Happy birthday, Hotel Babylon!

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hollywood's home to the A-list celebrates 100 years of discreet luxury

Los Angeles

She has been part of the Hollywood scene for as long as anyone can remember, known and loved by everyone from Howard Hughes and Charlie Chaplin to Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Steven Spielberg. Thanks to the occasional facelift, and in defiance of old age, she still looks as resplendent as ever. And, this month, she celebrates a major landmark: her 100th birthday.

The Beverly Hills Hotel, stomping ground of the world's rich and famous since before the term "A-list" existed, will mark the occasion with parties and commemorative events, along with the publication of a coffee-table memoir chronicling her life and times. Celebrations will culminate, in mid-June, with three days of charity breakfasts, dinners and cocktail parties, hosted by such local heroes as Brett Ratner, Warren Beatty and the movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Outsiders may feel baffled by this outpouring of affection for what is, on paper, nothing more than a 12-acre, 208-room playground for the 1 per cent. But it takes only a cursory glance at the history books to get a taste of the unique place that the so-called "Pink Palace" now occupies in the world's cultural heritage.

Howard Hughes lived there, on and off, for 30 years. Marilyn Monroe, who at the time was married to Arthur Miller, conducted an affair with her Let's Make Love co-star Yves Montand in between its well-pressed bedsheets. John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a week in bed in one of the hotel's luxurious bungalows. And generations of stars, movers and shakers have cut deals and socialised in its bars and Polo Lounge restaurant.

"There's so much mystique about the place," said Robert S Anderson, the author of a commemorative history of the property titled The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows: the First 100 Years. "I'm not exaggerating when I say that there is no one in Hollywood who hasn't done a major transaction either by the pool or in the Polo Lounge. Everyone in the industry, from Spielberg downwards, is in and out of there. It's their commissary."

A glance through Anderson's book, along with a tour of the exhibition of historic photos currently adorning the hotel's lobby, offers a glimpse of life as it might exist in a gossip columnist's febrile imagination. Here is Princess Grace, sunning herself by the swimming pool (where, as it happens, Faye Dunaway learned to swim). There is Elizabeth Taylor, enjoying one of the six (count 'em!) honeymoons she spent there, or Whitney Houston, tickling the ivories of the Polo Lounge's piano during an impromptu after-dinner concert.

Staff talk in hushed tones about the surreal footnotes to their workplace's history: the time Katharine Hepburn leapt into the pool fully clothed; the afternoon The Beatles were sneaked across into an outdoor cabana in fake beards and disguises as fans shrieked outside; or the scene that ensued – in an era when they still had a dress code – after Mia Farrow was turned away from the restaurant for wearing trousers.

Most conversations begin with Howard Hughes, the eccentric and reclusive billionaire who spent much of his three decades there in the company of Mormon bodyguards, and would instruct the hotel's chef to leave a beef sandwich for him on the branch of a tree in the garden, at 2am each morning.

"Hughes would would take between six and eight bungalows and suites at any one time, and have different starlets in each one to sleep with," says Anderson, the great-grandson of the hotel's founder, Margaret Anderson. "Boeing were trying to sue him at the time, but with all those rooms in his name, it made it impossible for them to find him and serve legal papers."

Other A-listers whose romantic endeavours were furthered in its bungalows include Paul McCartney, whose relationship with his future wife Linda is said to have ignited when he returned from a nightclub to find her sitting on his doorstep. Clark Gable pursued an affair with Carole Lombard in one of the small and discreet buildings, as did Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

The history of the Beverly Hills Hotel mirrors that of its neighbourhood, which was a patch of untamed countryside when a real estate company offered Margaret Anderson a parcel of land to build a luxury resort. She described her new property as being "midway between Los Angeles and the sea".

In the early years, wealthy residents of the east coast and Canada would install themselves for months during the winter, riding horses from the hotel's stables in the nearby hills, and on at least one occasion staging a fox hunt there. Soon, they began buying up local houses. As money from the film industry started to pour into the region, turning LA into one of the world's fastest-growing cities, Beverly Hills became one of the world's wealthiest postcodes.

Today, having passed through the hands of a string of owners, the hotel is the property of the Sultan of Brunei. Rooms start at about $600; dinner will set you back roughly half that, and a silk tie at the in-house clothes shop is a snip at $500.

The management has become expert at maintaining the privacy that famous residents cherish, despite the preponderance of camera phones and the rise of the internet. And the biggest threat to the ambience, Anderson ventures, is vulgar rich patrons who "order a $300 shot of whisky and then mix it with Coca-Cola".

In a promotional film to mark the centenary, Michael Douglas attempted to explain its enduring appeal: "I've been going to the Beverly Hills Hotel for over half of its life. You feel timeless. There's a thoughtfulness that makes you feel like you're coming home. It could be 50 years ago, except, of course, for the cellphones."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

PE Assistant Secondary School

£12000 - £13200 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: PE assista...

Sociology Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: - KS5 Sociology Teacher -...

Primary supply teachers needed in Bury St Edmunds

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone