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Correction to This Article
This article on Beverly Hills, Calif., misstated the location of the Polo Lounge. It is in the Beverly Hills Hotel, not the Beverly Hilton.

Hello, 90210

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lindsay Blake sauntered into the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hilton, her blond bob fluffed like a pillow and her maroon dress showing a bit of wink, wink. Sitting at the legendary bar, the actress drank only water as she discussed her career, her goals and her obsession with Beverly Hills, on the TV screen and off.

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"People put Beverly Hills on a pedestal. It has an allure, and 'Beverly Hills, 90210' made it more tangible," said the San Francisco native, referring to that seminal teen soap opera from the 1990s. "When I moved to Los Angeles, all I wanted to see was [teen twins] Brenda and Brandon's house. I could die a happy woman after that."

Blake tracked down the site of the central characters' pad (spoiler alert: It's in Altadena) and now runs a blog called I Am Not a Stalker, which documents her quest to uncover celebrity homes and filming locales. She scours Southern California for her trophies but carries a special valentine for 90210, the most famous Zip code on Earth.

"Beverly Hills represents the rich and famous," she said, "and all of my hopes and dreams."

The 5.7-square-mile city northwest of downtown Los Angeles has played countless roles in our fantasies, as well as on the big and small screens. On Tuesday, the CW network will debut its successor drama, "90210," almost two decades after Brandon and Brenda Walsh first aired their angst over dating, drinking and Dylan's affections. The old show, which ran from 1990 to 2000, was called "Beverly Hills, 90210"; the new incarnation drops the proper name, because, well, that would be redundant.

"In China, they know it. In India, they know it," said Gregg Donovan, the dapper "ambassador" of Beverly Hills, explaining the universality of the Zip code. "You say '90212,' no one knows it."

Every story you've heard about Beverly Hills is true. The Ferraris and Rolls-Royces, the $10 million spreads and the celebrity sightings are as real as the palm trees lining the wide boulevards. But contrary to its moneyed reputation and gilded veneer, the city is not elitist.

"The city hired me to make people feel comfortable," said Donovan, who welcomes visitors on the street by shouting out salutations in any of 100 languages. "Some people are intimidated to go into our shops and restaurants, even Subway. They call it the 'Pretty Woman' syndrome. But I make them feel at ease."

It is understandable why one might feel like a bumpkin, or Julia Roberts's ill-dressed working girl. Last year, for example, Coldwell Banker listed Beverly Hills as the most expensive housing market in the United States, with the median price tag of a home hovering above $2.2 million. And although such mainstream stores as Ann Taylor and Pottery Barn make appearances, Rodeo Drive is the catwalk of couture: Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Versace.

"People come to Beverly Hills to live their dreams," Mayor Barry Bucker said in an e-mail. "It is the ultimate playground and escape from everyday life."

Now, click your Louboutin heels three times and say . . .

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