Seeing Stars: The Hotels of the Stars..  

3400 Wilshire Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA.

In February 2006, the Ambassador Hotel was torn down - proving once and for all that Los Angeles has no regard for its history...

In 2001, the Los Angeles Unified School District bought the property, and three new schools have now been built on the site of the Ambassador: an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. It opened in 2010, and will serve 4,200 students at a price tag of $578 million - the nation's most expensive public school ever.

Preservationists tried to convince them to use the historic hotel to house the school, rather than tear it down and build a new one, but the Los Angeles Unified school board voted in 2004 to demolish it. Only a few small parts of the hotel were preserved - a wall the Coconut Grove will become part of the school's main auditorium, a Paul Williams-designed coffee shop will be turned into a teacher's lounge, and parts of the pantry where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated were put in storage.

Ironically, the hotel was featured in the 2006 film "Bobby", about the night when Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the hotel after winning the California Primary.

In a nod to the site's history, the new schools have been named the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.

I will leave this page up for those interested in reading about the history of the Ambassador Hotel, but bear in mind that the article below was written when the hotel was still intact...

Don't try to book a room at the fabled Ambassador Hotel; it's closed now - has been for for a decade - but the historic building itself still stands on Wilshire Boulevard, and its legend continues.

This was the site of that quintessential Hollywood nightclub: the Coconut Grove lounge.

When it opened in 1921, the Coconut Grove instantly became a mecca for movie stars and star-gazers. The famous artificial palm trees which decorated the club's interior were left over from Rudolph Valentino's 1921 movie "The Sheik." The Grove was virtually synonymous with Hollywood glamour - actresses such as Joan Crawford ("Mildred Pierce"), Carole Lombard ("My Man Godfrey"), and Loretta Young ("The Bishop's Wife") were reportedly discovered while dancing at the popular nightclub.

Marilyn Monroe signed up with the Blue Book Modeling Company at their office in the Ambassador. Both Bing Crosby and Merv Griffin began their singing careers at the Grove. (In fact, Merv has recently created an updated version of the Grove, called "The Coconut Club," at his hotel, the Beverly Hilton.)

The Coconut Grove was also the site of many of the early Academy Award ceremonies. Oscar statuettes were handed out here on several occasions during the 1930's and early 1940's.

With its Mediterranean styling, tile floors, Italian stone fireplaces and semi-tropical courtyard, the Ambassador enchanted guests for over six decades. Long time residents at the hotel included Howard Hughes, Jean Harlow, John Barrymore and Gloria Swanson, and every U.S. President from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon stayed there, as did British royalty. Nixon wrote his Checkers speech here in 1952.

But the hotel had its dark moments as well. It was in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel that Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, following Kennedy's victory speech following the California primary election of 1968. We will never know what might have been...

The Ambassador Hotel is located on Wilshire Boulevard, right across the street from the former site of another former Hollywood landmark, the
Brown Derby, the famous restaurant shaped like a hat. Alas, the Brown Derby is also now gone - except for the dome, which was preserved, and now sits perched awkwardly atop a nondescript strip-mall on the other side of Wilshire.

The Ambassador Hotel itself still stands, but it has been closed since 1988 and there are no immediate plans to re-open it. However, despite being closed to the public, the Ambassador is as busy as ever behind that chain-link fence.

  Now owned by Donald Trump, the Ambassador has become one of the most popular sites in Los Angeles for on-location filming. Over a hundred productions are filmed there every year, including "Charlie's Angels 2" (with Cameron Diaz, Drew BarrymoreLucy Liu), "S.W.A.T.," "Legally Blonde 2," "The Italian Job," "Catch Me If You Can" (with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio), "Almost Famous," "Forrest Gump," "Pretty Woman," "Murder She Wrote," "Beverly Hills 90210," Universal's "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" (starring Johnny Depp and Gary Busey), "Crazy In Alabama" (starring Antonio Banderas & Melanie Griffith), "Man on the Moon" (with Jim Carrey), "Blow" (with Depp, Penelope CruzRay Liotta), and the Touchstone pictures "Godfather" spoof "Mafia!" (starring Lloyd Bridges & Christina Applegate) where the hotel's lobby was temporarily converted into a Las Vegas casino.

Remember the "Coco Bongo" nightclub in the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy classic, "The Mask"? That was none other than the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador. (They even borrowed the first part of its name.)

The movie industry loves the spot for its old-hotel look, with its grand, marbled ballrooms and high ceilings. It costs much less to rent the hotel than to rent similar space at studio sound-stage. And since the hotel is closed, the movie companies don't have to worry about shooting around hotel guests. With 500 rooms, plus a pool, basement, lobby, etc., there are almost unlimited filming possibilities, and it's isolated enough that they don't have to worry about disturbing the neighbors.

With the rebirth of swing dancing, the old hotel has also become a popular spot for parties. But it doesn't come cheap - it costs between $5,000 and $30,000 to rent the hotel for a party. Still, that hasn't stopped a number of studios such as Disney and Warner Bros from throwing their corporate bashes here.

 Getting there: From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street south to Wilshire Boulevard, turn left (east) on Wilshire, and go about a mile and a half east. The Hotel will be on your right (south) side, just two blocks east of Normandie Avenue - and about a mile west of MacArthur Park. (What remains of the Brown Derby can be found on the other side of Wilshire Blvd.)

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