HEATHER LOCKLEAR fell in love with Laguna Beach, California, almost 10 years ago, when she met and fell in love with her husband, rocker Richie Sambora. But we’ll let her tell that story. For now, we’ll just say that Locklear, her husband, and their six-year-old daughter, Ava, have set up house in the perfect little beach and artists’ colony, an ideal one-hour getaway from L.A. Life in Laguna is a just dessert for the California golden girl, who has come to personify West Coast charm, sex appeal, and just the right hint of naughtiness in several long-running TV series, including Dynasty, Melrose Place, and, most recently, Spin City, for which she was nominated for a pair of Golden Globes. She’s been in her share of films, too, from Wayne’s World 2 (playing herself) to The First Wives Club (playing the 2nd wife). But this month, the veteran TV star hits the big screen starring alongside Brendan Fraser in the big-budget live-animation film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Here’s where you’ll find Heather when the job is finished, the convertible is gassed up, and her husband’s album is cranked up on the car’s CD player.
What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in Laguna?
“I fell in love.”
So tell us …
“I met Richie in New York and he had this house in Laguna. Ricky Nelson once owned it. So, like on our third date, Richie invited me to his house. Of course, I thought, I am going home [to L.A.] tonight. But it was dark out, and he opened the door, and there’s this warm, wood feeling of this Craftsman-style house, like really nicely oiled wood, a courtyard, and just beautiful landscape. And there he was, with these sconces on the walls, and they were all lit up and he was there, backlit by these glowing sconces. He was like, ‘Welcome,’ and I just never left. That was it. I don’t know if the house did it or he did it or the third date did it, but it was so unique and so charming, and I thought, This guy’s got great taste, and obviously he’s warm and so is his house, and that was that.”
Did you know Laguna at all at that point?
“I hadn’t been to Laguna in a long time, but I remembered the town and Balboa Island, which is just a little bit down the road. So, no, I didn’t know Laguna that well. Richie took me through the town. There are lots of glass shops. He’s really into that, and we would go shopping. He would have a convertible and we’d be cruising down Pacific Coast Highway. It was so romantic.”
You got married how long after that?
“I think 10 months.”
How do you know when you’ve arrived in Laguna?
"Right when you get to Main Beach. When Laguna Canyon hits Pacific Coast Highway [PCH], there’s the beach and there are a ton of people. Then you see the ocean and, for some reason, it feels like home. I love driving on PCH down to our house, even if there’s traffic, because you can look at the stores, check out the people walking around, and check out the people in the cars next to you, because it’s slow sometimes during peak hours. But it’s fun, like when people used to cruise Sunset Boulevard.”
What are the sights you shouldn’t miss?
“Main Beach. There is every kind of person on that beach for people-watching. And you can’t miss the Pageant of the Masters. People dress up as famous paintings, famous sculptures. It’s an outside theater. You wait till the sun sets. People just go onstage, it’s dark, then they light it up, and it’s a famous painting. It’s really bizarre, but it’s beautiful.”
Is there a place you always long to see again when you’re away?
“You shouldn’t miss Balboa Island. I’ve been there every summer since I was five. We would go for like a week and rent a house. There’s a marina that surrounds the island and boats sail by. There is this one walking street where you shop and you get those frozen chocolate-dipped bananas. It hasn’t changed much since I was five. That’s a long, long time ago.”
What’s the most unique hotel?
“The Montage. It rocks. It’s new, and it’s this Craftsman-style. When I first walked through they had, I think, sketchpads on the beds so people could get the feel of what the town is, because it’s an art town. They wanted to have that same feeling in the hotel. It’s just luxurious and it’s on the ocean. It was in Architectural Digest. The Montage has delicious food and an amazing spa. They also have a gym where you can be on the treadmill, looking past the little flat-screen TV, and you’re looking out at the ocean. You could stay on the treadmill forever, it’s just such a beautiful view. For my dad’s 70th birthday, we took a private room there at the Studio. There is a wonderful chef at the Studio, and he did a special seven-course meal for my brothers and sisters and dad and mom. It was delicious. The Studio is kind of on the cliff of the hotel. It’s gorgeous. But it feels small and intimate. It’s not like a big, grand hotel.”
Any other hotel recommendations?
“There’s The St. Regis, which is huge. It feels like Palm Springs, like one of those hotels. It’s right across from The Ritz-Carlton, which is formal and beautiful and above the beach on a cliff. The Surf & Sand is another one. It’s on the beach, and small and intimate. Every room has a view. It’s like eight stories. Their restaurant, Splashes, is in the middle, and they have a new spa now. There are also a lot of little hotels on Pacific Coast Highway that look like bed-and-breakfasts. They’re so charming, but I don’t know what they are.”
Tell me about your favorite place to have breakfast.
“The Coyote Grill. It’s a local hangout. It’s Mexican, and they make unbelievable food, like chorizo and eggs. Or they’ll make an oatmeal sundae. It’s in a sundae cup, but with oatmeal and bananas and raisins. It is the most delicious breakfast thing you can have.”
What about lunch?
“Splashes at the Surf & Sand. When I was little, I used to go to the Surf & Sand. The restaurant has delicious food. I’m thinking fish, thinking steaks, but fancier, like a fancy chef kind of menu. It’s … what do you call that food where it’s not like dive food? California cuisine. I just know I like to eat.”
How about dinner?
“Aqua in The St. Regis. I don’t go fancy anywhere, but you’re supposed to be nicely dressed at Aqua. The best part is there’s a wine cellar and you can have a private wine tasting. They have a set menu that’s like five different courses. You go in the wine room, which is the same level as the rest of the restaurant, but the waiters come in and out to get the wine, and you’re in there having your meal. It’s mostly seafood, and it’s scrumptious.”
What about someplace more casual?
“Dizz’s has a set menu and everybody eats at the same time. It’s kind of cool. You come in at a certain time and there may be two seatings. You choose from three things — fish, chicken, or something else. It’s really charming and romantic.”
Where’s the best shopping in Laguna?
“Okay, this really isn’t in Laguna, but Fashion Island in Newport Beach, which is a big mall. It’s open air and it’s beautiful, with fountains in certain places. You can just sit there and hang out. They have restaurants there, like The Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen. There’s a Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island. That’s always fun to find the newest shoes. Charles Kelly, a home shop, is on PCH. It has great candles, linens, towels, just a variety of things. It can get dangerous in there. The English Garden is an incredible flower shop. There’s Merrilee’s for great bathing suits. It’s a regular shop for girlie stuff and bathing suits. Merrilee makes them or designs them. They are so cute and are always the newest bikinis. For people younger than me, of course. But I dare to wear them.”
What are the essentials every visitor should bring?
“A bathing suit, sunblock, a Richie Sambora CD, and a convertible. If you don’t have those, maybe just a bathing suit, a towel, and some walking shoes. Perhaps a cover-up or shorts and a T-shirt. You can really go everywhere in that. It’s a very casual town.”
What do you love the most about Laguna?
“It feels like old-time California. Not that it’s dated, but it feels like something that hasn’t been touched. It doesn’t have that city feel. It feels like a small town, and the people are friendly.”
If you only had a day in Laguna, how would you spend it?
“First of all, if you’re coming from L.A., you have to leave before 3 p.m. Actually you should leave at 1. You have to miss afternoon traffic, and, if you do, it’s maybe an hour from L.A. I would drive up, and since I’m pretending I don’t own a house, I would check into a hotel, get into comfy clothes, and probably take a walk on the beach. Maybe get a drink, sit on the beach, and just stare at the ocean.”
What should every visitor know about Laguna?
“They should know that it’s home to many unknown artists and there are great talents. You can feel that sense of community really strongly when you get there. It’s an artist’s colony, and they try to preserve that.”
Where would you tell visitors to go if they wanted a great meal for around $25?
“First of all, is it $25 for one person or for two?”
“Cabana. They have seared fish tacos. Blackened tacos. A wedge of lettuce with blue cheese and red onions on it. It’s awesome. Everything on their menu is great.”
What about a great place to go for drinks?
“I love chips and salsa and margaritas. And Javier’s makes great margaritas. It’s on PCH, but on the other side, not the ocean side. It’s really open air. There is another place, but I don’t know if I want to say it. Well, there is a place where you can get really good martinis. It’s called French 75. They have martinis with blue cheese olives. That’s what I love. Yeah, you put blue cheese in olives. Oh my gosh, forget the drink, I just want the olives! I think they have champagne tastings, too.”
Since your husband is a musician, what can you tell us about great places to hear live music?
“For live music, it’s French 75 again. They have a great pianist. Richie and I saw him. He was kind of bluesy. I think they have pictures of the Rat Pack all over. So that’s the feeling of it. It does not feel like an ocean world. It feels like the Dean Martin world, the Frank Sinatra world, the old Hollywood world.”
What’s your most favorite Laguna memory?
“When Richie and I were driving around in the convertible during one of my first visits, we were trying to keep [our relationship] a secret. But you aren’t going to keep a secret in a convertible in Laguna. Somebody called The Howard Stern Show and said, ‘We saw Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora, and they were kissing at a red light in a convertible.’ They said that we were an item, that we were driving around Laguna with our heads hanging out, making out at stop signals.”
So, what does that tell you about Laguna?
“It’s a romantic town. Such a romantic town that you might stop at a stoplight and make out.”
she said...on any given day, here’s where you might catch heather locklear in laguna.
montage resort & spa
the ritz-carlton, laguna niguel
the st. regis monarch beach resort & spa
surf & sand resort
seafood, very expensive
cabana beachside bar & grill
california pizza kitchen
the cheesecake factory
dizz’s as is
charles kelly at home
the english garden
fashion island, newport beach
pageant of the masters
on any given day, here’s where you might
catch us in laguna.
the inn at laguna beach
lots of surf riders and sun worshippers prefer to check in at this all-beach hotel. there’s no restaurant, but complimentary breakfast is served to the guestrooms, and you can step right outside your room and onto the sand. in laguna, it doesn’t get any better than that.
230 forrest avenue restaurant & bar
expensive, (949) 494-2545.
here the california cuisine boasts a dramatic backdrop that’s more big city than beach town. of course, it has the ubiquitous outdoor patio, but the food stands up to the hype. chef marc cohen is a veteran of kitchens around the u.s., and he blends californian, mexican, and pacific flavors with a laguna artist’s touch.
five feet restaurant
expensive, (949) 497-4955.
a laguna favorite for asian fusion. great decor, murals on the walls, and a sizable wine list. it has a very neighborhood feel, but world-class food.
sundried tomato cafe
moderate, (949) 494-3312.
more california cuisine, with the patio always open for lunch and dinner. but this one has the addition of an all-star sundried tomato soup, which gave the place its name and which alone is worth the trip.
laguna beach has been renowned as an artist’s colony since the first artists arrived here in the early 1900s. the town is lined with art galleries, and you can’t truly experience laguna without spending a night hopping among a few of them. for a complete list, check out the local arts guide, which is available in most hotels. three particularly interesting ones are:
near the venerable hotel laguna.
the redfern gallery
one of the town’s oldest, specializing in california impressionism.
the village gallery
presents works by both local and nationally renowned artists.
laguna is bordered by two of southern california’s best public golf courses.
to the south is monarch beach golf links (877-635-8792), a robert trent jones jr. course in a scottish-links style.
to the north is pelican hill golf club (949-760-0707), with two tom fazio courses. all three courses offer dramatic views of the ocean.
mosun sushi & club m
first, it’s a really good sushi bar. then after dark it turns into an equally great nightclub, with deejays spinning new music and go-go girls giving the place a retro ’60s feel. the crowd gets started at about 8:30 p.m. on friday and saturday nights. if you’re there on a weekday, don’t miss the sushi bar, which is open nightly.