James N. Kitchens, 78, a bartender to the stars for 47 years at the Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Beverly Hilton hotels, died of heart failure Saturday at Sherman Oaks Hospital.
A native of Arkansas who served in the Navy during World War II, Kitchens hitchhiked to Los Angeles in 1947 and got a job as bar boy at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he remained for 25 years.
By 1961, he had become bar manager for the Crystal Room and the Polo Lounge.
In 1972, Kitchens transferred to the more secluded Hotel Bel-Air, becoming bar manager two years later. Along with his assistant, Jose Martin del Campo, he became known for serving a drink he called the Bel-Air Royale--a flute of champagne with a splash of peach schnapps and a slice of fresh peach.
After 15 years at the Bel-Air, Kitchens concluded his long career behind the bar of the larger Beverly Hilton Hotel from 1988 until his retirement in 1995.