolness (is it hip to say uber-hip?), which starts the moment I check in. Chance the Rapper, I’m informed, is staying at my hotel. I assume he’s the skinny guy in the baseball cap surrounded by the entourage of big blokes in sweat pants, but the last rapper I knew by sight was Vanilla Ice, circa 1993. I’m staying at The Pendry on Sunset Strip: here there’s a rooftop pool, and a rooftop pool bar with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant beside it. It has complimentary guitar rental and a code word to tell your barman to spike your welcome drink (how very Hollywood). 

Far more importantly, for me at least, it has one of California’s top-rated medi-spas, Youth Haus, on its fourth floor. Minutes after checking in, a registered nurse is administering an IV drip of methionine, inositol and choline into my arm, to assist with weight loss. It’s half the price of Dogpound and requires a thousandth the effort, which suits me fine.

When I’m done, I stroll 300 metres down Sunset Boulevard to work next on the 40 muscles in my face. FaceGym – invented in London but better suited to West Hollywood’s prettier people – is marketed as a facelift without surgery. “This is a work-out, you’ll feel it,” my therapist says. “The tension in your face droops everything, you’ll feel the release, you’ll see the release.” The 40-minute workout goes from slow, soft repetitive massage strokes across my face, to an all-out sculpting session on my jaw and cheek bones with a handheld pulse machine. Eventually, I’m dribbling in the chair, my face shaking uncontrollably. “Feel the release,” the therapist repeats like a mantra. And I do. My jaw (I’m a grinder, I even wear a splint at night) feels slacker and my cheekbones look like Johnny Depp’s. “It drains your lymphatic system, sculpts your face muscles – you’ll see the lift for about 10 days,” she says. 

Thank God I’m in the cultural and entertainment heart of LA then. My hotel is centrally located – and West Hollywood is one of this city’s only true pedestrian destinations. It’s 30 metres across the road to The Comedy Store where the likes of Robin Williams got their starts, and not much further to clubs like Whiskey A Go Go which helped launch The Doors and Guns N’ Roses and the American career of Led Zeppelin. 

Two blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the most prominent (and colourful) gay villages in the US – it’s LA’s most vibrant LGBTQ neighbourhood, with the liveliest bar scene in California. The best rooftop bars are found within a kilometre of The Pendry, all with views out to the Hollywood Hills. Though I’ve been told stars frequent nearby Italian eateries like Dan Tana’s, a star hangout since 1964, I opt to keep the health kick going and dine instead at modern Italian celeb favourite, Pura Vita, the first 100 percent plant-based Italian restaurant in the USA, a little further down Santa Monica Boulevard. It looks like a New York wine bar inside; it’s so dark, I worry the accentuation of my cheek bones gets lost in the shadows. I opt for Black Magic lasagna, made with cashew ricotta and a black truffle cream, consuming it two tables up from Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner and beside a table of young executive assistants who once worked with Dr Phil (now there’s a celebrity). The streets pulsate with music, with a bar for every mood, but I’m happy to retire early and help myself to some free beauty sleep. Besides, the walk home provides enough entertainment for one night.

A gym for the starsl

I’m up early to hit Pause Studio, to rotate my way round a roster of treatments that’ll have me purring like a Porsche. I’m frozen at minus 140 degrees for for three minutes in a full-body cryotherapy chamber, then I rotate between sweating out toxins in an infra-red sauna and plunging into a bath of freezing cold water. After all that temperature chaos, I recline for an hour in warm water in a float orb that’s said to replicate the womb. It’s an easy way to pass a morning. When I’m done, the sun’s shining – for it never rains in California – and I head into the Hollywood Hills. It’s barely a 30-minute stroll from The Pendry to one of LA’s most popular parks, Runyon Canyon Park, where I stand the best chance of spotting a celebrity (stars like Charlize Theron frequent the trails). There are four hikes here, from three to six kilometres in length; nowhere, they say, gives you a better view of the Hollywood sign. On another day, I ride 50 kilometres (OK, fine, I’m on an E-bike) on a tour of LA that takes me from Beyonce’s $100 million mansion in Bel-Air to the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. 

The action never stops in WeHo (that’s what we West Hollywood types call West Hollywood?). I powerwalk my way between massages, facials and gym sessions, and between organic cafes, vegan tapas bars and yoga classes. Is it so unmanly for men to take time out entirely for themselves? Why can’t I find tranquillity on a holiday to a destination all about self-help gluttony. If healing one’s self is a genuine holiday theme in these Covid days, then why not do it where the greatest people on Earth – Hollywood stars – come to heal themselves?   

Take me there

Getting there

Delta flies daily to LA from Australia’s east coast, see delta.com

Staying there

The Pendry is the ultimate WeHo hotel with its stunning rooftop pool, bar and restaurant and views from every room, see pendry.com/west-hollywood

Eating there

Eat vegan at LA’s most interesting Italian restaurant, Pura Vita (puravitalosangeles.com), and sample WeHo’s best brunch and lattes on Sunset Strip at The Butcher, the Baker, the Cappuccino Maker (bbcmcafe.com) 


Book a gym session at Dogpound, thedogpound.com; try out California’s best medi-spa at The Pendry, youthhaus.com; get a knife-free facelift, facegym.com; plunge, freeze, sweat and float your way to wellness, pausestudio.com; see LA in a day by bike, bikesandhikesla.com/los-angeles-tour

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