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The Hollywood Roosevelt

There are only a handful of hotels in Los Angeles that have stood the test of time. In a city where fame can be fleeting - the Roosevelt Hotel has remained an icon since it first opened almost 100 years ago. I've been twice just in the past month and each time I'm flooded with memories when I step into the lobby or out to the legendary pool area. Alas, my prime going out years were when the hotel was home to Beacher's Madhouse and Teddy's as well as Night Swim at the Tropicana. There were years that The Roosevelt was part of my weekly plans. Ten years later and it is still on my agenda - these days because of its exciting new dinner series "Tale of Two Cities: A Four-Hands Dinner Series" at the hotel's Shirley Brasserie. More on that later!

Being that this is LA Explained, the history of this grande dame is what keeps me coming back for more. So let's take a trip back to the very beginning...

The Roosevelt not too long after it opened in the late 1920s. Photo from the CA State Library.

Opened in 1927 on famed Hollywood Boulevard, The Roosevelt was financed by the same industry that the hotel would end up catering to - film. Hollywood lumineries like Sid Grauman, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Louis B. Mayer all played a part in the hotel's construction (which cost $2.5 million at the time).

The first Academy Awards - 1929. Photo from NPR.

Just two years later - on May 16th, 1929 - the hotel was the site of movie history: the first Academy Awards ceremony. Held in the Blossom Ballroon with about 270 people in attendance, it was very different from the international media event that it is today. Guest ticket prices were $5 at the time (about $91 today), 15 statuettes were awarded, and the ceremony itself only lasted about 15 minutes.

The hotel in the 1940s as seen from Hollywood Blvd. Photo from the Huntington Archives.

From the 1930s through the 1950s the hotel was the scene of many a Hollywood moment. Carole Lombard and Clark Gable carried out their affair in the penthouse. Shirley Temple took her first tap-dancing lessons from Bill "Bojangles" Robinsons there. And Marilyn Monroe famously lived on and off at the hotel just as her fame was on the rise.

In early 1950 it was announced that the hotel would be adding a large pool area with low-rise bungalow accomidation with the pricetag of $1 million. While many of the embellishments of the hotel's main tower were scrubbed during this period to appeal to the modern traveler (or something like that - they even painted it light blue/green at one point), the new pool area was truly a midcentury dream.

Newspaper article from the LA Times, 1950 pool pic by Julius Shulman.

Marilyn at the pool in the early 1950s. Photo from The Roosevelt.

The pool area looking mighty nice in the 50s. Photo from Flashbak.

The renovations and ownership changes continued throughout the 1960s and 70s as the hotel tried to keep up with the times (this was an era when a slew of new large hotels were built that might not have had the style and glamour of The Roosevelt but they had all of the mod cons). It wasn't until 1985 when the Radisson Hotel group came in and really gave the hotel the renovation that it deserved. $35 million was spent at the time to bring the hotel back to its Spanish Colonial Revival glory. A couple years later artist David Hockney was commissioned to paint the hotel's pool - a masterpiece that is still with us and cherished today.

David Hockey and The Roosevelt's pool - 1987. Photo from The Roosevelt.

A few years later The Roosevelt was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument by the city noting the hotel's importance not just architecturally but also because of its connections to the film industry.

Following another two renovations in 2005 and 2015 that cost a combined $55 million - the hotel saw a resurgence in its popularity (which I, for one, can attest was absolutely warranted and so much fun to experience).

The lobby. Photo from The Roosevelt.

These days The Hollywood Roosevelt has a lot of exciting things happening now and coming up in the near future. As I mentioned in the beginning, I recently went to the first seating of Shirley Brasserie's "Tale of Two Cities" dining experiences. It was absolutely incredible - definitely a fine dining extravaganza. The basis of the series is simple - the chef de cuisine of Shirley, Craig Hopson, partners with a diffrent chef from around the world to create a five-course menu for one or two nights only.

Shirley Brasserie. Photo from The Roosevelt.

The visiting chef when I went was Chef Yuu Shimano (from YUU in NYC). There were jumbo white asparagus with aged parmesan fondue, grilled quail on a bed of lentils de puy, abalone risotto, lamb saddle, and a black tea savarin for dessert.

My pics from the first Tale of Two Cities dinner!

The next available date (which I'll be going to!!!) is May 30th. Shirley's Chef Craig Hopson will then be partnering up with Chef Mads Refslund (ILIS in Brooklyn and the co-founder of Noma in Copenhagen). Tickets are $150 a person with wine pairings available. Get your tickets here!


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