L.A. Story Spotlight: Sarah Dandashy

Sarah Dandashy at The London West Hollywood | Photo by Mat Wright

Years of travel as a young girl became the foundation of a successful career for Sarah Dandashy, a concierge at The London West Hollywood. Born in Pennsylvania, the half-Lebanese Dandashy grew up in Saudi Arabia and then lived in London, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York. She moved to Los Angeles almost nine years ago. “Shortly after landing in L.A., I got lucky and was offered a job as a concierge,” says Dandashy. “I barely knew the city or even what a concierge was, but I figured I would give it a whirl. It turns out I had a knack for being a concierge." Dandashy learned about Los Angeles “from the ground up,” starting at the L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills, then a few years at the Peninsula Beverly Hills before her current gig at The London West Hollywood, where she’s been a concierge for over two and a half years.

Most travelers have some idea of what a concierge does. “The best way to describe it, is that a concierge can be your personal assistant while you’re staying at that hotel,” says Dandashy. “So, the big things that we all know that concierges do - restaurant reservations, we can help with rental cars, getting tickets to shows, things like that. But then we also help solve problems, too. ‘Oh no, I arrived at LAX and I left my briefcase at the taxi stand, can you help me get it?’ It’s a fine balance of making people’s dream vacations, and then also problem solving when things happen on the fly.”

The London Bar | Photo courtesy of The London West Hollywood, Facebook

Located just off the legendary Sunset Strip, The London West Hollywood features a stylish mix of urban chic and L.A. cool. “What I love about this hotel is that it’s this fine balance between trendy and classy,” says Dandashy. “There’s a very young vibe to it, it’s kind of hip - but it’s not a party scene. It’s people that know what they want, it’s a classy atmosphere. It’s very accessible - nice, clean, simple design.” The clientele are another positive aspect of the hotel. “I think the people that come here, there’s a great way to connect with them. They want to connect. ‘Show me where you would go.’ You almost feel like you’re making friends along the way.”

Sarah Dandashy at the concierge desk | Photo by Daniel Djang

Every day at work is different - Dandashy never knows what to expect. Case in point, a couple staying at The London had a last-minute request to go to the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. The members-only nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts occasionally opens up for non-members, but it wasn’t to be on this particular busy weekend. Dandashy thought outside the box and told the couple, “Why don’t we have the Magic Castle come to you,” and arranged for a magician to perform a private, in-room show for them. “The tricky part was when I actually had to ask my General Manager, ‘Can we have a dove and a rabbit in the room?’”

“But really, the most rewarding aspect is when you’re able to make somebody’s stay,” says Dandashy. “Maybe they had a preconceived notion as far as what Los Angeles was going to be like. And maybe you go beyond that, and then they come back, ‘Oh my gosh, L.A. is amazing. I didn’t know it was going to be this cool. I can’t wait to come back.’ And then even more so, ‘I’m calling you before I come back.’”

Dandashy gets to know regular guests of the hotel. “And it’s really cool, especially families - you know, summertime is a huge time for families - and then see them as they have little kids, and the little kids get a little older, and then they get a little older. ‘I remember you when you were in diapers.’ You become an extension of the family, in a sense.”

In August 2013, Dandashy earned the distinction of Les Clefs d'Or - “the gold keys of the concierge world,” as she describes them. Two current members of Les Clefs d’Or have to sponsor a concierge for consideration. After passing a rigorous admission process, which includes written and “secret shopper” tests, a concierge is selected to become a member of the prestigious international organization, which includes almost 650 concierges in the United States. Les Clefs d'Or membership is shown by the crossed gold keys that concierges wear on their uniform lapels.

Shortly after she started working at The London, Dandashy launched her own vlog, Ask a Concierge. Dandashy’s side project evolved organically from being a concierge. “I talk about all this stuff every day - what tours to take, what to do at Universal [Studios Hollywood]. And how cool if I can put together videos of common questions and do it as an extension.” The videos feature Dandashy presenting L.A. guides such as beaches, shopping, and dining. She's also taken a helicopter tour and even learned how to surf. “A couple of guests will come up [to me], ‘I saw you in Australia, you’re the girl in the video! We love it, we’re so glad to be here.’ That’s kinda cool. It’s been a fun road.”

View from Inspiration Point at Runyon Canyon Park | Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Dandashy’s extensive list of L.A. recommendations starts with enjoying nature. “I love to get outdoors as much as possible. L.A. is amazing. I live at the bottom of Runyon Canyon, so I try to go up there all the time. I love to get over to Malibu - it’s really growing and changing, there’s so many cool things out there. Even if it’s just a drive, or Nobu Malibu is certainly fun."

Santa Monica Pier | Photo courtesy of Shabdro Photo, Flickr

She’s also a fan of exploring the city on foot. “We’re always driving in L.A., so when you can put yourself in a place and just walk around and come back to your car and say, ‘Yeah, I walked somewhere today!’ I love to park my car in Santa Monica, and then do the pier or walk down to Venice.”

Getty Villa courtyard | Photo by Stephen Lee Carr, Flickr

“I’m definitely a huge fan of the Getty Villa in Malibu. It’s breathtaking out there. You’ve got ocean, you’ve got Greek and Roman artifacts. You go there and you feel like you’ve taken a day trip to Greece, but you’re in Malibu.”

"The Burghers of Calais" at the Norton Simon Museum | Photo courtesy of Ed Kwon, Flickr

“Pasadena is also great, you’ve got the Norton Simon Museum there. That’s another quick little day trip, you’re in this beautiful residential area and then, oh my gosh, such amazing artwork.”

"Levitated Mass" at LACMA | Photo courtesy of Greg V, Flickr

“You can’t go wrong with LACMA, I think it’s so iconic - Levitated Mass, and everything there. And what they do in the summertime as far as live music outside. It’s really art for all the senses.”

Cadman Drive Trail at Griffith Park | Photo courtesy of Michael Locke, Flickr

Asked what makes Los Angeles so special, Dandashy says, “I’m very much a city girl, and [L.A.] is a city. Because it’s spread out, you have all the neighborhoods. So you get all the things you’re looking for in a city life but with a little bit more space. People can have a pool, you can drive ten minutes and you can start a hike, whether it’s Griffith [Park] or Topanga [Canyon]."

“Yet it’s a big city. You’ve got everything that you have in New York City for example, but there’s a little more breathing room. So you can make your dreams happen with a little bit of greenery.”

L.A. is a city of stories. Not just screenplays and novels. But real life stories that can only happen in L.A. A close encounter with dolphins. A brush with a celebrity. A cupcake from a vending machine. It could be an event, an exhibit, a song. But the moment it happens, you can’t wait to tell everyone back home about it. What's your L.A. story?