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A Very Exclusive Pool Party

October 03, 2002|LESLEE KOMAIKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pity the guests in third-floor pool-view rooms at the new Viceroy hotel. At least pity the ones trying to get to sleep at a decent hour. Since the hotel opened in mid-July at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, girls in skinny pants and revealing tanks, and boys in jeans and sports jackets or polo shirts have been turning out in droves. Just how hot is the Viceroy? On busy weekend nights, there isn't just one beefy guy at the door but several. How very Hollywood.

Which brings up the main beef most people have with the hotel. If you don't arrive early enough on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, say, before 9:15, you risk not getting in. One guarantee of smooth entry is to have dinner at the chic Whist restaurant, where the menu ranges from lobster salad to honey coriander duck breast.

Be sure to make a reservation, however. Another is to come on an off night. A third is to wait till the panting fever of the new dies down, but that could take awhile. The lobby lounge and expansive pool area are super sexy. Credit Kelly Wearstler.

Wearstler, a local designer perhaps best known for Beverly Hills' Avalon and Maison 140 hotels, seems to be serving up what the kids want: stylish comfort with a healthy dose of play. Architectural Digest meets Martha Stewart meets Austin Powers.

There are oversized, shiny white vinyl lounges inside and outside, and fantastic green ceramic vessels straight out of "Aladdin," mirrored ceilings and walls covered with what look like Grandma's blue and white china.

The most groovy room of all might be the cozy study with its wall-to-wall yellow shag carpet. Book titles ranging from "Funny Cats" to "London Suburbs" to "Cheese" line the shelves. The twin pools glow through the windows.

Outside, it feels like a private pool party, although no one's swimming. "It's very civilized," said Dan Winthrop, who was sharing one of those lounges with his friend Lisa Kahn on a recent Friday night. The 40-year-old owner of a film post-production company had walked over from his nearby apartment, arriving shortly after 10. "They said it's too full," he explained. "But I managed to find a way in."

Not surprisingly, most of the crowd is from the Westside. This is in keeping with the typical after-dark migratory patterns of Angelenos: Westsiders will go east but Eastsiders typically don't go west.

"There aren't that many cool spots on the Westside," offered Jeff Jacobsen, a 28-year-old Santa Monica resident. "And there's definitely nothing like this on the Westside."

"It's probably a slightly lower-key version of the SkyBar," said Tom Rubin, between sips of an $11.50 gimlet. "But I've never been to the SkyBar."

"It's an attractive crowd," added the 34-year-old lawyer. "But not overly friendly. There's a lot of attitude here: less attitude than at other places, but it's here. Despite everything," said Rubin, "I'm having fun."

Score one for the Santa Monica team.

*

Viceroy, 1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 451-8711.

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