News, Tips & Bargains : Two Hotels Plan Openings

Two hotels, each wildly different but both featuring famous names, have scheduled grand openings and have begun booking rooms.

The new $90-million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the first hotel property from the company that owns the popular Hard Rock Cafes, is being readied for a March 10 opening. In Beverly Hills, the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows has announced that it will begin taking guests June 7 after a 2 1/2-year renovation project.

Hard Rock owner Peter Morton is planning a two-day grand opening celebration--essentially by invitation only--on March 10 and 11. The hotel will open publicly and begin taking guests starting March 12, a spokeswoman said. Midweek rates (Sunday through Thursday) at the 340-room hotel are $85 per night, single or double occupancy, and weekends (Friday and Saturday) are $135. Suites start at $250. Reservations: (800) (473-7625). The hotel is located at 4455 Paradise Road, behind the existing Hard Rock Cafe but some blocks from the Strip, where most of the larger Vegas hotels sit.

The public can gamble in the Hard Rock's casino and eat in its two restaurants beginning March 10 and 11. They can also watch a free big-screen presentation of a March 10 concert there scheduled to feature Duran Duran, Al Green, Sheryl Crow and an all-star band led by Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses.

Another big bash is being planned June 3 to celebrate the reopening of the revamped Beverly Hills Hotel, operated since 1987 by an investment company owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Room rates will start at $275. Call (800) 283-8885. Several familiar features have been retained at the 83-year-old "Pink Palace," including the Polo Lounge, Fountain Coffee Shop, the pool and the banana leaf wallpaper.

New Fees at American Express

Next month, American Express Travel Agency will begin charging service fees on some of what it terms low-revenue transactions at company-owned outlets, bookings that were previously handled for free.

As of March 6, customers will be required to pay $20 per ticket for domestic airline reservations costing less than $300. The so-called "ticket processing fee" may be used toward a cruise or tour package booked at any American Express office within the next 12 months. The fee will be waived on tickets costing more than $300 or when airline tickets are purchased as part of a single transaction that costs, in total, $500 or more.

Other new fees include $10 for reissuing domestic tickets; $5 for second-day airmail ticket delivery and $10 for overnight mail.

30th Anniversary of Selma March

Beginning Friday and continuing for a week, the historic 1965 march from Selma, Ala., to the state capitol in Montgomery will be re-created in a 30th anniversary event that is expected to draw up to 50,000 participants.

On March 7, 1965, the Edmund Pettus Bridge across the Alabama River at Selma was the starting point of a march that would conclude five days later in Montgomery. At the bridge, state troopers and a sheriff's posse fought back demonstrators in what became known as "Bloody Sunday."

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his now-famous "Letter From Selma Jail" to the New York Times, the nation was shocked, and within weeks, thousands more demonstrators appeared at the bridge to make the successful march to Montgomery, which assured passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The anniversary festival will include a parade and a re-creation of "Bloody Sunday." Then the march will embark, to reach Montgomery five days later for ceremonies on the steps of the capitol.

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