Don’t call Chris Nelson, the Insider at the W Hollywood, a concierge. “A concierge gets you Lakers tickets,” says Nelson, whose former gigs have included stuntman, choreographer, professional ice hockey player and captain of the US National Roller Hockey team. “The Insider is the one who gets you the Lakers tickets, with a ball signed by Kobe, delivered personally to your five-year-old son at half-time.” He opens his Black Book for Fortune.
Hot Neighborhood: It might sound biased, but even if I didn’t work at the W, I would still hang around Hollywood and Vine. The area has gone from Old Hollywood in the ‘20s to nothing to recently reinvigorated. I can send you 15 different places within a block: Argyle, Sayers Club, Warwick… You can walk right to the Highland Center, where they do the Oscars, put your prints on top of George Clooney’s at the Walk of Fame and hike up to the Hollywood sign.
Best New Restaurant: There might be Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked outside, but the vibe inside Littlefork is very comfortable. The artistic takes on seafood are absolutely fantastic, and the focus is on the food, not $3,000 couches.
Toughest Dinner Reservation: If you don’t know someone at Nobu in Malibu, where most of the Hollywood elite lives, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get a reservation. I don’t think they even answer the phone after 5 p.m. But I can make Nobu happen.
Cocktail Destination: The bartenders at No Vacancy are artists. I don’t even have a set cocktail there; I just tell the bartenders to surprise me. They mixed me up a Jameson mojito thing recently that I ran with all night.
Celebrity Spotting: The base of Runyon Canyon is one of the few places in L.A. you can sit outdoors, camped out with a camera and see celebrities. I’ve seen everyone from Johnny Knoxville to Kerry Washington to Manny Pacquiao, who runs there when he’s training.
Shopping Spree: The intersection around Robertson Boulevard and Melrose Place has the full shopping experience, from established luxury lines like Christian Laboutin and Chanel [on the former] to one-offs like Moods of Norway and Adidas Original [on the latter]. On these two streets, you can get everything from a wedding dress to Ingo Maurer light bulbs.
Urban Escape: On the weekend, it can take two hours to get to Malibu, but on a Tuesday at 11 in the morning, you’re there in 20 minutes. You get that Steve McQueen vibe when you come down the winding, almost-one-way drive to the Paradise Cove. A little crab, a little U-peel shrimp on the beach, that’s my escape.
Locals’ Secret: I love video games, and Bar 82 is a three-month-old bar that not a lot of people know about that has every video game I can think of. When was the last time you had cocktails and played Space Invaders? It brings me back to when I was 12, minus the alcohol.
Must-Have Souvenir: Every single day I see In-N-Out burgers in the W lobby. People from all over America, it’s the first thing they grab when they get into L.A., and with locations just outside the Burbank airport and LAX, it’s also what they take home.
Best Room in the House: It doesn’t have a name, and I can’t give away the number, but there’s a one-off room that’s not like any other room in the hotel. It was a test room whose design was never replicated. The hidden secret surprise is a dividing wall with a TV built into it on each side. You can’t find it on the Internet, so just come by and ask. Tell them Chris told you about it.
Neighborhood: Arts District downtown, “the Meatpacking District of L.A.”
Time Served: 5 years. “Unofficially since ’99.”
Minibar Temptation: Gummy Bears
Favorite Hotel in the World: Barcelona W. “It’s shaped like a huge sail; you see it from 20 miles away.”
Next Vacation: Moscow
Most Outrageous Guest Request: “A guy put $2000 on my desk and said, ‘You’re cool, I want to look just like you. Go shopping for me.’”
A Great Concierge Is: Thought-provoking
We asked Chris Nelson to plan us a single, singular day in L.A…
“I’d start off by coordinating luxury transportation from LAX to our hotel. Once you arrive we will check you in to your EWOW suite (W’s version of a presidential suite) and let you and your guest settle into the room. You will hop on board a helicopter for a one-hour tour of the area’s highlights, then grab your rented McLaren and cruise to lunch at NoBu in Malibu. After relaxing on the beach, you’ll come back to the hotel in time for glass box seats at a Los Angeles Kings Game. After watching the Kings win, a private sedan will whisk you to BOA Steakhouse, where you and your guest can enjoy an intimate meal. From dinner your driver will take you to 1OAK, where you can dance and party the night away with Champagne bottle service.”