Hollywood Reporter's Guide to Acing L.A.'s Awards-Season Valets

6:30 AM 3/2/2018

by Ramona Saviss

From Prius to Porsche, what to know about parking during the party-filled run-up to Oscars, including rates and wait times at six of the busiest hotels.

Illustration by: Tim Peacock

When parties and awards shows take over L.A.'s top hotels in the run-up to the Oscars, valet parking can become an endurance contest. Most stars avoid the wait, like Kevin Hart, who says: "I don't drive! I have a guy that's in the car who nine times out of 10 just pulls up." Others opt for alter­natives. "We always find street parking," says Rebecca Romijn, referring to herself and husband Jerry O'Connell. Others just may not bother, like awards consultant Fredell Pogodin (who repped 2017 best foreign-language film The Salesman). "There's always a traffic jam when you pull into the Marmont and the Sunset Tower," she says, "so sometimes I skip events there."

To test the waiting times and service of L.A.'s A-list awards-season venues, THR sent out 10 different vehicles over three consecutive weekends — both supercars (an Audi R8) and jalopies (think: Honda Accord with a duct-taped mirror). Drivers also looked for details such as which offered complimentary water and whether settings were changed in the car (who wants to readjust her seat?). For the most part, valets did not discriminate against older, less fancy vehicles — and when not hosting an event, gave top-level service to all.

Yet the consensus, as Romijn says, remains: "We hate waiting for valet!"

  • The Beverly Hilton

    Home to the Golden Globes, TCAs, guild awards and many other events, L.A.'s busiest ballrooms — from the rooftop Stardust to the massive International — are here. "For the Globes, the Hilton is a nightmare," says Pogodin. "I Uber and walk a block."

    SERVICE Maddening lines snake around the turnabout after major events, and even the complimentary coffee and hot cider stations only help so much. Recently, one attendant didn't charge a patron after a heinous wait, while another volunteered to keep an Audi R8 Spyder out front during the DGA Awards, explaining, "It's such a mess here tonight." Adds Strategy PR's Jonathan Epstein: "From what I can tell, they are way understaffed. It always seems like chaos." Still, service is professional and friendly.

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL THR's drivers idled in line about five minutes on average, but sometimes the wait was up to 15 minutes.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Four minutes to 40 minutes after an event.

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? Nothing was changed inside.

    PARKING TIPS "A lot of people self-park" at the Hilton, says Epstein. Make a quick right when entering the driveway. Or park in the nearby residential neighborhood off of Whittier and walk over. If there's a prepaid parking option, take it. And here's an insider secret for all of these hotels: Snag a validation from the lobby concierge or restaurant (all you have to do is ask), as parking prices for events are higher.

    COST $7 for first four hours (valet or self-parking) with lobby-bar validation.

    BOTTOM LINE Self-park over valet, even though the service remains professional.

  • Beverly Wilshire

    Showbiz events from charity galas to Oscar parties — including THR's 2018 Nominees Night — book this hotel year-round.

    SERVICE The valet stand is equipped with heaters and citrus-flavored spa water. On one occasion, an attendant noticed cash in a car's back seat and alerted one of the passengers.

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL Two to five minutes.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Six minutes, up to 40 minutes following an event (including up to 16 minutes in line just to pay).

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? Driver's seat window pulled down; seat moved.

    PARKING TIPS While there's limited metered parking nearby, it's worth a look. During events, if there is a table set up near the ballroom entrance to prepay parking, do it.

    COST $16 for the first three hours with validation; $4 for each additional hour; $52 maximum.

    BOTTOM LINE To avoid the long waits as the 880-person ballroom empties out, get creative. One woman attending the recent AARP Movies for Grownups gala gave $20 to the valet to have her car ready, but still ended up waiting 20 minutes for her BMW i3. If you choose to Uber or Lyft, make sure to be picked up and dropped off on Wilshire Boulevard; do not let the driver pull into the valet as it's often at a standstill because of the foot traffic across the car lanes between the hotel's two buildings. "The Beverly Wilshire is notoriously challenging getting in and out," says Aisha Tyler, who always Ubers.

    ***
     
    Beverly Wilshire's Lead Valet Shares Secrets of 40 Years of Car Parking
    Ervin R. Ascencio dishes on the one actor who left him starstruck and how the job has changed since the introduction of ridesharing apps
     
    As lead valet at the Beverly Wilshire for nearly four decades, Ervin R. Asencio, 61, has seen his fair share of dignitaries and personalities, from Margaret Thatcher to Roger Moore — the one person who left him starstruck. “He was a very nice guy,” says Asencio.
     
    Over the years, the valet scene has greatly changed, from the rise of ridesharing apps (Asencio observes Uber and Lyft drivers are nicer than cabbies) to the decline in tips, saying, “In the beginning, people sometimes gave $100. Now it’s just like everybody’s getting tight.”
     
    The Guatemala native shares that “for people who pay attention, this is like a school,” where he admits to learning “everything” from manners to crowd control to how to approach people.
     
    “I love people,” he confesses. “We don’t do it for the money; we do it to provide the service and they come back again.” 
  • Chateau Marmont

    This legendary hotspot hosts such events as Cadillac's pre-Oscars fete and WME's Globes party. While THR enjoyed brief wait times, not everyone shares the same experience. "The Marmont is a beautiful old hotel, but it wasn't set up for the traffic that an event brings," notes Pogodin. Adds Insecure's Jay Ellis, "Chateau is one of the hardest to get out of." Before disembarking, you will be quizzed regarding your purpose: If you don't name an event, you will be told that nightly valet parking is only for those with restaurant or hotel reservations.

    SERVICE The gatekeepers who check reservations are guest relations manager Anya Varda, always camped out front with a clipboard, and the valet captain. One of THR's drivers, arriving in a 2000 Honda Accord with the duct-taped mirror, was told "we can't do anything without a reservation," while a driver of a 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was advised to call in 30 minutes to "see if there's an opening."

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL THR's cars were parked immediately with a dinner reservation, and required only a three-minute wait for an event.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Up to five minutes when exiting an event.

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? No.

    PARKING TIPS Though spots are scarce, drive around back to look for street parking on Monteel Road or nearby Selma Avenue.

    COST $12 for the first three hours with validation; after that, it's $24 up to six hours; $42 for more than six hours or overnight.

    BOTTOM LINE Have a reservation — and expect an attitude.

  • Four Seasons L.A. at Beverly Hills

    This Hollywood outpost is the setting for daytime events like BAFTA's tea party and HBO's annual gifting suite. It's also a place for Oscar screenings in its theater.

    SERVICE A friendly attendant may offer you bottled water.

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL None.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Five minutes on average, though longer wait times follow events as lines form at the checkout window.

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? Radio was turned off, seat was pushed back and in one case with a luxury convertible, the roof was pulled up, plus the temperature was changed from 76 to 68.

    PARKING TIPS You may be able to find street parking on Doheny, but most times it's a bust. The lesser-known option is free on-site self-parking (enter from the back on Wetherly Drive), though typically it fills up at night and during events. Drive with caution when departing as autograph seekers crowd the exit.

    COST $10 flat rate with validation.

    BOTTOM LINE Street or self-parking is preferable when available.

  • Sunset Tower

    The Sunset Strip mainstay is known for hosting a slew of awards-season events, from Showtime and Paramount parties to fashionable fetes thrown by Harper's Bazaar and Esquire.

    SERVICE Based on how busy the hotel is, you may be turned away if you don't have a reservation at the Tower Bar restaurant. When a THR driver showed up in an Alfa Romeo, the attentive valet captain liked the car so much, he parked it for free for 30 minutes while generously mentioning a "15-minute grace period."

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL Two minutes.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Three to six minutes; up to 25 minutes when the hotel is hosting an event.

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? Seat moved back.

    PARKING TIPS There's sometimes a spot somewhere on Sunset, but given the high metered parking rates and restrictions, street parking generally is not worth it.

    COST $12 for the first three hours with validation; $2 every additional hour; $45 maximum.

    BOTTOM LINE Opt to be dropped off a block away when there's an event, as the tiny driveway can accommodate only so many cars and the traffic typically backs up onto Sunset.

     
  • Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

    New to the lineup, the Waldorf already has made its mark with Netflix's and NBC's Globe afterparties and Women In Film's rooftop soiree, plus THR's own Emmy Nominees Night at Jean-Georges restaurant in 2017.

    SERVICE Water and heaters at the valet stand; if you prefer to wait inside, attendants will alert you when car is ready. Overall service is doting — don't be surprised if attendants pull your seatbelt for you to strap in when departing.

    WAIT TIME ON ARRIVAL Two minutes, though much longer for events when traffic backs up on Wilshire.

    WAIT TIME AT DEPARTURE Six to 10 minutes and up to a full hour when bigger events end. There's also an option to retrieve your car by text, though the system is sometimes down.

    ANYTHING CHANGED IN THE CAR? Your car lights may be manually turned off.

    PARKING TIPS Use the cheaper self-parking option at the adjoining Beverly Hilton and walk over. And for larger events, it may be worth it to street park on Little Santa Monica, across from the Peninsula Hotel, and walk to the side entrance.

    COST $15 for four hours and $2 for each additional 20 minutes with validation; $50 max.

    BOTTOM LINE For big events, street park or self-park at the Hilton.

    Additional reporting by Jean Bentley, Alex Cramer, Jon Alain Guzik, Aziza Kasumov, Marc Malkin, Roxy Manning and Ani Mosinyan.

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Inside the Etiquette of Leaving Industry Events Early

    "The smaller the event, the longer you stay," Event Eleven party producer Tony Schubert advises.

    Illustration by: Tim Peacock

    Original song nominee Diane Warren admits she skips out of events ahead of time to avoid valet gridlock: “I always leave early, so it’s efficient for me.”

    It’s often hard, though, to know when is the appropriate time to leave without being rude. “Charity events are important — if you’ve paid to be there or are a guest of someone who has purchased a table, you stay until the end,” says Event Eleven party producer Tony Schubert.

    At luncheons like the BAFTA Tea at the Four Seasons L.A., he urges staying until it’s over: “There’s no sneaking out in the daylight.” As a rule, Schubert notes, “The smaller the event, the longer you stay.” If you do sneak out early, make sure to have a good excuse.

    Screenwriter Kay Cannon, who tries to leave events by 10 p.m., makes clear, “I have a daughter and I have to work in the morning,” while Terry Crews says, “I work out at 4 a.m., so I’m always the first one to leave.” 

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