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The Return of the Pink Palace

By Richard Carroll

The old, Mission Revival-style Beverly Hills hotel, ensconced on fabled Sunset Boulevard since 1912 when bean fields flourished and wild rabbits were as plentiful as people, has again opened its gilded door to the glitter and glamour of Hollywood, international celebrities and anyone else who desires to drop by the Polo Lounge for a sip of bubbly and a touch of Beluga Caviar.

With proper Beverly Hills aplomb, the hotel had a face lift, stomach tuck, skin peel, buttocks redo, neck pull, and a two and one-half year realignment of a droopy nose that had long been an embarrassment to the city. The tab was more than $100 million which included a new "hair-do" tinted with just the right shade of pink.

It had come to a point where Cadillacs, Jaguars and "Beemers" would turn up their tail pipes and look away as they flashed down Sunset. In this part of the world, when things go bad you cease to exist.

Overnight you can plummet from royalty to a barefoot bum, and who cares? The heady smell of success had turned into a pungent can of wilted sauerkraut. Other, newer hotels such as the Four Seasons and the Peninsula gleefully took over. It was like a faded movie queen with foot-long eye lashes competing with Marisa Tomei on the casting couch.

Known affectionately as the Pink Palace, the hotel is the essence of myth, legend and tall tales. Life here has always been a step ahead of the novelists. The hotel remembers more scandal-laden gossip about the private lives and the sex quirks of the silver screen luminaries than the rest of the world has forgotten.

Charles Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Will Rogers, Greta Garbo, John Wayne, Henry Fonda and hundreds of other stars have hung their undies on a hook here. Gable and Lombard snuggled in a secluded bungalow waiting for his divorce. Elizabeth Taylor shared her bungalow bed with six husbands, (not at the same time) and Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand, while filming "Let's Make Love," decided to do just that in bungalows 20 and 21.

Today, all roads lead to the 12-acre Pink Palace. After a whopping $100 million, visitors will find many aspects unchanged such as the pink facade, the architecture, banana leaf wallpaper, the Polo Lounge, Fountain Coffee Shop, the pool and cabanas -- with 52 phone and fax lines -- the popular bungalows, and the tennis courts.

All 194 guest rooms, suites and bungalows (down from the pre-closing room count of 253) are larger, and feature walk-in closets, sitting areas, Italian granite and marble bathrooms with separate showers and double vanity sinks. The California Casual landscaping creates a memorable non-manicured effect that has been widely copied.

The Polo Lounge, ranked among the world's best-known restaurants, offers indoor and outdoor dining and after theater dinner; open 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. A new dinner room, the Polo Grill is open 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The palace-like lobby where afternoon tea is a people-watching Mecca, is a nice introduction to a hotel that is settling in for another hundred years. Room rates range from $275 to $3,000 per night. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; reservations (800) 283-8885.

Photos Copyright Beverly Hills Hotel

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