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Something Old, Something New

May 21, 1995|ANDREA HEIMAN

What the hotel cost in 1912: $500,000.

Cost of the renovation: More than 200 times that.

How many rooms, suites and bungalows before: 253.

How many now: 194, redesigned with walk-in closets and larger bathrooms by Gensler and Associates of Los Angeles.

What's back: The Dutch apple pancakes. The 6 p.m.--sharp--cocktail hour at the Polo Lounge. Butler service buttons in every room.

Who's back: Maitre d' Nino Osti, Polo Lounge greeter and seater for 25 years. Svend Petersen, pool and cabana manager since 1959, who is said to have kept fans away from the Fab Four and taught Faye Dunaway the crawl. Head tennis pro Alex Olmedo, who has rallied with the stars for 27 years.

Oldest guest: That 86-year-old Brazilian pepper tree still presides over the patio.

Yes, they have the banana-leaf wallpaper: C.W. Stockwell, the Los Angeles company that's been making "Martinique" since 1941, supplied 1,521 of the 54-inch-wide panels to refurbish hallways and the Fountain Coffee Shop.

Exterior motive: Repainting the hotel exterior took about 1,600 gallons of "Beverly Hills Pink," an elastomeric paint that was computer-matched to old paint samples, then custom-blended by STO Industries of Arizona.

Did Liberace sleep here? Maybe. But that's not his piano you see in the new Tea Lounge. It's a new gold-leafed Steinway, with bird and branch motif painted by Beverly Hills artist Jeff Valenson.

Renovation, Italian-style: The pastel faux fresco of clouds and sky in the Sunset Room was first painted on canvas, then applied to the walls and ceiling. Hawaiian artist Carol Bennett added the cherubs. The new chandelier in the Crystal Ballroom is 18 feet in diameter, was crafted in Italy and took a dozen workers three weeks to assemble.

Cellular phones in the Polo Lounge? Don't even think about it. Each booth has plug-in phones in regulation beige. Contrary to what everyone thinks, management swears the phones were never pink.

Polo in the bedrooms? Yes, the white sheets are by Ralph Lauren.

Don't think pink: Although touches of the signature pink and green color scheme instituted by decorator Don Loper in the '40s are still to be found, there's a decidedly peachy cast to the Polo Lounge tablecloths and the velvet chairs in the Tea Lounge. "We wanted to re-create an emotion," says head designer Michael Bedner of Hirsch/Bedner Associates of Santa Monica about the new look.

Made for the shade: To echo the Loper palette inside, the SWA Group of Laguna Beach landscaped the 12 acres with plenty of green foliage and pink (azaleas and camellias) and white (magnolias and roses) flowers.

Same ol' joe: The Fountain Coffee Shop, blessedly, hasn't changed. The original iron stools are still bolted to the floor.

So who's Neil McCarthy? Alongside the new Polo Lounge menu, which features trendier fare such as wok-seared ahi with carrot-ginger risotto, is the classic Neil McCarthy salad (chicken, bibb lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, beets and cheddar), named for the polo-playing millionaire who died in 1972.

Room rate in 1912: $18 a night.

Today's price of bungalow No. 5, where Liz and assorted husbands once slept: $2,750 a night.

What's free: Shoeshines. The pretzels, chips and guacamole during cocktail hour.

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