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INTO THE NIGHT / RSVP

And They All Had a Surreal Good Time

June 05, 1995|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Surely one of the decade's most opulent, bizarre, over-the-top events: the reopening--after a well-spent $100-million restoration--of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The big bucks slathered on the evening, plus the "glamour" and the black-tie guest list congealed to make it seem like Prom Night at Fellini High.

Who Was There: An eclectic 1,200-strong mix of Beverly Hills notables, travel writers and celebrities--especially the older end of the spectrum. Where else would you see Buddy Ebsen, Buddy Hackett, Esther Williams, Eddie Albert, Mickey Rooney, Donald O'Connor and Steve Martin, Christian Slater, James Woods, Jay Leno and Cuba Gooding Jr.? Or Ricardo Montalban, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges and Ernest Borgnine, and Faith Ford, Mimi Rogers, Kathy Bates and Tess Harper. It was an evening tailor-made for Pia Zadora.

Who Wasn't: The hotel's owner, Sultan and Prime Minister of Brunei, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah. Presumably, when your fortune hits $40 billion, you don't do hotel openings.

Quoted: "The hotel has gotten the ultimate face lift. And where else for the ultimate face lift than Beverly Hills," said noted authority on the rich and famous, Robin Leach. "My question is: Did the sultan spend more on the hotel's face lift than all the guests collectively spent on theirs?"

Chow: Unbelievable amounts of delicacies. Veal, venison, lobster, caviar, smoked salmon. The overall impression was that vanloads of shrimp had been set out.

Pastimes: Wandering around the hotel. That's what the crowd did, drifting from room to room. Champagne glass in hand, from one sumptuous buffet to another, past orchestras, mariachi bands, strolling violinists and every celebrity daytime television has ever seen. "You know what this is?" asked one magazine editor. "This is 'The Love Boat' crashes into 'The Towering Inferno.' "

Most Felliniesque Moment: With the "West Side Story" song "I Want to Live in America" being pumped through the sound system and smoke billowing from a nearby grill, two synchronized swimmers splashed about in pink Day-Glo suits while hundreds of black-tie guests stood poolside applauding. "The last days of empire," said one Oscar-winning actress.

Overheard: "This is better than the closing of Chasen's"; "Now this is where they should have let the O.J. jury come"; and on multiple occasions as ancient celebrities passed by: "I thought he was dead."

Blemish: Roughly 100 pickets from the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, upset over the Pink Palace's non-union status, chanted "Shame on you! Shame on you!" at the arriving limos, Mercedeses and Range Rovers. The tsunami of liberal guilt this generated will be keeping therapists busy for months.

Money Matters: Tickets were $1,000. Proceeds were to go the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. However, this didn't look like the kind of crowd that pays for tickets, much less $1,000. It will be interesting to see what the final tally is.

The Last Word: Said one local as she gestured with a champagne glass: "I am dying to stay here for a weekend."

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