Hollywood Valets: How to Get Your Wheels Parked Right Up Front

Audi R8 v10 Spyder - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of brand

Pricey sports cars get pole positions, of course, but big tips don't hurt, THR learns.

As THR's resident automotive authority — and someone who has been writing about cars since 2004 — I have been lucky to enjoy my fair share of over-the-top cars thrown my way by makers, usually for a week at a time, for testing. By my estimation, some 700 cars — worth more than $30 million in total — have passed through my driveway. I've valet parked everything from a nearly $400,000 Bentley Mulsanne to a $240,000 Day-Glo Alien Green Mercedes-Benz G65S at Los Angeles' hotels, restaurants and shops over the years.

Since parking lots in the city tend to be small, some of what gets left up front is by chance — I'm looking at you, 2012 Dodge Caliber in front of the Waldorf Astoria — but most of the time, you can get your car parked up front two ways.

Either you're a regular who tips very well, say, at least a double sawbuck each time you come. Or the car you show up in is outrageous or aspirational. When I valeted a 2017 Audi R8 Spyder during the DGA Awards at a very busy Beverly Hilton, the solicitous valet told me he would leave it "right up front, friend, where you can keep an eye on such a pretty car." Valets tend to park the most stylish, the rarest and the most exuberant cars out front because these four-wheeled luxury Veblen goods add a sense of panache even standing idle in front of a luxury hotel.

I once arrived at the Hotel Bel-Air in a $285,000 fluores­cent orange Lamborghini Huracan, and two attendants came running to park my car a mere three feet away. Another time, I drove to the Peninsula in a $73,000 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which the valet parked in front next to a Ferrari California T, saying, "Bella Italiano — they belong together."

Valets in L.A. have seen every shade of amazing. So while you think the $190,700 Porsche 911 Turbo S you drive is worthy of up-front treatment, they will usually choose that ultra-rare $187,500 Lava Orange Porsche 911 GT3 RS instead. You're proud of the $81,200 Ibis White Audi S7 you're driving? Well, here's a tricked-out $130,700 Nardo Grey Audi RS7 coming down the pike.

That doesn't mean something less pricey won't occasionally make the cut. Last year, the valet left my loaner — a $39,375 Lapis Blue Metallic Volkswagen Golf R, a neat little Fast & Furious inspired hot hatchback — smack in front of the Beverly Wilshire, displayed among the million-dollar supercars with Saudi plates. When I asked him why, he said he really wanted one.

If you are lucky enough not to get charged because you have a set of swell wheels — which happens to me more times than not — do what I do: Tip the valet what you would have paid in the first place. No one likes a cheapskate, even if he drives a really cool car. 

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