When friends come to visit Los Angeles for the first time, invariably they want to walk down Hollywood Boulevard, check out the stars and the Chinese Theatre. Up until a few years ago, Hollywood Boulevard was incredibly seedy and rundown, stars in the ground notwithstanding, and I counselled everyone to just skip it, unless they really really wanted a photo with Mickey Mouse or a plastic Oscar statuette. A lot of money has been poured into the Boulevard in the last ten years and seedy it isn’t any longer but it’s certainly not one of my favourite places to visit: too many people, yet another mall and Mickey Mouse still hanging there.
I do have some fond memories though, such as the very first time I visited LA and stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel, conveniently located to the office, and walked down the street at midnight to get a veggie Mac, while sidestepping beggars, drunks and homeless people (and they didn’t even have the veggie option). The Roosevelt Hotel was sort of dingy too, a former beauty whose looks had become drab and tired. My room was so huge I remember having a hard time watching tv from the bed, that’s how far it was placed. The Roosevelt is still a Hollywood Boulevard landmark and one where I will happily drag visitors into. A few years ago, serious money was poured into a renovation, restoring this gem to its former glory.
The cavernous lobby is a wonderful example of Spanish colonial, with a sweeping staircase of primly polished original Saltillo tiles. The colorful ceramic tiles that decorate the fountain and the baseboard are also original and typical of decorating choices of the ’20’s and ’30’s. If you are in there, also check out the intricate ceiling, also original.
So much Hollywood lore is contained between those walls. Partly financed by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the hotel opened its doors in 1927 and, in 1929, hosted the first Academy Awards in one its ballrooms, now used for conferences and weddings. Marilyn Monroe lived there for a while and so did Montgomery Clift while shooting “From Here to Eternity”. Many a celebrity has graced those floors and it is said that some of them are still haunting the place. Legend has it that the mirror that hang in Ms. Monroe’s cabana is now in storage, as too many people kept on seeing the reflection of a blond woman in it. On the 9th floor, guests are apparently often disturbed by loud steps and the sound of a clarinet (Mr. Clift inhabited a room on the 9th floor and was known to play the clarinet at odd hours). Other apparitions have scared the bejesus out of unsuspecting guests, although I recall sleeping very well (but it might have been the jet lag).
Now the hotel rooms are a pleasant palette of chocolate-brown, taupe and white and very modern although the public areas have retained the allure of the ’30’s. A gaming area, called The Spare Room, keeps patrons entertained until the wee hours, a good restaurant keeps them fed and, for an excellent burger, right off the street, one can step into “25 degrees” where, in an incongruous dark red room, a throwback to glamour, it’s possible to enjoy shakes, fries, hot dogs and burgers.
If you care to take a peek at the pool, David Hockney actually painted the geometrical design, some time in the 1980’s. Now, where else can you take a dip in such artful water?