The Roosevelt’s New Chic

Host of the very first Oscars, Hollywood’s Golden Era landmark is suddenly hot all over again.
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, transformed into a nightlife haven six years ago, is experiencing another heat wave. Stars and in-the-know industry types are flocking to three new hotspots inside the hotel: a swank lounge, a Vegas-import stage show and a new lobby-level bistro.

In April, multi-million-dollar redos of the hotel’s 60 cabana rooms (where Marilyn Monroe stayed in the 1950s) are due as well.

The Roosevelt’s just-opened Spare Room lounge, inspired by the lavish game rooms of Gilded Age robber barons, has quickly lured Andrew Garfield, Alexander Skarsgard, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to a tucked-away corner of the mezzanine level. The cocktails are handcrafted, and the board games (Yahtzee, Jenga) are customized in such luxe materials as ostrich leather and walnut. “To put stuff like Jenga in a high-end context is brilliant,” says Blue Valentine producer Jamie Patricof, who recently celebrated his birthday there along with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.

Simultaneously, impresario Jeff Beacher — known for his bawdy Vegas variety show Beacher’s Madhouse (magicians, burlesque and more) — is officially debuting a new revue in the basement-level Cinegrill space. The team behind Black Swan got a sneak preview after the film’s AFI screening in November. “It’s the first event I’ve been to in a long time where not one person was looking at a BlackBerry or an iPhone — it’s that eye-opening,” says Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky’s producing partner. (The space doubles as a screening room.)

And Public Kitchen & Bar, a new bistro, has replaced the Dakota steakhouse, which never quite found its audience. The eatery, where Lawrence Bender has already been spotted, will also service the hotel’s historic lobby. “It used to be just a pass-through,” hotel sales and marketing director Bob Gregson says. “Now that you’ll be able to order food there, the lobby will be a centerpiece.”

Because of the hotel’s proximity to Grauman’s Chinese, the Roosevelt is one of the city’s top spots for premiere afterparties, including AFI parties; 21 happened there last year. But its management team, the Thompson Group, wants to position the 300-room, 84-year-old property — site of the first Academy Awards in 1929 — as a round-the-clock industry clubhouse, just as appropriate for a sober breakfast meeting as a late-night revel. “The idea is to become an ultimate hub,” Thompson head Jason Pomeranc says. “You can have the entire Hollywood experience without leaving the hotel.”

The Spanish Colonial landmark — whose investors included Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Louis B. Mayer and Sid Grauman — went through a period of decline during the second half of the 20th century; at one point, the hotel was run by Radisson. After a significant face-lift and ownership change in 2005, the Roosevelt re-emerged as a see-and-be-seen address. Nightlife queen bee Amanda Demme notoriously reigned over both the David Hockney-painted pool (which will be refurbished this year) with her Tropicana Bar and the ground-floor dance den Teddy’s, attracting Jack Nicholson, Prince, Lindsay Lohan and others to the address.

Those spots aren’t as super-scorching as they once were, but the new attractions are already putting the Roosevelt back on the must-stop nightlife circuit.

Beacher’s Madhouse attracted the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Britney Spears during its five-year run at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel, but it isn’t for everyone. In addition to breakdancers, contortionists and comedy routines, the show features bottle service courtesy of dwarves dressed as Oompa Loompas descending from the rafters via harnesses. It was originally billed as David Arquette Presents Beacher’s Madhouse, with the actor, a longtime fan, planning to emcee. But Arquette’s camp recently gave word that he would withdraw. “Right now it’s about him getting healthy,” Beacher says of the actor, who recently completed a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic.

The intimate Spare Room, by contrast, is more class than crass. The sophisticated saloon — owned by Marc Rose and Med Abrous — boasts drinks overseen by top L.A. mixologist Aidan Demarest, a DJ rig built atop a ’20s-era antique vanity and two vintage bowling lanes (guests can rent shoes custom-designed by fashion-darling cobbler George Esquivel).

Perhaps the ultimate seal of hip approval comes from none other than Banksy. The mysterious Exit Through the Gift Shop artist just hosted a top-secret Oscars postparty at the lounge.    

IT HAPPENED AT THE ROOSEVELT: Since hosting the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, the Hollywood hotel has been one of L.A.’s most glamorous hotspots.

Two years after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded, the first Oscar ceremony was held in the Roosevelt’s Blossom Room on May 16, 1929. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks — an investor in the hotel — bestowed the all-silent-era winners, who had been announced to the press three months earlier. The black-tie crowd of 270 applauded best picture “Wings” and best actress Janet Gaynor and listened to a talking-film clip of Adolph Zukor speaking with Fairbanks. (Best actor winner Emil Jannings was in Europe.) At the dinner, director William C. deMille also discussed the difficulty of choosing one actor over another: “It is a bit like asking, ‘Does this man play checkers better than that man plays chess.’ ” Total time for the awards presentation: a brisk 15 minutes.

        

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