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.
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.
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 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 Barrymore & Lucy 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 Cruz & Ray 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.
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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