The Top Places To Visit In Los Angeles

A Local Photographer And Author Shares His Favorite Los Angeles Hangouts
Ari Seth Cohen, the creator of Advanced Style.
Ari Seth Cohen
Creator Of Advanced Style

It started out as a hobby of sorts. While working at the bookstore of the New Museum in New York City, Ari Seth Cohen would often sneak out to take photographs of stylish older women he saw walking down the street. He befriended some of them and began to write about their lives and sartorial choices in a blog named Advanced Style. The concept behind the blog—to show women in their 60s, 70s, and beyond looking wonderfully chic and thoroughly enjoying their lives—really caught on. In the last few years, Cohen has published four books, garnered more than 250,000 Instagram followers, and participated in the making of a documentary about his work, which is widely praised as being “inspiring” and “fabulous.”

One of Cohen's muses, Joyce Carpati.
His First Muse

Growing up in San Diego, Cohen spent long hours with his maternal grandmother, Bluma. “I was really struck by her knowledge and intellect; she had studied library sciences at Barnard, which was pretty much unheard of during her time,” says Cohen. “She always encouraged me to be expressive and creative.” When Bluma passed away in 2008—shortly after Cohen finished college—he moved to New York to follow her footsteps. The exercise of finding and photographing stylish women of a certain age was as much a pastime as it was a way to process the pain. “It was a journey of exploring what I lost when she passed away,” he says. “She was my best friend.”

Cohen poses with some of his subjects.
Making A Splash

“It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I picked up a camera,” remembers Cohen. “At first I was trying to document this style that was disappearing from the streets of the city for myself, but then I decided to share my images.” A few months into his project, Cohen put together a selection of images and sent them to several magazines and newspapers. There was immediate interest, even from the New York Times, who interviewed Cohen but then shelved the story. When the article finally came out a year later, things took off. Before he knew it, Cohen was in London doing an installation for Selfridges, the British department store. “I had to decide whether or not to leave my job at the museum, which paid my rent and health insurance,” he says. “I took the risk.”

Ilona Royce Smithkin poses from the camera.
Becoming An Icon

Some of Cohen’s muses have turned into style icons since being featured on Advanced Style. Joyce Carpati, who was retired, became a model for Carolina Herrera and several other brands in her 80s. Artist Ilona Royce Smithkin. who is in her late 90s and has a full head of russet-hued hair, recently published her own book. “I didn’t know that the advertising and fashion industries would change the way they are depicting age,” says Cohen.”But I always believed the people that I was discovering should be icons, they were so inspiring to me.”

Local Recommendations

Explore The Best Things To Do In Los Angeles According To Ari Seth Cohen.

When he’s not traveling the world in search of muses, Ari Seth Cohen likes to explore the nostalgic side of L.A. (except when he’s checking out the city’s vegan hot spots).

Off The Beaten Path In LA

One of Cohen’s favorite pastimes is rollerskating. He’ll often take his friends—many of whom are in their 60s, 70s and 80s—to the Moonlight Rollerway (5110 San Fernando Rd.; +1-818-241-3630) a Glendale mainstay that’s been used as a film set countless times. The neon-lit skating rink has a real retro look and feel, complete with disco balls, glossy bois floors and a live organ player. The throwback fun continues at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater (4949 York Blvd.; +1-213-250-9995) a pioneering company founded by the late master puppeteer Bob Baker nearly 60 years ago. The theater is known for its offbeat brand of marionette shows, filled with eccentric characters like a black cat with the rhinestone collar, a hand-walking clown, and a dancing petunia.

The stage at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Photo courtesy of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

A Malibu Beach And A Museum In Pasadena

The Huntington Botanical Gardens (1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino; +1-626-405-2100) in Pasadena are “the most striking gardens I’ve ever been to, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book,” says Cohen. Huntington’s 120 acres of themed gardens include a series of lily ponds, a desert landscape, a palm grove with more than 200 species, a patch planted with medicinal herbs, and a Shakespearean garden inspired by the bard’s plays. To really unwind, Cohen drives to Malibu’s El Matador Beach, a remarkably scenic stretch of sand off the Pacific Coast Highway. “It has these really beautiful rock formations,” he says. “I love to go down there and meditate.”

A view of the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

A Cocktail Lounge For The Ages

The Dresden (1760 N Vermont Ave.; +1-323-664-4294), a dimly-lit restaurant cocktail lounge from 1954, has a quintessential Old Hollywood vibe. It’s no surprise Don Draper had dinner there during a Mad Men episode set in California. Cohen is a big fan of Marty and Elayne, a duo that plays jazz standards nearly every weeknight. “They’ve been performing there for decades, they’re just so charming,” he says. Nostalgics should also check out The Tam O’Shanter (2980 Los Feliz Blvd.; +1-323-664-0228), a Scottish-themed pub built in 1922 in an architectural style known as Hansel and Gretel. Not surprisingly, Walt Disney was once a regular.

The Dresden cocktail bar.

The Best Vegan Restaurants In LA

“I’m vegan and moving to L.A. has been incredible,” says Cohen, referring to the city’s ever-growing roster of vegetarian and vegan food establishments. On special occasions, or to treat guests from out of town, he heads to Elf Cafe (2135 W. Sunset Blvd.; +1-213-484-6829), an Echo Park restaurant whose casual yet romantic dining room glows with the soft light of filament bulbs. Elf’s organic, vegetarian dishes are steeped in Moroccan, Indian, and Mediterranean traditions. For sweet treats, Cohen goes straight to Jeni’s (1954 Hillhurst Ave.; +1-323-928-2668) near his home in Los Feliz. “They make the most delicious vegan chocolate ice cream,” he says.

Vintage Stores With Great Finds

Hollywood wardrobe stylists can’t get enough of Playclothes (3100 W Magnolia Blvd.; +1-818-557-8447). This storied shop, set in a Streamlined Moderne corner building in Burbank, is filled with vintage furniture, home accessories, and clothing spanning every decade of the 20th Century. Their garments have been featured in movies like Austin Powers, Seabiscuit, and Catch Me if You Can. Squaresville (1800 N Vermont Ave.; +1-323-669-8464) also has quite a few cinematic finds, yet it specializes in day-to-day casual wear raging from classy to grungy and eccentric. “I tend to buy everything used and vintage,” says Cohen, whose style is as unique as his muses’.

Inside Playclothes vintage boutique.