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Oh, the Tales Those Rooms Could Tell : Society: Deal-makers love it. The guest list is from tabloid heaven. No wonder the Peninsula Beverly Hills is hot.

June 15, 1994|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's been a scant three years since the Peninsula Beverly Hills opened its heavy glass doors at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. And in that short time the five-star, five-diamond-rated hotel, where rooms start at $280, has carved out a chunk of fame--and infamy.

* It's the breakfast and lunch dining spot for Creative Artists agents, who have to walk only a few feet from their sleek offices next door. The contingent has so much clout that the hotel's Belvedere restaurant has altered its menu to suit their tastes.

* The rooftop pool is deal-making central. Players ensconce themselves in private cabanas equipped with fax machines, phones and other amenities--the better to clinch those $15-million, three-pic packages.

* The Peninsula is no stranger to the tabloids, which have chronicled the interrupted stays of a few recent hotel guests:

Big, blond former Guess model Anna Nicole Smith and a friend were there in February when they overdosed on prescription drugs and alcohol and were rushed to the hospital, police said.

Singer Courtney Love, widow of Kurt Cobain, was there in April when she called the front desk complaining of an allergic reaction to a prescription medication. She was taken to the hospital and later booked on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and drug-related paraphernalia, but no charges were filed.

Many other celebrity guests, including Michael Bolton and Cher, have maintained a lower profile--and yet have rated mention in the tabloids.

* The Peninsula's Club Bar has quickly gotten a rep as a see-and-be-seen scene. Go on a Friday night and you'll be competing for oxygen with local business types and entertainment execs. Be sure to note the number of patrons on cellular phones.

Not bad for being the new kid on the block.

It's easy to see why the Peninsula has garnered such a reputation. It is within walking distance of such if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it stores as Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Armani. Short of breaking the law, the staff will do most anything to accommodate the guests. And it doesn't hurt to be Michael Ovitz's neighbor.

"The Peninsula opened up at a very good time from a number of standpoints," says Gary Sherwin, a spokesman for the L.A. Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It was right around the time the Beverly Hills Hotel closed down (for renovations), and they've been able to capitalize on that. Their restaurant has really become the new Polo Lounge, and they've obviously benefited from CAA. People gravitate to where the power is."

Even with the landmark Beverly Hills Hotel and its legendary Polo Lounge temporarily sidelined, the Peninsula has tough competition. Down the street is the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Also nearby are the Four Seasons and the Hotel Bel-Air.

Evidently there was room for one more. From the opulent floral arrangements to the Italian Frette bed linens, to the elegantly understated James Northcutt interiors, the Peninsula oozes sophistication and luxury. Attention to detail goes way beyond the complimentary fruit basket, bordering on the fanatical. Engineers called to fix something in a room slip on surgical booties before entering. Repeat guests often find their favorite CD waiting for them.

Jim Carper, editor in chief of the trade magazine Hotels, says: "The small size (195 rooms) gives the sense that it's an intimate, boutique kind of hotel, where the staff knows the guests. If they charge a high room rate, that kind of sets the tone. But it all comes down to service, how the staff pays attention to you."

A lot of attention comes at a price. The two-bedroom Presidential Suite runs a cool $3,000 a night, but the private-entrance villas are often favored by celebs and other guests hoping to avoid detection by fans and the media. Sometimes they're able to fly below the radar, sometimes they aren't. Any high-profile hotel that attracts high-profile clients is vulnerable to making the news.

John Belushi died of a drug overdose in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip in 1982. Robert Pilatus, half of the pop duo Milli Vanilli, was at Le Mondrian hotel, also on the Strip, in 1991 when he slashed his wrist, took prescription pills and climbed over a ninth-floor balcony railing before sheriff's deputies stepped in.

Upscale hotels, including the Peninsula, can also be sources of primo gossip--if one knows how to get it.

Janet Charlton, gossip columnist for the Star, does. "If you can find the right person at a hotel who's in good spots and talkative, that's a big score," she says. "Somebody in room service, or who works behind the front desk, security--waiters are always good, and so are bartenders. . . . But generally the stories are about who's walking through the lobby with whom, not the most intimate things that go on behind closed doors."

She has reported on "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Tori Spelling's raucous parties at the hotel, as well as Michael Bolton sightings.

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