R.I.P. Ambassador: An L.A. Landmark's Wake

— by Caroline on Crack

Beth paying her respects
Native Angeleno Beth pays her respects.

L.A. bloggers united at this party thrown in honor of the fallen landmark, the Ambassador Hotel. I don’t know why, but I didn’t think it would be that packed. But it was an impressive turnout.

Everyone was elbow-to-elbow in the Gaylord Building lobby where the wake was thrown and on the Gaylord’s patio, in the HMS Bounty’s bar and back room. I guess that’s what happens when a piece of history is obliterated from the L.A. landscape, people want to view the body, well that and I’m sure the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres helped.

But apart from the 10-speaker presentation which included Diane Keaton, the group toast to the hotel, and the raffling off of Ambassador coffee mugs at the end, I didn’t really get a sense that this was a tribute to the Ambassador. I’m talking visuals. I wish they had a better display for the Ambassador’s memorabilia and photos. As it was, there was a glass case display stuck in the elevator bay as people pressed their faces to the glass trying to read the tiny print on the antique postcards and registry books. There were some mounted poster-size black and white prints in the lobby but they weren’t very compelling. I wanted to see photos of old Hollywood lounging by the pool, interior shots of the luxury suites, and maybe even pictures representative of the Ambassador’s dark history.

This used to be a mecca for the rich and famous. Judy Garland had her comeback concert here, mommy dearest Joan Crawford won over 100 dance trophies at the Cocoanut Grove, crazy millionaire Howard Hughes had a permanent suite here. Not to mention that a lot of movies were filmed here, including James Cagney’s Lady Killer, Dustin Hoffman’s The Graduate and Pretty Woman. Where were the pictures of all that?

As it was, the event felt more about the party, as opposed to a wake for a lost loved one. But then, maybe it was because most of the attendees didn’t need reminding? I don’t know. Speaking as someone who never got to actually walk through the Ambassador’s doors, I can only borrow its history from those willing to share theirs. And last night wasn’t the case, really.

So, last night made me sad because it seems that not only did we lose the Ambassador Hotel but it looks like L.A. lost its history, too.

The Ambassador’s history is L.A.’s history:

  • The hotel opened its doors New Year’s Day 1921
  • The first Gold Oscar statue was presented here
  • First place to hold the Golden Globe Awards
  • Mickey Mouse celebrated his 2nd birthday here
  • In 1971, the jury for the Charles Manson case stayed here
  • Robert Kennedy was assassinated in its kitchen pantry

Look for The Ambassador Part II: School Days.