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By Lisa Bannon Steinmetz Photographs by Lauren Greenfield

Here, looks really are everything.

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“You are way, way too blond,” says hair guru José Eber, running his hands through the wispy locks of a distraught customer. “You need to go red.”

It’s Saturday afternoon inside Eber’s Beverly Hills beauty atelier, a vast series of mirrors, lights, and softly whirring blow-dryers that resembles a futuristic spaceship. Eber charges $175 for this 15-minute opinion. If he actually cuts your hair, it costs another $300.

“But I’m tired of orange and red,” the woman pouts. “I used to be red, then I went blond. No one can do blond.” Eber doesn’t budge: “I see you red. And your lipstick is all wrong. Are you ready for a major change?”

Eber, who fled the “stifling” style of his native France more than 20 years ago, is wearing a diamond tennis bracelet, a feathered cowboy hat, and a long chestnut ponytail. His first move after arriving here was to borrow the money for a brand-new Rolls-Royce. “It was the best thing I ever did,” explains Eber. “In Beverly Hills, if people believe you are doing well, then you are doing well.”

Within this southern California enclave, perception truly is reality. A colorful cocktail of entertainment stars, new money, and year-round sunshine, zip code 90210 gleefully celebrates ostentation. It may not be the absolute richest place in the world, but wealth is probably not displayed with as much sheer exuberance anywhere else. The local Gucci boutique is completely sold out of $750 Lucite dog bowls. Even the Beverly Hills Police Department is in on the act. It’s won awards four times since 1989 for its fashionable uniforms. The concern for appearance has kept out the ugliness of modern life; there are no smokestacks, no billboards, no McDonald’s.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic Magazine team shares some of their best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Contrary to what television would have us believe, there is no high school in Beverly Hills’ zip code 90210. Beverly Hills High School is in the zip code 90212. The television program Beverly Hills 90210 used Torrance High School in Torrance, California, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Beverly Hills.

City of Beverly Hills
This comprehensive site includes images from around the city and has links to the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor’s Bureau.

City of Los Angeles
The official website of the Los Angeles city government offers details on everything from current events to the zoo to the Coliseum.

U.S. Census Bureau 1990
This U.S. Census Bureau site provides socioeconomic and demographic data by zip code, currently from the 1990 census.


Basten, Fred E. Beverly Hills: Portrait of a Fabled City. Douglas-West Publishers, 1975.

Wagner, Walter. Beverly Hills: Inside the Golden Ghetto. Grosset and Dunlap, 1976.


de Roos, Robert and Thomas Nebbia. “Los Angeles, City of the Angels.” National Geographic, Oct. 1962, 451-501.

Ellis, William S. and Jodi Cobb. “Los Angeles: City in Search of Itself.” National Geographic, Jan. 1979, 26-59.

Smith, Griffin, Jr., and Stephanie Maze. “The Mexican Americans: A People on the Move.” National Geographic, Jun. 1980, 780-809.

Azel, José and Jerry Camarillo, Jr. “Follow Your Star to Hollywood.” National Geographic Traveler, Winter 1985/86, 67-79.

Anthony, Joseph Jr., “Los Angeles for Less.” National Geographic Traveler, May/Jun. 1995, 18-23.

Gonzalez, Laurence and Wexler, Mark. “Backcountry 90210.” National Geographic Adventure, Fall 1999, 28-32.


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