Seeing Stars: The Hotels of the Stars..



9641 Sunset Boulevard,
Beverly Hills, CA. / (310) 276-2251 or (800) 283-8885


"Welcome to the Hotel California..."

Located on Sunset Boulevard, at the north end of Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Hills Hotel is renowned the world over. Built in 1912 in the middle of lima bean fields, the "Pink Palace" (as the Hotel is affectionately known) was there even before there was a Beverly Hills. The city grew up around the Hotel.


The Hotel's list of celebrity guests is extensive, including politicians, movie stars, and members of the royal family: John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Spencer Tracy, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Aristotle Onassis, the Duke of Windsor...

   

Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes would reserve up to 25 rooms at a time, and lived in one group of bungalows here for almost thirty years (even back in the 50's, Hughes paid $350,000 a year for the privilege). When Elizabeth Taylor was a child, her father ran an art gallery in the Hotel lobby, and she honeymooned in bungalow #5. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard rendezvoused here before Gable's divorce, in nearby bungalow #4. Even the owners of the Hotel have been celebrities: Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and now the Sultan of Brunei.

          

The Beverly Hills Hotel has been the location for numerous Hollywood movies, including Neil Simon's "California Suite" (with Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, and Richard Pryor), "The Way We Were" (with Redford & Streisand), "Shampoo" (with Warren Beatty & Goldie Hawn), and "American Gigolo" (with Richard Gere). It was also prominently featured on the cover of The Eagles' "Hotel California" album.

The Hotel has always been the scene of great events, parties, and secret trysts. Watergate figure John Mitchell learned that the scandal had gone public while staying here at the Pink Palace.

Johnny Weissmuller supposedly landed the title role for "Tarzan'' in 1932 when the director saw him jump into the Hotel's swimming pool to save a drowning girl. At another time, Katharine Hepburn jumped into the pool, fully clothed, after playing tennis - the same pool where Joan Crawford learned to swim freestyle.

Greta Garbo hid out at the Hotel. W.C. Fields and John Barrymore hung out at the bar. John Lennon & Yoko Ono used to stay in the bungalows.

It is here at the Hotel that you will find the world-famous Polo Lounge restaurant, a watering hole for Hollywood stars since its inception. In fact, legend has it that the Polo Lounge originally got its name because Will Rogers and his movie star friends (such as Douglas Fairbanks and Spencer Tracy) used to play weekend polo games up at Rogers' ranch above Sunset, and after the games the group would cool off at the hotel lounge. The Lounge has also been the scene of countless mega deals: when Paramount was bought out by Gulf & Western the deal was struck at the Polo Lounge. Zsa Zsa Gabor signed her first movie contract here. Jean Harlow played tennis here. Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson... you name 'em, they've been here.

The Polo Lounge remains a popular spot for the Hollywood crowd, and you can still spot movie stars here today (although some of them choose to sit inside the restaurant, not on the sunny patio). The menu still offers a classic Neil McCarthy salad, named after the polo-playing millionaire.

In 2008, a fan (Ron B.) emailed me to say that he enjoyed a Thursday lunch at the Polo Lounge, and spotted Sharon Stone, James Caan and Heather Locklear. (Not bad for a single visit. ;).

    

In March of 2002, Elton John had his 55th birthday party at the Polo Lounge. Guests included Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Richard Gere, Ben Kingsley, Courtney Love, Jon Bon Jovi, Dennis Hopper, and "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann.

In 1998, it was the site of Miramax's post-Oscar party, which drew guests such as Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Peter Fonda, Matt Damon, Helen Hunt, Robert De Niro, Demi Moore, Spike Lee, Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, Helena Bonham Carter, and Neve Campbell.

In September 1998, John Stamos (of "Full House") was married at the hotel; guests included Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, the Olsen twins (Mary-Kate and Ashley), David Spade ("Just Shoot Me"), supermodel Tyra Banks, "Full House" co-star Bob Saget, and Saturday Night Live's Rob Schneider.

In February of 1999, Arista Records held their pre-Grammy party at the hotel, and the guests included Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Sean ``Puffy'' Combs, Sarah McLachlan, Monica, Usher, the Backstreet Boys, Kenny G, Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Quincy Jones, John Fogerty, Dick Clark, Casey Kasem, Jackie Collins, Donny Osmond, Sidney Poitier and more.

In 2000, the Hotel's annual Oscars party drew such names as Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Roberto Benigni, Julianne Moore, Christina Ricci, Vince Vaughn, Roberto Benigni, Jane Fonda, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Caine, Patrick Swayze, Mike Myers, Walter Cronkite, Malcolm McDowell, Harvey Keitel, Dylan McDermott, Wes Craven, Lena Olin, Don Rickles and Gloria Estefan.

In January of 2002, the first-ever AFI Awards (American Film Institute) show was held at the hotel, and brought out a crowd of stars which included Dustin Hoffman, Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Sissy Spacek, Elijah Wood, Ron Howard, Billy Bob Thorton, Haley Joel Osmont, and most of the casts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Sopranos" and "The West Wing."

In December of 2002, Lakers basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal was married at the hotel in a hush-hush ceremony.

The Beverly Hills Hotel is fairly modest in appearance. A three-story, mission-style building, it sits upon a small knoll above Sunset Boulevard, almost hidden behind a tropical wall of 80-year-old palm trees and banana plants. The Hotel features pink stucco walls (which inspired its nickname), tile roofs, and a cupola with a flag on top. The Hotel originally had 232 rooms and 21 private bungalows, but after the 1995 renovation, when walk-in closets were added to each room and the formerly small bathrooms were greatly enlarged, the number of rooms was reduced to 194.

The Polo Lounge is done up in peachy pink (as you might expect), with deep carpets and dark green booths, each booth featuring a plug-in phone. Pink tablecloths are accented with pink vases containing rosebuds; a wall of windows looks out on the sunny patio. Legend has it that Mia Farrow (and maybe even Marlene Dietrich) was banned from the Polo Lounge for wearing pants. You can expect to pay from $75 to $120 for dinner for two. (Breakfast is your best bet at the Polo Lounge, at around $21 to $37 for two.)

The new Art Deco Polo Grill (around the back of the Polo Lounge, toward the bungalows), is even pricier, where dinner can set you back $90 to $130. Elsewhere, the Tea Lounge, a balcony of sorts, features peach velvet chairs and sofas, and a gold-leafed baby grand Steinway embellished with a bird & flower motif.

For a less-expensive place to eat in the Pink Palace, you might want to try the little Fountain Coffee Shop downstairs, which offers seating only on tall, wrought-iron stools at a curving pink Formica counter, surrounded by the Hotel's trademark banana leaf wallpaper. The milkshakes are grand, the grilled sandwiches fine, and the Dutch Apple pancakes at breakfast have always been a favorite. Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand romanced here; Guns N' Roses were signed by their manager at this counter. John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Howard Hughes and Desi Arnaz also hung out here. For casual visitors, this coffee shop provides an opportunity to visit the Hotel and stroll its grounds without spending a fortune. Breakfast specialties are in the $8.50-$11.50 range, while lunch items can be a few dollars more. The problem here is the service, which is often slow. (The coffee shop closes at 7 PM.)

By the 90's, the Hotel was beginning to show its age, and like many Beverly Hills residents, it opted for a face lift. The Hotel closed it doors in 1993 and didn't reopen until June 3, 1995, when a grand reopening gala was staged, with the list of the invited including Frank Sinatra, Steve Martin, Jacqueline Bisset, Debbie Reynolds, Carl Reiner, James Caan and Rosanna Arquette. (A copy of the star-studded guest list is on display in the lobby.) Since then, the hotel has been the home-away-from-home for such stars as John Travolta and supermodel Cindy Crawford.

The Hotel cost only half a million dollars to build back in 1912, but the 1995 renovation cost over 200 times that much: $100 million. Fortunately, the owner (the Sultan of Brunei) may be the richest man in the world - with a fortune exceeding $40 billion, so that didn't pose much of a problem.

Rest assured that the newly-restored Beverly Hills Hotel looks even better than before. They have merely gilded the lily, maintaining the Hotel's classic appearance, yet adding a new touch of peach and apricot elegance to the interior, with curvy Art Nouveau ceilings, gilded wrought-iron balconies, and massive Italian chandeliers accented with pink crystal roses.

The room rates have also kept up with inflation: back in 1912, a room at the Pink Palace cost $18. a night. Today, room rates range from $275 a night up to $3,000 a night for the Presidential Suite (which includes its own chef and butler). Guests are given gold keys engraved with their names. All rooms include three telephones, a computer, a plain-paper fax machine, a safe, and a butler-service button. Even the linen is by (who else?) Polo's Ralph Lauren.

The Hotel also has its snobby side. They maintain a class-oriented card filing system: white cards for commoners, blue cards for regulars, and pink cards for the true elite. Lyndon Johnson is said to have received a blue card when he was veep, which wasn't updated to pink even after he became President.

 Getting there: To reach the Beverly Hills Hotel from Rodeo Drive, simply go north up Rodeo to Sunset Boulevard; the Hotel will be right in front of you (to your right), on the north side of Sunset Boulevard, between Rodeo Drive & Beverly Drive.


[For more information on this subject, you can access the Beverly Hills Hotel's own website at: http://www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com.]


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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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