Nobody does Hollywood R&R like the Del


Every year, fans of Billy Wilder's 1959 comedy "Some Like It Hot" come from around the world to the Hotel del Coronado to walk the sprawling grounds where the film's cross-dressing stars, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, tottered on high heels, and to sun themselves on the beach where Marilyn Monroe frolicked. So enchanted are they by the film's reality, some refuse to believe it when staffers tell them that -- while the Coronado Island hotel played itself on the outside -- the interiors were shot on a Hollywood soundstage.

"You can't really talk to people about it," hotel historian Chris Donovan says. "They say, 'I know everything was shot here.' "

But one can rest assured that, since opening its doors in 1888, the storied Victorian structure has seen more than its share of show business action, both as a getaway for generations of stars from Charlie Chaplin to Jack Nicholson, and as a featured location for productions ranging from 1918's "The Married Virgin," starring Rudolph Valentino, to 1980's Oscar-nominated "The Stunt Man" with Peter O'Toole.

Liberace was discovered while playing piano at the Del, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz fine-tuned their "Ricky and Lucy" personas while performing there in 1950. In the 1940s, "All the Hollywood stars would go to the Del and recoup after their facelifts," Donovan says.

Over the years, the Del has had its own share of work done, including a recent $150 million makeover that included the addition of a luxury spa and Beach Village, a development of 78 cottages with private pools and ocean-view balconies.

But the Del is not afraid to show its age. Donovan says the luxury resort is planning a big celebration in September to mark the 50th anniversary of "Some Like It Hot," and it is hoping to invite Curtis as well as other surviving cast members.

"With so many movies, there's nothing left, because everything is fabricated," Donovan muses. "It's a wonderful legacy."