Meeting George Burns Just Part of the Suite Life


When they roll out the birthday cake for George Burns, Beverly and Bob Cohen of Newport Beach will be there--loving it.

The couple own the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where the cigar-chomping comedian will celebrate his 100th birthday Jan. 16.

“We’re so honored to have George Burns at the hotel,” said Beverly on a recent sunny morning in Beverly Hills. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet him if he wasn’t having his party here. We’re very excited.”


Ah, the suite life. As owners of a world-class hotel, the Cohens--who divide their time between the hotel’s two-story penthouse and their Newport Bay home--can enjoy a lifestyle of room service, limousines and schmoozing with supernovas.

Ol’ Blue Eyes celebrated the taping of his 80th birthday TV special with a private hotel dinner for family and friends. (“They came late, sat at a big table and ate lots of pasta,” said a Four Seasons chef.)

Elton John tossed a celebrity-packed Oscar party there last spring.

And just last week, Paramount chief Sherry Lansing and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg downed power breakfasts in the hotel’s Gardens restaurant.

“Here, it’s a fairy-tale land,” real estate developer Bob Cohen said recently as he sat at a hotel restaurant table set with gold-edged china. “It’s hard to explain how much fun it is. They call hotels trophies because of what they cost, what you pour into them.

“Many sell for far more than their intrinsic value because they’re so great to have. You meet all of these interesting people.”

Cohen’s first career was in the flower business. Following in his father’s footsteps, he arranged and sold flowers on street corners in southeast Los Angeles. He became a real estate investor because he was smart enough to follow his father’s advice, he said. “He told me, ‘As soon as you get enough money, buy real estate.’ ”


Cohen, who also has commercial investments in Orange County, built the hotel nine years ago.

“For me, the hotel is mostly an investment,” he said. “But I also have to say it’s a trophy. If you own the ‘Mona Lisa,’ you really can’t say it’s an investment.

“But every morning, you get to look at your Mona Lisa. It’s wonderful.”

For Beverly, the hotel provides the opportunity to enjoy a unique lifestyle. “It’s like heaven up here on the 16th and 17th floors,” she said. “The view of the city is breathtaking.”

An ardent philanthropist and a social go-getter, Beverly has become a fixture on the Los Angeles-area charity circuit. “We wear ourselves out,” she said. “Every night, there’s a major charity event. That seems to be the social way of getting together here.”

On weekends, the couple go to Newport Beach, where Bob--still a lover of flowers--tends his succulents and orchids at the home that once belonged to John Wayne.

“There is a tranquillity about Newport Beach--a peacefulness that you don’t get in the city,” Beverly said.


The Cohens also participate in the local charity scene. Last summer, they staged benefits in their home for the Orange County Master Chorale and Childhelp U.S.A.

During the holidays, they invited friends over to dine and watch the holiday boat parade. Among guests: attorney Gloria Allred and her clients Juditha and Lou Brown--the parents of Nicole Brown Simpson.

On Jan. 21, the Cohens are tossing an $1,800-per-couple benefit for the Hebrew Academy of Westminster. Before having a kosher luncheon on the bay patio, guests will cruise on the couple’s $10-million yacht, the P’zazz.

And while they regularly invite friends to their bay-front home, the couple have been hard-put to entertain in their Art Deco-style hotel penthouse for the past two years.

After the Northridge quake, the penthouse was damaged by water from broken sprinkler heads. “There was nobody there at the time--that’s the bad part of not always being home,” Bob said, “and 200 gallons of water a minute was coming out of two sprinkler heads. It came through everything to the first floor.”

The master bedroom’s silk-padded walls were ruined. The alkali in the water turned the grout in the black granite floor white. “And all of the lacquer finishes buckled,” Bob said.


Said Beverly: “Everything is in boxes. We are living on the 17th floor, where the bedrooms and baths are, until the restoration is complete.”

For Beverly, it is no problem. “We have been given so much that when things go wrong, I just look at the bright side,” she said. “Nothing helps you like helping others. That’s really what I love to do.”

Said Bob, who has been married to Beverly for 44 years: “When you start out with zero, you’re very grateful for everything you have. You appreciate the smallest things.

“We’re happy that we have developed ourselves. And we are grateful to be welcome in two communities.”