Stuffed between the 73 toll road and the 405 parking lot, Laguna Hills is a hidden treasure for folks seeking an overwhelmingly white, rich, gated enclave with $10 million, rolling-hill estates and ample stables for thoroughbred horses. Incorporated in 1991, this 6.7-square-mile community was once best known for its sprawling, out-of-date mall and absurdly gerrymandered shape. But in 2007, Orange County billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III inadvertently wrecked the city's traditional values image and made the place an international landmark for hedonistic kinkiness.
According to a lawsuit, Nicholas spent at least $30 million constructing an extravagant, subterranean complex, with tunnels, sex dungeon rooms and a concert facility. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Broadcom Inc. co-founder also allegedly used his private jet and helicopter to fly in female prostitutes from New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles for wild parties at the underground “Ponderosa.”
Unless you have special permission to enter the gated communities and explore the covert lives of the ultra-wealthy while they attend sermons at Saddleback Church in nearby Lake Forest, a summer trip here won't offer numerous points of interest. Besides the aforementioned mall, Laguna Hills' other major landmark is Nellie Gail Ranch Tennis and Swim Club (25281 Empty Saddle Dr., 949-831-6660; nelliegailranchtennisandswimclub.com). But you can't enjoy the facilities unless you buy a private membership.
We're not saying this city can't provide entertainment to the masses. For example, here's an itinerary for the entire family. After the kids start yapping about why other people live in those mansions with Nicholas, dump them off at either Chuck E. Cheese's (26538 Moulton Pkwy., 949-831-3500) or, if you need peace until 11 p.m. on the weekends, sign the legal waiver at Big Air Trampoline Park (23251 Avenida de la Carlota, 949-305-9788; www.bigairoc.com) and let them run wild.
No doubt the missus desires personal space, too. You have two good choices: Lori Camacho's My Sacred Connections (23016 Lake Forest, 949-340-1074) offers readings, energy healings and spirit-channeling sessions. Don't worry about encountering any nasty ghouls here; connections are guaranteed to be with “only those spiritual helpers of the highest good.” Whew! And when she's done there, have a taxi deliver her to the Awakenings Center for Conscious Living (25260 La Paz Rd., 949-457-0797). It, too, provides psychic readings ($1.50 per minute), but there's also a $65 “Aura Love Wash” and a $55 “Detox Bliss” foot spa. If those rejuvenating measures fail, the “Lifestream Generator” can be rented at $30 for 20 minutes of “quantum leap in energy” technology services.
Now that you're alone, breathe a sigh of relief and head to the Emerald Lounge inside the Hills Hotel (25205 La Paz Rd., 949-586-5000; www.thelagunahillshotel.com/restaurant-lounge/emerald-lounge.htm), where there's a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, live musical entertainment on weekend nights and continual airing of sporting events on flat-screen TVs.
Given that the kids and the wife are probably still enjoying a respite from your quirks and control, make the second of your three stops at the popular OC Armory (23012 Del Lago Dr., 949-768-5189). Ready for that next gun purchase? As federally licensed firearms dealers, the people here can help to satisfy all your legal NRA urges.
And, lastly, do what you've been secretly craving all day: have a sexy-time party in an underground lair.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.