Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hotel California

If there is one thing LA is loves, it's the glamorous past of LA. And it displays this love of its own past by making movies about it, printing picture books for sale at Hollywood knick knack shops, designing tours around old hot spots, and tearing said hot spots to the ground.

Wanna see the original Brown Derby? It's a parking lot. The Garden of Allah, the place in town for movie stars to get away in a private bunglow for some torrid adventures in the 30's? It was torn down in 1959 and there's a bank there. The Masquers Club? Demolished in 1986 for an apartment complex. Errol Flynn's house of sin? No more as of 1988. The Dude's Star Lanes bowling alley? Wrecked two years ago - supposedly a school is going up. Or Pickfair, the legendary home of legendary movie couple Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks? Well, once Pia Zadora got her hands on the property, she knocked down the 42 bedroom "lodge" in order to make something just a touch bigger.

Anyway... on to the latest in a long string of interesting architectural and cultural landmarks in line to meet with the wrecking ball... The Ambassador Hotel.

This hotel takes up a big chunk of land right on Wilshire on the edge of Koreatown and Silverlake. It houses the Coconut Grove, which was decorated with fake palm trees from the set of Valentino's The Sheik and entertained the likes of Jan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Gloria Swanson and Howard Hughes (who lived at the hotel too... maybe it's in that movie?). Bing Crosby started his career there.

It's also where Robert Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 after his California Primary victory speech. In fact, Sirhan doesn't want the building torn down because he believes that there is evidence in the walls that could clear him. Never mind those pesky witnesses.

The building is also still used for filming. Charlie's Angels 2, The Mask, Blow, Almost Famous, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, Pretty Woman, Catch Me If You Can... It was also used back in the day for the Academy Awards ceremony.

Well, the LA Unified School District bought the property a couple years ago and plan on ripping the deco masterpiece down and putting up a school. Seeing as how well that's been progressing over at the former all night bowling alley populated by the Coen Brothers and pals site, I can't wait to drive past this dirt lot every day for the next zillion years.

And still, the tour buses will cruise by. "And that lot is where the majestic Ambassador Hotel once stood... where Loretta Young was discovered, where John Barrymore lived, where the Academy Awards were held, and where countless films and TV shows have been filmed."

Like most of historic LA, if you use your imagination - or buy a book - you can still see it ...