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Returning to Their First Love

June 04, 1995


Beverly Hills Hotel Pool Manager Svend Petersen may be anonymous to the anonymous, but he's famous to the famous.

Somewhere in the course of his 30 years of surveying the pool's 21 cabanas and high-profile occupants, the late pool habitue Mark Goodson recruited him to appear on his TV show "To Tell the Truth." Petersen was supposed to show up with two impostors, and four celebrities had to guess his job. The only sticking point was that three of the celebrities already knew him from the pool, so they were disqualified. That left only one to speculate.

"I get a kick out of him because he says, 'Am I the only stupid one on this panel here that doesn't know who Svend is?' "

Obviously, Petersen has gotten more than his share of exposure for a pool manager--not from the sun, but the stars.

He taught Faye Dunaway how to swim freestyle for the 1981 film "Mommie Dearest." He surfaced as the character Svend in three Jacqueline Susann novels. And he landed minnow parts in "The Prize" (1963) with Paul Newman and Alfred Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" (1966).

But Petersen returned to his post like a trouper. When the hotel was closed, he treaded water for a couple of years at the Westwood Marquis. And when the Beverly Hills announced that it was taking applications, he sent in his resume along with everyone else. Now, his dominion may look the same as before, but it includes 52 21st-Century-friendly fax and phone lines.

"Luckily I was hired back," he says with a sunny grin. "Nothing is for sure in this world, you know."

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