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Weekend Escape

Downtown, a New Standard in Hip Hotels

Not far from MOCA's Warhol show is a place to stay that Andy might have loved

July 07, 2002|CARLA HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ANGELES — My friend Paul walked into my room at the new Standard hotel downtown, settled into what passes for an easy chair and looked at the king-size bed holding court on an extended platform.

"This room is about sex," he declared. He sounded perturbed. What Paul wants in a hotel room are velvety armchairs and a fluffy white robe.

I do too, usually. But there was plenty of luxury in my corner room, with its deep bathtub, five windows and sweeping openness. There was also a sense of humor. On the phone console, besides the usual buttons labeled "room service," "housekeeping" and so on, were options for "heaven," "hell" and "alibi." (I pushed each one and got the same response: a message saying no one was available.)

My visit two weeks ago to the new Standard--the sister of the aggressively hip but relatively affordable Standard in West Hollywood--was the centerpiece of a kind of pop-cultural weekend in downtown L.A. Joined by various friends, I toasted the first night of summer on the hotel's roof, toured the Andy Warhol retrospective at the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art and dined in the Art Deco restaurant Cicada.

I arrived at the Standard on Friday night, eager to try the rooftop bar that is fast becoming a hot hangout. Andre Balazs, the hotelier behind the original Standard and the revival of its Sunset Strip neighbor Chateau Marmont, fashioned this hotel on Flower Street out of a Modernist 12-story office building.

After a wait in the parking lot, an earpiece-wearing employee--not a valet, just an attentive staffer who noticed a fuming guest--carted my luggage through the lobby, a spectacle of shiny, dark floors, magenta sofas and a sleek billiards table. Then the front desk clerk delivered some bad news: The rooftop bar and pool would be closed Saturday night for a private party.

Even though I would have Friday night to see the roof, I was disappointed. I wished I had been warned about the party earlier. "A lot of times we don't know until right before," the clerk said.

Earlier in the week, I had scored a $225 Gigantic room for $205 (the rate for a Huge room) courtesy of a reservations clerk who purred over the phone that she wanted to hook me on the hotel. According to the Standard's Web site, rates range from $500 (Bigger Penthouse) to $125 (Medium room), though prices actually drop as low as $95 (a few hard-to-get Medium rooms on a lower floor). In the middle is the $325 Wow! rate that promises an "Extra-long room for our Extra-long guests and those who appreciate them," a "tub big enough for two or more" and an "emperor-size bed" bigger than a king.

Except for the new, bright red carpeting, the corridors retain their bland 1955 office-building look. But my Gigantic room--touted as 460 square feet--was airy and inviting. The bathroom opened into the bedroom, separated by a mesh curtain. (The toilet was partitioned off by a door.) Later in the weekend, I peeked at a $125 room. It was nice, but only a glass wall stood between the shower and the bedroom. Whomever you stay with in that room should know you well.

I was staying alone, but my friend Ralph joined me for dinner Friday. As we headed for the roof--he in a sports jacket and dark shirt, I in a funky print skirt and sleeveless top--we thought we looked the part of hip downtowners. But as we stepped onto the roof, never had my pashmina felt so out of fashion. Twentysomethings clad in black suits, tight pants and short skirts chattered on loveseats.

The lounge spreads across two levels, one appointed with furniture so it looks like a living room transplanted outdoors. A deejay ensures a constant but not overbearing beat. Near the infinity pool on the upper level, red fiberglass pods house round waterbed lounges.

We got drinks at the packed bar, tended by women with red tank tops, hip-huggers and tattoos on their lower backs. Armed with skimpy martinis in little glasses (what were they serving in the real martini glasses?), we drank in the skyline.

At the hotel's 24-hour restaurant, I had chicken and Ralph had swordfish. We split a chopped salad and two half-bottles of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, each weighing in at $20. Though it was available only by the half-bottle, I felt it the best choice given the rest of the wine list. At the end of the meal we split a chocolate ice creamy concoction. The food was fine, but I expected better decor than diner-like furnishings with lights turned low.

Later we explored the lobby. I loved the entrance to the restroom, where a curtain of heavy gold beads opens onto a unisex bank of sinks. (The actual bathrooms are segregated.) It was like a scene out of "Sex and the City."

Not far from the bathroom is an old-fashioned photo booth. We had so much fun posing that we sat on the little stool for two rounds of picture-taking--a couple of $2 strips of miniature color photos, the best deal in the hotel.

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