BEVERLY HILLS – No stars. But plenty of style.
I was lucky enough to spend a night at the famed Beverly Hills Hotel this week, that fabulous pink palace made famous by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and dozens of other celebs over the years.
It’s a fabulous place that’s pretty much everything you’d think of; a dazzling, circular lobby that was recently given a major renovation, the wonderful and fabled Polo Lounge, a great swimming pool where they play classical music through underwater speakers and those famous bungalows for the reclusive movie types.
It was a nice day so I didn’t spend as much time looking over the interior of the Polo Lounge as I should have. But they’ll soon be giving it a facelift, so to speak, so perhaps it’s just as well.
There was a piano player tinkling away as we walked through, playing the song “Tomorrow” from Annie. The menu’s are covered with photos of various stars; mine had Warren Beatty and George Burns. The waiters are in white jackets, and, yes, mine is an aspiring actor and a musician who also hails from Buffalo. Nice kid.
The patio out back is paved with bricks and huge white umbrellas under a canopy of deep green trees and flowering pink bougainvillea. A stunning location, but be aware that a plate of very good pasta will set you back $35 and a glass of wine probably $17 or so. Still, it’s worth it just to soak in the atmosphere and to, yes, say you’ve dined at the Polo Lounge.
They serve some fine salads, too, including one with quinoa, kale, faro, raisins, chick peas, feta and fresh flower petals in a lemon vinaigrette for $26. It’s as beautiful a salad as you’ll see anywhere, and quite tasty.
The hotel turned 100 years old this year and they’ve made a lot of changes. The Polo Lounge is enormously popular with many long-time patrons, and they’re quite nervous about what the owners have planned. I was told it would be mostly a “soft” renovation, with changes to things like carpeting and paneling.
They’ll be redoing the guest rooms and suites by 2014. My room was lovely, with pale furnishings and beige/pinky red accents and comfortable chairs and a small sofa. I had a huge bathroom with pink and black marble floors and a huge tub with a separate shower and lots of gold. Perhaps a tad traditional looking so a refreshment wouldn't be a bad thing. Thankfully they have “normal” lights that don’t require a degree from MIT to operate.
I got a brief tour of the bungalows. Number four was a favourite of Howard Hughes. Apparently he loved the hotel’s roast beef sandwiches and would order them during the day and ask the staff to hide them outside his room in the garden or on the branches of a tree. He’d then come out at night and root around to find his food. And to think people called him crazy.
Marilyn Monroe loved units one and seven. I got a look inside Bungalow 7, which is huge and sumptuously furnished (see photo at left). There was a beautiful bed in the bedroom and I had to run my hand along it, even though it obviously isn’t the mattress Marilyn used. I’m not much on movie stars but it was pretty cool to stand in the bedroom where she used to sleep. Or whatever.
The 1912 Bar has some fine cocktails, including a 50-year-old Scotch that sells for something like $2,800 for a single shot. Hotel staff isn’t supposed to divulge secrets about who comes to the bar or the hotel, but I was told Charlie Sheen made a point of ordering not one but TWO of the drinks and then insisting hotel staff tell everyone that he had done so. So I can at least reveal that Hollywood tidbit.
It’s a nice bar where they have live music several days a week. There’s also a cool patio with comfy sofas outside and space heaters, with nice views of the palm trees on the property and down to the lighted towers of Century City.
One of the great spots at the BHH is the Fountain bar downstairs, which is open from 7 to 7. It’s a tiny lunch counter spot that has room for exactly 19 people and feels like an old-time diner, but with the hotel's famous banana leaf motif and a splash of signature pink. A friend tells me she sat next to Chris Rock last time she was there, but I was sitting with a couple from Chicago who have relatives in Toronto. We chatted about hotels and baseball and sipped $7 glasses of some of the finest orange juice on the planet.
It’s a fun spot for lunch or breakfast and it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Definitely recommended.