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How Hotelier Jeff Klein Transformed LA’s Hotel Scene by Trusting His Gut

Jackie Caradonio

You could call Jeff Klein the unofficial mayor of West Hollywood. The boutique hotelier has been sprucing up the once-seedy LA neighborhood for more than a decade, converting old eyesores like the San Vicente Bungalows and Sunset Tower into chic landmarks where Hollywood’s who’s who go to rub elbows and sip cocktails. Though he has a knack for producing privileged hot spots, the entrepreneur is remarkably down-to-earth—something that makes his singular tastes in everything from fashion to food all the more compelling.

Do you have a uniform for certain occasions?

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I wear the same thing pretty much every day: jeans, a button-down shirt, and a blazer. My shirts and jackets are usually Brunello Cucinelli—they’re stylish without being too stylish, somewhat rooted in the classics, and always beautifully made. And my Acne jeans are the thing in my wardrobe I wear most often.

How often do you train?

I run about five miles three times a week and do the elliptical and free weights twice a week. Running is probably the thing that calms me most. It’s hard for me to slow down.

How much do you trust your gut instinct?

Very much—I built a career on it. Without trusting my gut, I never would have bought the Sunset Tower or the San Vicente Bungalows. Everyone told me I was crazy to do both, but I listened to my gut.

What’s your favorite seat on a plane?

I hate all seats on all planes.

Drive or be driven?

Driven. I don’t care about status symbols, and at the end of the day, cars are really just that. All I want in a car is for it to be functional. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, and anyway, I prefer to be driven so I can use that time efficiently—answering emails!

What’s your most annoying quality?

I have so many it would be unfair to the others to pick just one.

What is the most recent thing you regret not buying?

This amazing house in Beverly Hills. It was designed by architect Wallace Neff and sits on about 1.5 acres of land. It’s very special … but I couldn’t afford it anyway.

Are you wearing a watch?

I am not wearing one right now, but I have a few watches that are very important to me. The one that’s most special is a Piaget that my grandfather gave my father and my father gave to me. I don’t think it even works anymore—I actually keep it in a vault in a bank—but it’s a gorgeous watch in white gold with diamonds. I also have a Cartier Panthère.

Where are your regular tables in London, New York, and Los Angeles?

In London, it’s the Wolseley or Scott’s, which has the most delicious raw bar. In New York, I still love Milos. And in LA, my regular table is at Madeo. There’s an Italian mama in the kitchen, and you can really feel that with the cooking. The Penne Madeo is life-changing.

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?

Meditation. I’ve never successfully tried it, but I could definitely stand to do it.

When was the last time you completely unplugged?

Probably in Positano last summer. Every year we go to Il San Pietro di Positano, and it’s heaven on earth. Every day we take a small boat out for a new adventure—we visit Capri or a little seaside restaurant and get fresh fish. It’s the one place I don’t feel the itch to look at my phone.

What advice do you wish you’d followed?

Youth is wasted on the young, so enjoy it while you have it!

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Phuket. My first “fancy trip” as a young adult in my late 20s was to the Amanpuri in Phuket, and I have such fond memories of it. I’d love to go back.

What does success look like to you?

Having a lot of free time, which means I am far from successful.

What’s worth paying for?

Anything that makes the ones I love happy.

Bowie or Dylan?

I worship Dylan. I find his music so relaxing and soothing. Bowie may be cooler, but Dylan’s music is better.

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