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Invitations are being sent

Hollywood's revamped Roosevelt puts out a call for an eclectic crowd.

June 23, 2005|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

Hard to believe, but Amanda Scheer Demme fears she will fail.

She has an enviable entertainment industry resume and, no doubt, a copious roster of A-list contacts. But two days from the first big step in her latest venture -- to transform the storied Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood into a prime nightlife destination -- she says: "I'm preparing for the worst and hoping for the best." Dressed in a black leather jacket and blue jeans, she surveys the hotel's poolside Tropicana Bar, which is being prepared for its official reopening. "I always have that paranoia of being Mary Richards," she adds, "where no one shows up at my birthday party."

What trepidation Mary Tyler Moore's TV character would have felt if her name was being branded: All three Roosevelt bars will be marketed with the name of their new proprietor, Demme, preceding their names. That includes the Tropicana, the Lobby Bar and Teddy's, which will open in September in the space formerly occupied by Cinegrill. The Teddy's name honors Amanda's late husband, director Ted Demme, as well as carrying on the name of the hotel's former lobby bar.

But when opening night arrives, three weeks ago, Demme's fears prove unfounded. From an invitation list she put at "40 or so," the poolside crowd swells to 300, including Hollywood types such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Lindsay Lohan and Eva Mendes. And by the second week, the Tropicana simmers to its capacity of 800.

"She's got a magic touch," says rock musician Greg Dulli, Demme's close friend and a bar owner himself.

"She's got an instinct that few people have. She [ticks] people off left and right, but visionaries do that. It'll be off the hook. That place is built to destroy the Skybar."

Given the 248-room hotel's rich cinematic history -- opened in 1927, the venue's Blossom Room hosted the very first Academy Awards -- the Roosevelt seems poised to become a destination for glitterati and those who long to breathe in their air.

The combination of old and new Hollywood is what lured Premiere magazine to select the Roosevelt as the site of a recent shindig that brought out the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace and OutKast's Andre 3000.

"I'm familiar with the hotel and its history," Premiere publisher Paul Turcotte says. "And being that we focus exclusively on movies and it's the original room of the Academy Awards, then add to that it's this hot, new, happening place, and it fit perfectly thematically."

And after Premiere's awards show, guests smoothly filed from the lobby out to the pool to keep the party going, fulfilling one of the hotel's stated goals of creating a Las Vegas-style venue, where patrons have multiple destinations under one roof.

Says Demme: "So when Teddy's opens in September, it would be like you start off at the pool, you go to the lobby, and you end up at Teddy's. That is the idea."

The intoxicating success of the first few weeks has surprised everyone involved, including designer Dodd Mitchell, who gave the pool area a 1960s Palm Springs feel.

"We never expected this many people to come so quickly," Mitchell says. "It's all Mother Nature. You've got the sky, you've got the trees, you've got the fireplace. It's not so much the design as it is the atmosphere to be comfortable in."

But for Demme, it's not about the size of the crowds.

"I think it needs to be about really great, interesting people," she says. "I want to create a crowd, the ultimate mix. I want it where you have musicians and painters and photographers and young and old and Eastside rockers and Westside whatever and I want fashion people. I want New York. That's kind of what I grew up with."

Demme, 36, is a renaissance woman in the entertainment industry, one who's moved from the clubs of New York City, including the influential hip-hop spot Carwash, to Los Angeles. She promoted Monday nights at the Argyle most recently, and Tuesday night at Monroe's and Lava Caro at Guatelinda's before that. She has also worked in artist development and music management -- with acts such as Cypress Hill, Korn, Nikka Costa and Incubus -- as well as party planning.

Lately she has gained notice as a music supervisor for films such as "Garden State," "Mean Girls," "Erin Brockovich," "Blow" and "Beautiful Girls" -- the latter two directed by her late husband.

But with her music supervision career keeping her so busy, and two children (ages 3 and 8), why make a commitment like she has to the Roosevelt?

"Why at this point in my life? It's something new and it came to me. The owners of the hotel asked me to do it," she says. "I am a proprietor, so it's actually a perfect situation for me. I've grown out of the idea of being a promoter. I'm getting a little too old to be the girl at the club. It's very entrepreneurial, which is what I am. But I'm never going to quit my day job. I'm always going to be a music supervisor.

"Music is my heart, my soul."

Goodwin Gaw, one of the co-owners of the hotel, says, "She's very energetic and charismatic, and after meeting her we just felt she has the ability to bring the clientele that we wanted into the new bar at the Roosevelt."

Demme even hopes to incorporate her passion for music into her new enterprise. She talks of mounting a limited-run acoustic jam session in the Lobby Bar, and perhaps loungy entertainment around a grand piano.

But her larger goal is to create something lasting -- a challenge in a city where today's hot spot is tomorrow's hovel.

"All I want for people to say at the end of the night is that they've met a lot of interesting people, they've had an amazing time, and they want to come back tomorrow," she says. "That would be the idea."

And if the worst does happen? If she becomes the Mary Richards of the party?

"I love doing new things. I really do," she says with a smile. "I can fail miserably, but at least I had a good time."

Steve Baltin can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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