Over the past few days, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy quite a bit of time at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Beverly Hills Hotel is itself one of the shining stars of Los Angeles, the iconic "Pink Flamingo" whose image was famously used as the cover of the Eagles' Hotel California. But most importantly, this is a place that stretches back far into Los Angeles history and indeed starts a great part of it.
The hotel was founded in 1912 when there was barely even any Hollywood. There was certainly no Beverly Hills. In fact, it wasn't until they broke ground on the $300,000 hotel 100 years ago that the city began to grow up around it. Like much of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills was originally just acres and acres of agricultural land and so undesirable that residential tracts were practically given away for $2,000. Hard to believe that such humble beginnings would bring about a Hollywood colony that continues to this day.
The first to arrive were the original king and queen of Hollywood--Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Early investors in the Roosevelt Hotel and Grauman's Chinese Theater, they wanted to get away from it all and build their dream home in the spacious area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel. Pickfair, their idyllic retreat, was one of the first homes built in Beverly Hills and they set it high atop Summit Drive. Other celebrities soon joined them--Harold Lloyd, John Barrymore, Robert Montgomery, Miriam Hopkins--and it was then that the Hotel began to be known as the place for the Hollywood elite to meet.
Pickfair in the earliest Beverly Hills of the 1920s
The Beverly Hills Hotel in 1930 (above) and today
Checking In: 1950s yellow cotton pleated swing dress, 1960s white leather handbag,
yellow Charles David strappy stilettos, white magnesite beaded necklace custom made for GlamAmor,
silver hoop earrings, silver Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses (shown later)
The pink and green lobby of the grand hotel
Will Rogers, too, was an early resident of Beverly Hills, moving to Beverly Drive not long after his good friends were established at Pickfair. He was the biggest star at the time and became the Honorary Mayor of Beverly Hills in 1925. But he also built his Santa Monica-Pacific Palisades ranch in 1926 and loved the escape so much that he moved there permanently in 1928. It was really this move that made him a major figure in the history of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Will's ranch house in 1930 (above) and today
Most of Hollywood used to play polo at Will's place, which was near the ocean just above Sunset Boulevard at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains. The Beverly Hills Hotel was to the east on Sunset, so it became the watering hole for those both en route to the polo field and later after the matches as well. It was because this group frequented the Hotel so often that their bar became known as the Polo Lounge. Players included Darryl Zanuck (whose picture is behind the bar along with Will's), Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power, and Walt Disney.
Will's property is a place I know well...it is now Will Rogers State Park. A mere 10 minutes from my house, it is possibly my favorite hiking spot with trailheads galore and a spectacular view of both the city and the ocean. What's also wonderful is that Will's beautiful ranch house still stands along with his stables and the famed polo ground that is still used for play today.
Will Rogers' polo field today (above) and back in the 1920s
Just a few of the players (and fans) who frequented Will's field and the Polo Lounge--
Leslie Howard, Carole Lombard, and Spencer Tracy
Of course Will Rogers and his crowd are not the only Hollywood connection to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both Irene Dunne and Loretta Young, for example, have even owned the Hotel. And essentially every star through the years has played, stayed, or lived at the Hotel. Photos of favorite residents are presented throughout the place, and here are just some of that Hollywood royalty...
Cary Grant who wisely asserted, "Fashion is seasonal...style is forever."
Grace Kelly and her royal family outside Bungalow 5
Marilyn Monroe outside Bungalow 7 and with Joe DiMaggio inside
Jean Harlow getting a tennis lesson from the Hotel's tennis pro
Like my recent experience at the Roosevelt Hotel, the pool was one of my favorite places at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Of course I just recently discovered that Esther Williams had it built into her MGM contract that she got guest access to the Hotel pool each and every day, so it was extra special for me to go there. I also heard that the Beatles enjoyed it so much the pool manager allowed them to use it after hours. And Faye Dunaway was taught to swim there before playing Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. What's great is that you don't even have to swim to enjoy the pool now...the Hotel set up their Cabana Cafe so that you can enjoy drinks and dining poolside. You know I just had to go there and enjoy a little Sunday brunch.
Welcome to the Cabana Cafe!
The pool today (above) and the Beverly Hills Hotel Sand and Pool Club in the 1940s
The cute coffee shop within the Hotel is another option for dining
Back upstairs to check out more of the Hotel
Another night brought me back to the Beverly Hills Hotel for cocktails
at the Polo Lounge and Bar Nineteen 12, so named for the founding date of the Hotel
Pink at the "Pink Flamingo": 1950s shocking pink silk shantung wiggle dress, 1980s hot pink croco embossed clutch,
nude patent leather Charles David pumps, 1950s round CZ bracelet, and silver hoop earrings