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This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The Beverly Hilton — a property boasting 569 rooms and a ballroom fit for 1,200 guests — has always been a major hub for Hollywood. Says Jack Gilardi (who has represented Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine in his 60 years at ICM Partners) of its exclusive L’Escoffier restaurant during the 1950s: “I remember walking in and seeing Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; you’d see Sidney Poitier dressed to the tens.” Over the years, the hotel has been stalked not only by glamour but also by political infamy (Richard Nixon announced, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” at his last news conference there); scandal (John F. Kennedy was said to meet Marilyn Monroe in the Presidential Suite, while onetime owner Merv Griffin tried to ban prostitutes from the lobby bar); mischief (Angelina Jolie famously jumped into the pool after winning a Golden Globe for Gia in 1999); and tragedy (in 2012, Whitney Houston died in the tub in Room 434, which remains closed).
Since Conrad Hilton first opened its doors in 1955, the hotel that throws 200 red-carpet events a year has stood in for Hollywood’s town square, providing a large, conveniently located setting for industry highlights. Nicknamed “White House West” by the actual White House, it has hosted every U.S. president since it opened, the first Grammys in 1958, the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, Clive Davis‘ pre-Grammy fetes, the Golden Globes since 1961 and the current TCA press tour. The Hilton remains a draw on Hollywood’s events calendar, thanks to its in-house audio-video crew and $5 million in tech embedded in the International Ballroom ceiling alone.
Ushering in a new era: The 2017 opening of next door’s Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, also owned by Beny Alagem, who has sunk nearly $100 million into renovations since he bought the Hilton and neighboring plot from Griffin for $130 million in 2003. (Guggenheim Partners, THR‘s parent company, is lead investor on the Waldorf project.) Peter Fonda, who likes that he “can always park myself,” isn’t concerned about the changes: “It’s still groovy, and there’s always something happening.”
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