Hot spots: the Beverly Hills Hotel, California | South China Morning Post
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Hot spots: the Beverly Hills Hotel, California

Stephen Lacey

 

What is it? The word "iconic" is bandied about a little too often these days, but in this case it's more than justified. The Beverly Hills Hotel is indeed an icon, having opened in 1912 (Beverly Hills is named after it, not the other way around) and hosted the rich and famous for 101 years.

The rich and famous? Yes, guests have been a veritable who's who of Hollywood royalty - many of whom preferred to stay in the hotel's uber-luxurious bungalows, dotted around the five hectares of landscaped grounds. Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed six honeymoons of unabashed rumpy-pumpy in bungalow No5, while Marilyn Monroe liked to "entertain" in bungalow No7. The eccentric Howard Hughes called the "pink palace" home for the best part of 30 years, often reserving 25 rooms at a time; and other luminaries include Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, John F. Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis and the hotel's current owner, the Sultan of Brunei.

So it's pink? It has been since 1947, when it was daubed in pink stucco to capture the country-club look of the day. Equally distinctive is the C.W. Stockwell-designed banana leaf wallpaper that lines the corridors inside. Very funky. And the place may well seem familiar: it has appeared in numerous films, including The Way We Were, Shampoo and American Gigolo; and it featured on the cover of the 1976 Eagles album Hotel California. At the time, the hotel owners' called in the lawyers, none too pleased by the line in the title track claiming "you can never leave". When bookings trebled on the back of the album's success, however, all was forgiven.

Isn't the decor getting a bit tired? Not really. The hotel is currently undergoing a revamp by renowned New York-based designer Adam Tihany, but he's retained the signature red carpet at the entrance and kept his hands off the beloved Venetian chandelier in the green lobby, where the well-trodden green carpet has been replaced by a limestone banana-leaf medallion mosaic.

Anywhere to cool off? Yes indeed - the hotel pool is as iconic as the hotel itself. It was here that Tarzan's Johnny Weissmuller was discovered and Katharine Hepburn took a dip in her tennis whites. At the moment the cabanas are being revamped and are expected to be completed by next year, but the pool itself is still open for business.

I'm feeling peckish … No problem, step through to the renowned Polo Lounge, where the Rat Pack once swilled martinis and Marlene Dietrich eradicated the "no slacks for women" dress code when she refused to wear a skirt. Tihany has created a welcoming space in which to discuss a screenplay over egg-white omelettes and French-press coffee. It's all very Hollywood. But if you really want to get noticed, do brunch in the patio area, with its white ivy-leaf wrought-iron furniture, concrete mushroom canopies drip-ping with chartreuse bougainvillea and booths framed by patterned besser-block feature walls - in pink, of course.

What if I can't afford a bungalow? There are 208 guestrooms, all finished in a subdued palette of greens, pinks, apricots and yellows. All furnishings have been custom-designed, including armoires, slip-covered or English-style sofas, tufted stools at the foot of canopied beds, comforters of Matelasse fabric and more. You won't be disappointed.

Will I spot any movie stars? You've got a good chance. We spotted the Olsen twins wandering the hallway, but they probably don't count. George Clooney and Brad Pitt frequent the Amir clothing boutique downstairs, where you can drop up to US$65,000 on a suit.

Anything to do nearby? The main shopping area of Beverly Hills is about a 15-minute stroll down Rodeo Drive. You can hit Gucci, Prada or - if money's tight - Gap. You might look a little strange walking here though, because nobody walks in LA. Your best bet is to take the courtesy car - a top-of-the-line Mercedes with a chauffeur.

What's the bottom line? Published rates start from HK$3,880 a night for a guestroom. For more information, visit www.beverlyhillshotel.com.

 

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