Beverly Hills Hotel Undergoes Face Lift

Times Staff Writer

First the Hollywood Roosevelt, then L. A.'s Biltmore. Now another Grande Dame is getting a face lift: the Beverly Hills Hotel, just in time for her 75th anniversary in 1987.

By the end of this year, every facet of the Sunset Boulevard landmark is expected to be renovated, from the 268 guest rooms to the recreational and dining facilities, including the famous Polo Lounge, but its exterior will remain pink. “Oh, definitely,” Karen Gee, a spokeswoman for the hotel, said. “That is its signature color.”

The work is being done “piece by piece,” she went on, and last week, the first piece was completed. The Pool and Cabana Club, for decades a watering spot for movie stars and moguls, was reopened last Wednesday after being closed for refurbishing since Nov. 1. The pool is where Katharine Hepburn once dived fully clothed to cool off after tennis.

It’s where Eddie Murphy impressed onlookers with flips, dives and somersaults. It’s where some Hollywood hopefuls were discovered and many movie and record deals were made. “The outside cafe isn’t quite finished,” Gee said, “but the pool and cabanas are.”


News of the restoration came first from Don Schwartz, whose West L. A. firm Selectile installed new tile that he called “custom and decorative” around the pool and in the cabanas. Some new cabanas were added along with kitchen facilities and locker rooms, Schwartz added.

And what will the total renovation cost? Hard to say, Gee confided, “because the amounts seem to change daily.” However, she said that the dollar figure will be many millions.

L. A.'s Biltmore is still in the news, though it celebrated completion of its $40-million renovation with a bash in February.

Construction of its adjacent, 24-story office tower is rolling along, and a few days ago, Seattle interior designer Marcia Johnson and her four staffers flew to L. A. from the Northwest to take a gander at their work in the hotel.


Johnson had already seen the finished project, but her designers had worked on the interiors from a distance. And when they saw it, Johnson said, “they were thrilled"--not only with their own work in the 728 guest rooms and public areas but also with restoration of the decorative ceilings and walls.

That restoration was directed by Anthony T. Heinsbergen, whose father did a lot of the original artwork, but Heinsbergen’s wasn’t the only old L. A. company involved in the renovation. David Ellis, who supervised much of the latest painting, phoned to say that his firm, the Blakely Co., was established in 1922--one year before the Biltmore was built.

Now that Heinsbergen, Johnson and architect Bud Schorr are finished with the Biltmore, they’re again working together: this time on renovating the Washington State Rotunda in Olympia.

Alex Spanos, who bought Eugene Klein’s 56% controlling interest in the San Diego Chargers last summer for $40 million in cash, has purchased his first real estate in San Diego County and is developing a 208-unit apartment complex on a 5.4-acre site that formerly housed the San Carlos Swim and Racquet Club.

A self-made millionaire in his 60s, Spanos started out selling sandwiches for 30 cents apiece, but during the past 20 years, his Stockton-based companies have been responsible for constructing more than 45,000 apartment units and about 2.5 million square feet of office space in 10 states.

“He is especially pleased about building in San Diego, because he is also building community relations now that he owns the Chargers,” said John Sarkisian, who handled the sale of the property with Sauvas Marinos, both of Marcus & Millichap. The San Diego complex is expected to cost $15.5 million before it is completed in the fall.

Frenchman Olivier Vidal has joined forces with Beverly Hills architect Maxwell Starkman, taking office space in Starkman’s headquarters--"so I can do what I like to do best--design,” Vidal said. He dissolved his Le Sopha Group in the United States, although the Paris-based firm continues to operate in Europe under various names--"with me simply as honorary president,” he added.

Probably the best known of his Le Sopha Group’s U. S. projects was the $30-million Rodeo Collection, a retail complex in Beverly Hills. He also designed 3,400 condominiums in Monte Carlo, the freeway between Paris and Germany and even salad forks. “I love to design,” he said. “I love architecture but I hate the business of architecture.”


One of his ongoing projects has been the $25-million, 11-story Ma Maison Hotel, which he expects to be under construction near the Beverly Center in L. A. in a few weeks. Vidal is the design architect; Starkman’s firm is the architect in charge.

Actor Tim Conway’s 1933 Encino mansion will be open today through April 27, except Mondays, as the first Design House for the International Society of Interior Designers in the San Fernando Valley. Among the sights: two baths costing a total of $100,000 retail, fashion shows, arts-and-crafts boutiques and a garden restaurant, open daily for lunch and on Wednesdays and Fridays for dinner. Admittance (benefiting the American Cancer Society and the designers’ scholarship fund) is $10 at the door: 16930 Magnolia Blvd. More details from 818/989-5555.