Even amid the overdressed audacity of Rodeo Drive, Gregg Donovan stands out as the only guy on the street in a top hat and tails, silk tie, and a pair of $1,500 shoes that have been glossed to an eye-dazzling shine.
Then there's that booming voice that never seems to grow hoarse as it shouts out a hundred or more times a day, "Welcome to Beverly Hills! You have arrived!" in a baritone that seems to rattle the windows of every store from Chanel to Cartier, Ralph Lauren to Louis Vuitton.
"I love this job!" says Donovan.
No, Donovan isn't the mayor of Beverly Hills, although he says Oprah Winfrey once mistakenly addressed him as such. His title is much loftier: ambassador of Beverly Hills.
"If you said, 'Where would you like to work? The White House? Buckingham Palace?'" he says, "I'd have to say I'd rather work here. Every day it's like 'The Wizard of Oz' and Rodeo Drive is the Yellow Brick Road."
The Kingdom of Beverly Hills didn't always have an ambassador of course. Once upon a time it was just another small town, albeit one with 35,000 people perched atop nearly 6 square miles of the world's most ridiculously overpriced real estate.
But it was also the land of dreams, where buses disgorged tourists by the thousands each day to gawk at the celebrities and the just plain filthy rich.
Then one day it was discovered that after snapping their pictures and wandering the streets google-eyed for a while, the tourists got back on the buses without buying anything.
A study was commissioned and it was determined "Pretty Woman Syndrome" was putting them off. Even people with money were afraid they would be treated like Julia Roberts' prostitute was in the film "Pretty Woman" if they showed up looking out of place.
It was decided a greeter was needed to change all that. Ten years ago, Donovan, a hotel concierge and former child actor who had spent the better part of a lifetime chasing an illusive dream of becoming famous, was hired.
"I'm not a millionaire yet, but I feel like a billionaire," he says when asked what the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau pays him. The bureau declines to disclose his salary, but Donovan says it's enough to lead a middle-class lifestyle.
This being Beverly Hills, however, he can't go out looking like a Wal-Mart greeter. The uber-expensive men's store Cavallini of Beverly Hills dresses him and Tiffany provides his cologne. (He threw in the top hat himself.)
"He's a bit of a ham. He was born for that job," says CNN's Larry King, who exchanges greetings with Donovan practically every day on his way to breakfast.
"I like him a great deal personally. He's very warm," adds King. "He's a little full of himself, too, but that's a good thing in that job."
Each weekday Donovan meanders Rodeo Drive and its surrounding streets, posing for pictures, dispensing directions, making lunch reservations, even accompanying some of the more shy visitors to the local watering holes and putting in a word for them with the bartenders.
All this is accomplished while keeping up a nonstop patter of bellowing bonhomie in one language after another.
"I'm fluent in Portuguese," he says after offering a hearty hello in Russian to a group of tourists.
"I've got basic Spanish, French, Italian," he continues. "OK German, Dutch and Swedish. And then the rest, you know, like Japanese, I can tell them where the bathroom is."
For everyone from celebrities to security guards, there's an exchange of pleasantries and maybe a quick inquiry about the family.
"Hi Burt. How's Mary?" he shouts to Burt Sugarman when he sees the Hollywood mogul who is married to Mary Hart.
Sugarman, who has known Donovan for 10 years, says he's never seen him have a down day.
Not that life hasn't contained a few disappointments for the ambassador who grew up a couple miles away in nearby Santa Monica and still lives there.
At 49, he says he's still "waiting to meet the right girl" and settle down and get married. He wouldn't mind seeing his acting career take off either.
But overall, he says, he's got it pretty good working in what he calls "The Land of Oz."
"And I traveled many, many years looking for that place over the Rainbow," he says.
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