Back in the day, I always stayed at great hotels, THE BEVERLY HILLS in Los Angeles, THE ST. REGIS in New York, THE CONNAUGHT in London, LE BRISTOL in Paris, and DANIELI in Venice.
I always stayed in a bungalow at THE BEVERLY HILLS. I was spending a great deal of time in Los Angeles filming and I kept my Daytona and Motorcycle at the hotel. The place was more than a second home. I loved walking through the hallways to breakfast at the downstairs coffee shop where the scrambled eggs and English Muffin were the world’s best (sorry Jacques Pepin). This was before the extensive remodeling and new ownership.
Nino Osti was the manager of the Polo Lounge, an incredibly gracious and charming Italian gentleman who was a magnet. You couldn’t pass the Polo Lounge without him luring you in with his charm.
I loved staying in the bungalows because you could be discreet, getting in & out without going through the hotel lobby. That’s probably why Howard Hughes lived there. The defining element of the hotel was the fabulous banana leaf wallpaper. It was installed in the hotel in an early refurbishment by a Hollywood costume designer, Don Loper. He didn’t design the wallpaper, he just ‘discovered it.’
I spent so much time there walking to and from the bungalows to the coffee shop, the Polo Lounge, and sometimes (rarely) the pool that I felt like the (in)famous Eloise of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
I had heard that Warren Beatty lived at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a time. I sometimes wandered whether I should have done the same at the BH rather than buying a house.
In New York, I stayed at the ST. REGIS.
I ‘discovered’ the ST. REGIS when I stayed there with my brother when we were following Muriel Humphrey around filming a documentary for her husband Hubert’s presidential campaign. The Campaign was paying all the bills and they put us up there for a few days while we were in New York, in a tiny room that he and I shared. I think it was a converted broom closet.
Being a creature of habit, I began to stay there regularly and one summer, lived there, being busy in the city.
One of the treats was seeing Dali, sitting in the lobby with his hand on his famous cane as he stared at everyone that passed. He was a work of art on his own.
As time passed, the hotel opened a magnificent restaurant, LESPINASSE. GRAY KUNZ was the chef and the restaurant was perfection, easily the best in New York and maybe the world. One evening, I was entering the restaurant as Donald Trump was leaving with his entourage. He had a scowl, and I knew he was an unpleasant person as no one could have a scowl after dining at LESPINASSE. Ironically, the hotel was across the street from LA COTE BASQUE, another great restaurant made famous by Truman Capote. I ate there a bit before LESPINASSE opened but my favorite local restaurant was the close by CARNEGIE DELI, before it became a tourist trap.
The hotel had to close for an extensive refurbishing. I was one of the last guests and the staff had tears in their eyes. They knew that they had been part of something special for a time and that time might never be replaced.
I stayed there after the hotel reopened and it wasn’t the same in any way. They had scraped away the patina that had given the place the charm and substance much like they did when they ‘restored’ the Sistine Chapel.
I really missed the KING COLE BAR with its fabulous mural of ‘Old King Cole’ by Maxfield Parrish. I once ran into Riney having a drink with one of his old producer girls. He was embarrassed to see me.
I was filming in England almost for an entire summer and I stayed at THE CONNAUGHT HOTEL in London. The place is EXTREMELY traditional, coat and tie and all that but that was then and this is now, so…
I loved staying there as I had to conform. Al asked me about it and stayed there and complained that the place was too stiff. I said that he should pretend that he was an invited guest at a British country manor and behave accordingly. He did, and that changed his mind.
One of the best things about the hotel was the bar. It reminded me a lot of the King Cole Bar and the Polo Lounge. I’m not a drinker, but a good or great bar is a wonderful meeting place, somewhere to break the ice (and to judge people). You can tell a lot about someone when you see their drink of choice. I once ordered a Lillet and Perrier and have never forgiven myself. I love single malt Scotch although I’m not a drinker in any way. I had a great night at the Connaught after an Awards Show (where we won best of show) and I took my clients to the Connaught Bar for drinks and it was like being in a great movie.
I could easily live there.
Paris was LE BRISTOL, a very discreet place that Vincent and FROG FILMS recommended. Until then, I stayed at the convenient PONT ROYAL, a modest but efficient place on the Left Bank. LE BRISTOL was at another level, elegant but discreet, not as opulent as CRILLON or GEORGE V.
One of my conceits after checking in was ordering a foie gras cutlet with grapes and indulging myself. It became a ritual.
The hotel had an excellent restaurant and now has a better restaurant, three Michelin stars, EPICURE. I had an astonishing lunch there on a recent Paris visit. My Paris apartment was near the best restaurant, L’AMBROISIE, though.
Two great stories.
One evening, we were awaiting room service sitting in our robes and my then wife was complaining about the expense of the hotel. There was a knock at the door and room service entered.
The address was to my two year old daughter as the server passed her with a cart with a Champagne bottle sticking out from the bucket. Sacha waved her arms and shouted ‘Champagne! Champagne!’
I turned to my then wife and asked. ‘What were you saying?’
Another time my then wife got into the limo in the way to CDG and complained about the cost of the place saying that the long weekend we spent there was more than her mother (a nurse) made in a year. I suggested her mother get a better job.
I stopped staying at LE BRISTOL after Andree redesigned the HOTEL PERSHING HALL. I stopped staying there after they corrupted her elegant designs and she told me how hurt she was. Ironically, I now stay at the original PONT ROYAL, because it is next to ATELIER ROBUCHIN and is a short distance to LIPP, MARLEY, CAFÉ DE FLORE, COUPOLE, all the Paris cliches.
VENICE is one of my favorite places on the planet. I spent a great deal of time there, convincing various clients why their work had to be filmed there. I did that at least a dozen times and the magic of Venice always came through, pigeons, vaporetti, masks, all did their jobs.
I stayed at THE DANIELI whenever possible. The place dates back to the fourteenth century and I always got a suite in the old section of the hotel, and felt like a doge.
HARRY’S BAR and DA FIORE were the two food haunts that I loved. Ludo once complained at the cost of pasta at HARRY’S, but I said. ‘It’s Venice, Ludo. It’s Venice.’
I once ordered a Bellini at DA FIORE, out of season, and the maitre’d said that it was not HARRY’S BAR.
I was fortunate enough to spend serious time in Venice before the crowds became insane and after visiting a friend at his palazzo on the GRAND CANAL, thought of getting a place of some sort there so I could absorb some of the magic of the city, but all that went away and I won’t bore you with that part of the story.
The only other hotel I have an affection for is THE CARLTON in Cannes. I had the same suite there for maybe the twenty years I attended the festival. I had great times in the lobby bar, meeting old friends but the Terrace on the night of the awards was the place.
I would get a table and ‘hold court’ as friends and some not so friends would visit and sip Champagne. I would leave when the sun would be rising. It became such a ritual that I never had to make any kind of reservation. One year, the terrace was crowded and I arrived late with some ‘guests.’ Tracie was worried that we couldn’t get a place, but as we were fifty yards or so from the Terrace, the waiters were carrying a table and some chairs for us.
It wasn’t a great hotel at the time but the CARUSO in Ravello was beyond special. The location was insane, atop the village with unparalleled views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The grounds were like the estate of a Roman emperor. I forget how or when I discovered the place, but Mario probably did it. Like Venice, I would find opportunities to film there. You only had to get to the village to see why Gore Vidal spent much of his life there observing the absurdity of the rest of the world.
I don’t remember much about the food, except for Caprese. Austin and I once went from Ravello to the south of France and compred the two places. Austin loved Caprese and noted that it was far better in Ravello.
I once had dinner in Amalfi and was discussing Caprese with one of the locals and he said that it wasn’t as good in Ravello as in Amalfi since the Mozzarella couldn’t survive the trip up the several miles of road to Ravello from Amalfi.
I often wondered why anyone would ever leave Italy.