Movie Stars & Other Rich Folk

Many of the people who work in the TV and movie industries, as well as sports stars, business tycoons, lawyers, and doctors, live in Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Fourteen million tourists come to see. The most prestigious and expensive houses are in the hills (homes ranging from $600,000 to $30 million), where the roads are irregular. The more modest (!) income groups live on the flats, where the palm-lined streets are grid-like and expensive shopping and services are found: 300 luxury boutiques, 23 certified plastic surgeons, two salons specializing in eyebrows.

Beverly Hills "may not be the absolute richest place in the world, but wealth is probably not displayed with as much sheer exuberance anywhere else. The local Gucci boutique is completely sold out of $750 Lucite dog bowls. Even the Beverly Hills Police Department is in on the act. It won awards four times since 1989 for its fashionable uniforms. The concern for appearance has kept out the ugliness of modern life; there are no smokestacks, no billboards, no McDonald's, [no cemeteries, hospitals, funeral homes, or high school as featured in the TV series 90210 (the mail zip code for Beverly Hills)]. At Eber's Beverly Hills beauty atelier, a vast series of mirrors, lights, and softly whirring blow-dryers that resembles a futuristic spaceship. Eber charges $175 for this 15-minute opinion. If he actually cuts your hair, it costs another $300." On Rodeo Drive, you can see $300,000 Bentleys (a British car model) outside of "by appointment only" boutiques. Historically, the largest number of Rolls-Royces cars ($450,000 and hand-made) were sold in Beverly Hills, beating London, Dubai, and Riyadh. In 2008 for the first time, more of these cars were sold in Beijing.

In the secluded real estate development (200 acres), North Beverly Park, houses start at $8 million and resemble Tuscan villas, Venetian palaces, and classical French mansions. Many have 10-car garages, several kitchens, and 4,000 square foot bedrooms suites -- twice the size of the average U.S. house! The aggregate income of the 2,585 families making $150,00 or more a year is $1.2 billion  -- if each of these families made only $150,000, the total would come to only $387,750,000! [Source: National Geographic Magazine, November 2000]