As wildfires are raging across the Southern California area, one in particular is threatening some of the most prized real estate in the country, belonging to some of the most elite homeowners: celebrities and millionaire residents of the famous Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, and its surrounding hillsides.
Jay-Z and Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, and Elon Musk are among Bel Air's celebrity residents. And so is billionaire Rupert Murdoch, whose 13-acre estate and vineyard were partially torched in what is being called the Skirball Fire.
As it continued to burn Thursday, nearly 50,000 residents of Bel Air north of Sunset Boulevard were still under mandatory evacuation orders. Many were forced to flee homes on resort-like grounds, where backyard tennis courts are de rigueur.
So where do L.A. residents seek shelter in their own home town — while maintaining the lifestyle they're accustomed to? In some of the finest hotels in the world, conveniently located just south of the flames, and in no imminent fire danger — such as Beverly Hills' newly opened Waldorf-Astoria.
"The moment the 405 [freeway] was closed [on Wednesday], and even before people were told that they needed to evacuate, a lot of people just decided to check in for their comfort level," Vanessa Williams, the Waldorf's director of sales and marketing, told Jet Set. "So we had a lot of agents calling and booking their clients in."
So the hotel quickly found itself at 90-percent capacity with many simultaneous check-ins. "We were almost sold out last night," she said. "The Beverly Hilton, our sister property, had a similar experience." The Beverly Hilton, adjacent to the Waldorf, is home to the glittering Golden Globes ceremony coming up next month.
"For us, it was really about [taking care of personal details and] last-minute requirements, especially for celebrities and people that needed security," Williams said, though — in the discreet manner that is standard protocol for such luxury properties — she declined to name names.
Luxury hotels on the level of the Waldorf aim to maintain superlative personalized service on all occasions — but in these unique circumstances, the goal was to make people feel at home during an especially tense time. "A lot of our guests arrived as families, Williams said. "It was rallying around making sure we had the cookies and milk in the room, and making it feel like home."
But not just any ordinary home, of course — rather, an over-the-top luxurious home in the manner befitting a unique category of evacuee.
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