NEWPORT BEACH — For as long as locals can remember, Newport Beach has been known as an easy Hollywood getaway.
Celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were known to seek R&R in the coastal town. Lauren Bacall, former wife of Bogart and "Den Mother" of the Rat Pack, resides in Newport. Joey Bishop, Sinatra's famed comic sidekick, was tempted by the tranquility of the beach city, moving to Lido Isle and making that his residence of choice until he died in 2007.
And, of course, Newport had its best-known resident in the late John Wayne. At least until the current era, when Kobe Bryant moved into Newport Coast.
Perhaps the stars of today are taking a cue from old Hollywood because Newport Beach has again become a hotspot for celebrity staycations. The Pelican Hill resort, located just minutes from Crystal Cove, has graced the pages of People, US Weekly and other entertainment magazines. And the Balboa Bay Club and Island Hotel have also wound up on the gossip pages.
Paul Pierce, the Boston Celtics player, wed interior designer Julie Landrum under Pelican Hill's gazebo on July 17 — not far from rival Bryant's mansion. Although Pierce is no unknown, the ceremony was small, with only around 100 people in attendance.
Giuseppe Lama, managing director of Pelican Hill, thought the ceremony came together wonderfully.
"It was so nicely done … from the flowers and décor to the menu," Lama said.
On May 28, Ian Ziering of the original "Beverly Hills: 90210" wed his longtime love, Erin Ludwig, at the resort. Co-stars from the '90s hit show were in the crowd, including Brian Austin Green and his leading lady, Megan Fox.
Besides big events, many celebs view the exclusive resort, which features two-, three- and four-bedroom villas — all with ocean views — as the perfect excuse for a quick trip.
Shortly after their 2009 romance leaked to the press, actress Kate Hudson and New York Yankee star Alex Rodriguez were guests at the resort, where they were frequently found poolside.
This past June, "McSteamy" Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart visited the resort. Only a month after the birth of their daughter, Billie Beatrice, the solo trip gave the couple some time to focus on each other. Felicity Huffman and husband William H. Macy enjoyed some alone time as well. They were seen sipping cocktails and cuddling up on chaise lounges by the pool in late May.
"American Idol" Judge Kara DioGuardi avoided the "Will she leave the show?" rumors and opted for a short trip outside the city of angels. Sitting by the pool, DioGuardi seems to be a fan of the mimosa.
Camp Pelican, a kids program for families staying at the resort, is no exception on celeb itineraries. Britney Spears, a frequent guest at the resort, enjoys seeing her children, Jayden and Sean, playing with other kids at the camp.
And when camp is over, Spears has a favorite spot.
"You can always find Britney at the pool with the kids," Lama said.
Speaking of the pool, last month visitors got a glimpse of "Bush" rocker Gavin Rossdale. The happy father of two played with his children in one of the resort's swimming pools. His wife, Gwen Stefani, was reportedly on the grounds as well.
Even the holidays are a good excuse to pack up the "fam" for a stay in the seaside villas. On April 4, Bill and Giuliana Rancic, stars of the E! reality TV show "Giuliana and Bill," came together with loved ones for a festive Easter egg hunt on the Pelican Hill lawn. Giuliana was seen scoping out the competition, as young kids searched for brightly painted eggs. Perhaps, "Apprentice" star Bill gave the kids some advice on strategy.
Lama was especially excited with one celebrity guest.
"Gilles Marini is the best," said Lama. "I want to play soccer with him!"
Actually, Lama is asking for a second game, because the "Brothers and Sisters" star was nice enough to kick around a ball with the managing director.
"We played for a little while," Lama said. "I was wearing my suit, so I wasn't very prepared for the game."
Hey Gilles, rematch?
Distinctive from other coastal locations, Pelican Hill offers what is considered a private and secluded experience, which undoubtedly celebrities in search of both. Each villa is set apart, making run-ins with fellow visitors, a choice rather than an must – an important factor to a celebrity that might want to keep their stay as secret as possible.
The golf course also draws. People magazine recently spied "Saved by the Bell" star Mark-Paul Gosselaar and "Road Trip" buddy Breckin Meyer on Pelican's links.
On July 17, "Grownups" star David Spade took a break from promoting his film to hit the driving range at Pelican. Other celebs are drawn to the green, such as Blair Underwood, who was spotted there this May.
The villas are literally a home away from home, ranging from two-bedrooms with 2,193 square-feet to four-bedroom with 3,581 square-feet. From butlers to shoppers, Pelican can personalize their retreat so guests – celebrity or not – don't have to lift a finger.
"We enjoy providing a getaway for guests," Lama said. "Celebrities often tell us the resort 'feels like a world away' from Los Angeles."
Though Pelican is on the hot list right now, other resorts in Newport Beach also draw in guests, who sometimes make headlines while visiting the so-called California Riviera.
The Balboa Bay Club recently hosted Alexis Bellino, one of the "Real Housewives of Orange County." The visit made headlines on TMZ because a stroller carrying Bellino's two daughters slipped into the pool, apparently because she left thought she had secured the device's brake but hadn't.
Then there's Tiger Woods, a part-time Corona del Mar resident, who reportedly met with one of his mistresses at the Island Hotel at Fashion Island.