The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has a long history of catering to the show biz elite. It was founded in 1927 by a syndicate of Hollywood luminaries (which included Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Sid Grauman, and Louis B. Mayer) to house east coast movie-makers who were working out here on the west coast. At its grand opening, superstars of the day such as Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, and Gloria Swanson were on hand for the inaugural celebration.
The hotel's "Blossom Room" hosted the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, on May 19, 1929. That was also the shortest Oscar ceremony ever, lasting just five minutes, as Douglas Fairbanks and Al Jolson helped give away 13 statuettes.
Actor Lew Ayres was discovered in the Blossom Room when he asked an actress to dance (and was noticed by her agent).
David Niven roomed in the servants' quarters when he first came to Hollywood, and Mary Martin began her singing career performing at the hotel's nightclub, the "Cinegrill," for $35 a week.
Marilyn Monroe posed on the diving board of the hotel's swimming pool for her first-ever ad (for suntan lotion).
It's no wonder that the Roosevelt is on the National Historic Register.
The Hotel has also been featured in a few films. For instance, 1988's "Sunset," starring Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner as Wyatt Earp, was set at the Roosevelt during the first Academy Awards ceremony. The climactic scene had them in a showdown with bad guy Malcolm McDowell and the police in the hotel lobby.
The exterior of the hotel appeared
in the 1998 remake of "Mighty Joe Young." Look for it
in the night time scene where the giant gorilla rampages down Hollywood
Boulevard and climbs up the Chinese Theatre, with police helicopters circling
over the Cinegrill sign.
And in the final season of the hit TV show "Dexter", it showed up in Episode 6 as a Miami hotel.
Like most of the surrounding area, the grand Roosevelt Hotel went into a decline in the 1950's; one owner demolished its archways, covered up its elaborately painted ceilings, and painted the entire hotel in a shade of "seafoam green." They came close to tearing it down in the 1980's, but fortunately, the Roosevelt was rescued. A luxury hotel chain, Radisson, bought the historic hotel and set out to restore it to its former glory. Armed with original blueprints and historic photos of the hotel's Spanish Colonial architecture, they undertook a major $35 million renovation, and now, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel shines again.
While most of Hollywood Boulevard continued to decay, the Hollywood Roosevelt launched its renovation effort, and has once again become a glittering oasis. (The rest of the Boulevard is finally starting to catch up.) Step off the Boulevard's dusty sidewalk, into the Roosevelt's elegant lobby, and it's like stepping into Hollywood's glamorous past. A pianist tinkles the ivories of a baby grand; well-dressed guests sip cocktails beneath chandeliers in the sunken Spanish lobby, a lobby adorned with rounded Moorish windows, potted palms, a bubbling fountain, and a giant wrought-iron chandelier (an original, which the renovators discovered in pieces in the basement, and spent six months putting back together).
There's even a statue of Charlie Chaplin near the front door.
Climb Shirley Temple's
tiled stairway to the upstairs mezzanine that encircles the lobby, and
you'll find an exhibit dedicated to Old Hollywood. Historic photos line
the walls, the original movie camera used to film "Gone With
The Wind" is on display, as well as framed Tinseltown memorabilia
(such as the original menu from the Brown
Derby), and photos of Hollywood landmarks - past and present. Studying
the exhibits along these walls is like taking a quick course in the history
of Hollywood. (And by the way, there are clean public rest rooms available
on this mezzanine level, which can come in handy after a day of sightseeing
on the boulevard.) [ Update: I'm told that they have removed most of the Old Hollywood displays. ]
At the northern entrance to the hotel was the Cinegrill, a restaurant & cabaret nightclub which hosted top entertainers in the 1940's, and was a major celebrity hangout. Marilyn Monroe was a frequent patron, preferring a dark corner booth. They also filmed the musical numbers from "The Fabulous Baker Boys" here at the Cinegrill. Remember Michelle Pfeiffer crooning atop that baby grand piano? Other movies on location shot at the Roosevelt include "Internal Affairs" (with Richard Gere), "Beverly Hills Cop II" (with Eddie Murphy), and numerous TV shows such as "Knot's Landing" and Cybill's own "Moonlighting."
That old Cinegrill space reopened as "Teddy's", part of a major renovation that began with the Roosevelt adding star-autographed plaques to their rooms: the first was from Steven Spielberg (who shot some of his Tom Hanks / Leonardo DiCaprio movie, "Catch Me If You Can" in the hallways of the Roosevelt).
By 2005, the old Roosevelt was suddenly becoming trendy again - and a popular nightspot.
Its new poolside Tropicana Bar was attracting them by the droves, giving Sky Bar at its prime a run for its money. Celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan, Eva Longoria , Jake Gyllenhaal, Scarlett Johansson, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Topher Grace, Hugh Hefner and Hitch's Eva Mendes have been spotted partying at the hotel recently. In 2005, Courtney Love passed out at the hotel and was taken away by paramedics. But in April of 2006 - just days after a live performance by Prince - the venerable Hotel pulled back a bit from its new party image, severing ties with the architect of their hot scene, Amanda Demme, and temporarily closing Teddy's until they could replace the ultra-lounge's management. Still, the cast of "That '70s Show" held their season finale wrap party at the Roosevelt in May of 2006.
And if that isn't enough for you, there's even a rumor that the Hollywood Roosevelt is haunted - not by just one, but by two celebrity ghosts! The staff claims that the ghost of actor Montgomery Clift haunts the ninth floor (suite #928), where he used to pace the halls back in 1953, memorizing his lines while making "From Here to Eternity." Tales told are of loud noises coming from the empty suite, and of phones left mysteriously off the hook. The other apparition is said to be that of Marilyn Monroe, whose image is said to occasionally appear in a full-length mirror which used to hang in her poolside suite (the mirror is now next to the elevator on the lower level).
The Roosevelt offers 320 rooms, 38 suites, and 65 poolside cabana rooms.. Valet parking is available in the rear. Paid parking lots nearby. (You can also usually find free curbside parking along the residential streets south of Hollywood Blvd., and west of Orange.)
Getting there: The hotel is located on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard, across the street from (and catty-cornered to) Grauman's Chinese Theatre, at the southwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive.
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