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Svend Petersen has a final resting place.
After the beloved Beverly Hills Hotel pool manager died at age 90 on Dec. 22, 2020, his remains were stuck in limbo for one year, as no survivors claimed them. Enter Jonny Fink. A realtor and former producer (Arli$$), Fink met Petersen in the summer of 1982 when Fink was hired to work at the pool.
“He was fantastic,” recalls Fink, who is currently shopping a book titled Memoirs of a Beverly Hills Pool Boy. “Very playful and a lot of fun. Svend took care of all the heavy hitters that came to the hotel, and he made sure that everyone felt important and had everything they needed.”
Petersen started as a lifeguard at the iconic property in 1959 shortly after arriving in L.A. from his native Denmark with only a handful of dollars to his name. He worked at the hotel for a total of 54 years, during which time he grew close to such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson and Faye Dunaway (who he taught to swim for her role in Mommie Dearest). In 2017, he fell on hard times and wound up homeless, saved by a pair of good Samaritans and a GoFundMe campaign that helped him secure press attention and a permanent place to live.
As for Fink, after graduating from college and moving on from the Beverly Hills Hotel, he went on to model in Europe before segueing to Hollywood work (including a catering stint for a “party planner to the stars”) and producing. (The memoir he’s working on covers 40 years in the author’s life from the hotel through “adventures or misadventures” in Europe all the way to his time in Tinseltown.) Over the decades, he kept in touch with Petersen as he often popped by the pool to say hello and check in. More recently, however, the two lost touch, but even still, Fink said he couldn’t bear the thought of Petersen not receiving a tribute or proper resting place, so he filed an ex parte petition to retrieve the ashes from the L.A. County morgue.
After an initial plan to ship Petersen’s remains to Denmark didn’t pan out, he settled on Solvang, a Danish village near Santa Barbara that he recalled Petersen being fond of. “I’m so happy I could do this and give him a proper sendoff that he would love and appreciate,” concludes Fink who orchestrated an intimate service at which he read a brief eulogy in front of an engraved rock that reads “The Poolside Prince,” seen below. “He’s truly in an idyllic and beautiful place. I take comfort in knowing that he’s now at home.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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