As Hollywood parties go, Tuesday evening's bash to celebrate the Beverly Hills Hotel's 75th anniversary--while still in the midst of its 74th year--may rank as one of the stranger events of the year.
To start, the hotel's majority stockholder, Ivan Boesky, had just reached a legal settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to give up $50 million in illicit insider-trading profits, pay a further penalty of $50 million and plead guilty to a federal felony charge.
(Neither Boesky nor his wife Seema, who together own 52% of the hotel, were present for the party. The other owners, Seema's sister Muriel Slatkin and her estranged husband Burton Slatkin and their two sons, likewise did not attend. Three Slatkins were on the guest list, but the Slatkins sued the the Boeskys for $100 million last May; though the case was dismissed on a technicality, Muriel Slatkin recently said she would seek to have it reinstated.)
In addition, the first day's bidding on the sale of the hotel had just been completed in New York, with no winner announced and bidding expected to continue for possibly several days.
And Television, Too
And to top things off, Robin Leach of television's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" was on hand to record the event as part of his four-part series on the hotel. (According to public relations woman Karen Gee, the party celebrating the 75th anniversary was held early so footage of it could be included in the February TV segments, which cover both the history and future of the hotel.) Just who might be the next owner of the hotel was a prime topic of conversation among the estimated 400 guests.
"I hope it's Merv Griffin, but I have a suspicion it will be either Marvin Davis or Donald Trump," speculated novelist Jackie Collins, who said she has included the hotel in all of her books and stayed there for three months with her two young children when they first moved to the United States. (Room service, she noted, obligingly packed all her children's school lunches.)
Other bidders for the hotel have been rumored to include Jay A. Pritzker, chairman of Hyatt Corp. and Hyatt International; Leona Helmsley of the New York-based Helmsley Hotels; the family of Mohammed al-Fayed (which owns Harrods of London); Caroline Hunt Schoellkopf, sister of Nelson and Lamar Hunt, and Laurence Tisch, chief executive officer of both CBS and Loews Corp.
Though some had been invited, none of the rumored bidders was at the party.
Which is not to say the event was lacking in colorful individuals key to the hotel's history.
Born in a Bungalow
Robert Anderson, who was born in bungalow 1 in 1919, was there, describing how his grandmother Margaret Anderson built the hotel in 1912 and what it was like living there during his youth.
"I remember the Chinese cooks fighting. They had tong wars and everything--all the help in the kitchen was Chinese in those days," he said, adding that the hotel is likely to do well with whomever its new owner is, "if someone takes a personal interest in it."
As for stars, just about every major or minor celebrity who ever stayed at the "Pink Palace" or walked through the doors of the Polo Lounge was invited, if the guest list of more than a thousand names was any indication.
Who showed up?
Lloyd Bridges, Pamela Mason, Cesar Romero, Ann Miller, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Erik Estrada, Louis L'Amour and a few others.
But writer Irving Wallace, who remembered signing probably a third of his 15 book-into-movie deals in the Polo Lounge, said, "Nobody's here."
Still, that didn't stop fond reminiscences by those who did attend.
Four on Roller Skates
Cesar Romero, for instance, recalled how he and George Murphy, Betty Furness and Ann Sothern used to roller-skate in the hotel's driveway in the 1930s during a period when the hotel was boarded up.
Lloyd Bridges remembered that he was first approached about doing "Sea Hunt," the TV series that made him a household name, at a meeting in the Polo Lounge in the 1950s.
Bridges also laughed at how Alex Olmedo, the hotel's tennis pro for the last 22 years, "tried to make a tennis player out of me." In response, Olmedo said he had gladly played with Bridges as a partner in many pro-celebrity tournaments. Olmedo declined to name the easiest or most difficult among his star students, but he didn't hesitate to reveal who was perhaps the most ardent amateur tennis player ever to grace the hotel's courts.
"Katharine Hepburn used to play tennis here every morning, rain or shine. It was amazing. I had a lot of fun teaching her and playing with her," Olmedo said.
A number of guests also recalled learning to play tennis at the hotel. Nancy Dinsmore, West Coast editor of Harper's Bazaar, remembered coming for lessons and watching "Audrey Hepburn playing in flannel trousers and a long-sleeved white shirt. That was when Beverly Hills was still a village."
Dinsmore's pal, Eleanor Phillips Colt, West Coast editor of Vogue, also had cherished memories of her visits to the hotel.