The Coolest Tour Guide in L.A. Is a Bald Millennial With a Bushy Mustache
Adam Papagan conducts offbeat sightseeing excursions themed around Hollywood, O.J. Simpson, and now, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Here’s a shocker you’ll learn if you take the new Real Housewives of Beverly Hills driving tour: a lot of it is actually not filmed in its namesake city.
“Most of the stuff is in West Hollywood, Bel Air, places like that,” said Adam Papagan, the 31-year-old L.A. tour guide and creator of the recently launched Bravo!-TV-show-themed sightseeing experience. “Dorit Kemsley is the only one who even lives in the city limits [of Beverly Hills] and that house has been on the market for months.”
Papagan is a professional tour guide in Los Angeles, an enterprising millennial with a bushy mustache and a smooth, shaven head, who for years has been running his own tour guide companies. His first was Cool L.A. Tours, a sightseeing excursion around the city advertised as a chance to “explore Hollywood with a native.” Today, it’s Papagan’s main bread-and-butter, he said, “because everyone wants to see that.” But in recent years, he’s added more “esoteric” offerings to his sightseeing menu, starting with an O.J. Simpson-themed tour in 2015 and now the RHOBH tours.
Both revolve around things Papagan has obsessions with. A native Angeleno, he grew up in Brentwood, the Santa Monica-adjacent neighborhood where Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were found fatally stabbed on the night of June 12, 1994. Papagan was 6 at the time and attending summer camp at a nearby school. Through an odd stroke of luck and a perfectly timed stomach ache, he got picked up early from camp the morning after the murders, and ended up driving past the crime scene.
“[We] saw all these cop cars and ambulances. I also saw a sheet on the ground out front, which probably would have been Ron Goldman.”
He’s been enthralled with the former N.F.L. running back and his memorable court case ever since. Last summer, Papagan curated an O.J. Simpson-themed museum exhibit at a gallery in downtown Los Angeles that attracted thousands of visitors and garnered media attention worldwide.
RHOBH is a more recent interest for him, even though he’s long been a fan of reality television. The Real World, he said, wasn’t just a show he watched, it was something he “grew up on.” He claimed to also have been a fan of The Bachelor, watching the series “on and off” in the early aughts.
The L.A. tour guide is less knowledgeable about newer reality shows, having missed out on a lot of the latest and greatest series, including the entire Real Housewives franchise. But when a guest on a hiking tour he led to the Hollywood sign mentioned she was looking for an RHOBH tour and couldn’t find one, Papagan’s ears perked up.
“I had never seen the show before, but something about the idea just totally clicked,” he told OK Whatever via email.
The Real Housewives is one of the biggest media franchises in the nation, raking in millions of dollars for Bravo! each season and pulling in as many as 3-million viewers per episode. In the last 12 years, it’s sparked nine spin-offs series in cities across the U.S., more than half of which are still on-the-air today. The formula is the same for all of them: Document the lives of upper-class women with “strong personalities” and million-dollar homes, and then see what happens.
The Beverly Hills-focused series has been around since 2010 and the premiere of its ninth season airs this Tuesday, Feb. 12. All six housewives from the previous season will be returning, including the show’s only two remaining original cast members: Lisa Vanderpump and Kyle Richards. This year also sees the addition of a new face. Actress Denise Richards, who briefly appeared as a guest in Season 5, is now a permanently anointed housewife on the show.
Watching any TV series in its entirety is a slippery slope, and it didn’t take long for Papagan to become hooked on RHOBH. He developed a routine, watching one episode a night on his television after coming home from his tour guiding job. With a beer in-hand and a laptop nearby to look things up, he’d take “pretty extensive notes” of locations that might be worth visiting on a tour. After watching all 175 episodes — a labor of love that took both the summer and fall to complete — Papagan felt ready to launch his tour, and also strangely closer to the housewives.
“After a while, you start to feel like part of the friend group, if that makes any sense. I got really into it,” he said. “I probably could have learned to speak Chinese in that time, but instead I watched the housewives.”
Papagan might be a new Real Housewives convert, but he probably knows more about the Beverly Hills series than it’s most diehard fans. His tour includes the sites of some of the most pivotal dramatic moments throughout the series, spanning from the first to the most recent seasons. He takes guests to the Los Angeles street intersection where Kyle Richards publicly confronted her sister Kim about being an alcoholic, to which Kim screamed in reply, “You stole my house!” He swings guests by the swanky venue where Kim Richards was arrested in Season 5 for trespassing, public intoxication, and resisting a police officer, as well as the location of the infamous “Pantygate” fight between Erika Jayne and Dorit Kemsley from Season 7.
Like many real housewives, some of the Beverly Hills women own businesses, and Papagan makes it a point to visit those landmarks as well, including all four of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants: PUMP, SUR, Villa Blanca, and TomTom Bar.
And of course the homes of the housewives themselves are part of the tour, with stops at the abodes of current and past members, like Lisa Rinna and Richards.
Charismatic and affable, Papagan is no stranger to performing for an audience. As he put it, he’s “done a lot of stuff.” When he was 15, he started a public access cable television show, and he spent his 20s producing and making music with David Liebe Hart, touring worldwide, and hosting podcasts. There’s even a Wikipedia page about Papagan.
On the website for Cool L.A. Tours, it says the excursions are “less of a traditional tour and more like having a friend from L.A. show you around town.” The same can be said for his O.J. Simpson and RHOBH tours, too.
Papagan is not just an expert on his subjects with an uncanny ability to memorize hour-long scripts that he refers to as his “raps.” He’s also a cool, chill guy. He doesn’t drone or preach or turn robotic during his tours. Papagan seems genuinely interested in what he’s talking about, excited even as he gestures with his hands to drive his points home. His mind, you can tell, is like a big, vast hole of arcanum and the stops on his tours are not so much memorable locations from the shows as they are reflections of Papagan’s keen observational powers and impressive ability to identify places of interest related to the show that aren’t utterly obvious to the viewer.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills tours are about an hour and a-half long, depending on traffic, and cost $55 per person. Though he can accommodate larger parties, most of Papagan’s tours are limited to three people at a time due to space availability. He conducts the RHOBH tour in the same white 1994 Ford Bronco that he does his O.J. tours in. It’s the same color and model as the car O.J. Simpson tried to flee from the police in after he was charged with murdering his wife and her friend on June 17, 1994. Papagan set up on an alert on Craigslist for the vehicle and eyed the results doggedly for months until he found a seller close to him. When he bought it, the idea of conducting his tours in the same car that the Juice drove was simply a no-brainer. Now, because it’s the only vehicle he has already properly licensed and insured, it’s what he has to use for all his tours.
With its stick-shift steering, fabric-coated seats, and decades-dated air conditioning and sound systems, it’s a little bit ironic that he’s using it now for his Real Housewives tour. The car is the antithesis of luxury, the opposite of wealth, and stealthing around Beverly Hills in it definitely does not feel swanky. Then again, feeling rich about oneself is not the point of the tour, which though a new venture, has already gotten favorable feedback from guests.
“Los Angeles is a city of reality shows so most people get it,” Papagan said. “Even people who hate on the housewives I can tell are secretly fascinated by them.”
When the premiere of RHOBH Season 9 airs this Tuesday, you already know what Papagan will be doing. He, along with millions of other fans across the country, will be sitting in front of his television. Beer in one hand, pen in another, he’ll spend an hour catching up with his dolled-up and blown-out friends, taking notes on the spots they frequent so that someday his tours can visit them too.