When Donald Trump flew to Los Angeles — as he did regularly during his reality television career — he usually bypassed two mansions he owned there to take up residence in the exclusive bungalows of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
He ordered room service, chatted genially with hotel staff, hosted visitors and liked to drop by with his bodyguard to the Polo Lounge, a celebrity hangout where his daughter Tiffany has been spotted since her father became president.
His favorite temporary residence was Bungalow 22, the most prominent, according to hotel workers and visitors interviewed by the Washington Post. It was a space once favored by Frank Sinatra, now redecorated in the singer’s style, with an octagonal central ceiling and connecting quarters for staff. Trump even supervised an audition in the villa for a reality show that carried the Trump brand but lasted only a single season, according to people connected to the show.
Details of Trump’s hotel stays have been a closely held secret among employees known for impeccable service and discretion in handling billionaires, visiting royalty and superstars. But now, the records of his visits could become critical evidence in what is evolving as a serious legal threat brought by a woman accusing him of improper sexual advances. The New York case is being closely followed by constitutional lawyers because of the role it could play in determining whether state lawsuits may proceed against a sitting president.
As the case moves into discovery, lawyers for former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos have subpoenaed the Beverly Hills Hotel for records of Trump’s stays during five years when he frequently traveled to the West Coast. Last week, New York’s highest court said the lawsuit could proceed after repeated attempts by Trump’s attorneys to stop it, but the court did not rule on the merits of the case. Another appeal is pending. A lower court judge has set a January 2019 deadline for Trump to answer questions under oath about his alleged Beverly Hills Hotel encounter with Zervos — and other allegations in her complaint.
Zervos’ case has taken a back seat in media coverage to complaints made by porn star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged that she had sex with Trump in 2006 while he was married and that she was paid to keep quiet about it during the 2016 campaign. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued to get out of a nondisclosure agreement she signed with Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
But the Zervos case has the potential for sweeping impact. She is the only one of the dozen or more women accusing Trump of unwanted touching to have moved forward with a lawsuit against him. Her case alleges that he defamed her when he branded her and other women as “liars.”
Hers is the first legal action to open the president’s private life to discovery, and her lawyers have sought records from the Trump campaign about women who made allegations.
The president’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz did not respond to a request for comment about the subpoena.
Still uncertain is how far the famous Beverly Hills Hotel — where guests pay up to $10,000 a night for a bungalow stay — will go to protect the privacy of a former guest who now occupies the White House. The hotel takes pride in the privacy it offers guests, even teasing on its website about the secrets it guards. “If these walls could talk,” it says, adding, “We would never reveal the scandals that have unfolded.”
In her complaint, Zervos offers cinematic details of a hotel meeting with Trump to discuss jobs. An unnamed bodyguard met her, she alleges, and led her to Trump’s bungalow. (It is unclear from her complaint whether the villa was Bungalow 22).
She says she rejected Trump’s advances before he ordered a club sandwich, which they shared, from room service. They discussed a possible job for her at Trump’s nearby golf course, she says. Trump has repeatedly denied her story and said of Zervos, “I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.”
Hotel records — including room service bills and logs of his stays — could shed light on some of the facts. Zervos’ attorney sought records of Trump’s stays from 2005 through 2009 and records relating to his most frequent bodyguard, Keith Schiller, a former New York police officer who served briefly as Trump’s director of Oval Office operations and now runs a private security firm. Schiller’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
The hotel confirmed that it had received the subpoena but declined to answer questions. Hotel lawyer Peter Maretz declined to comment.
Hotel subpoenas are “a fairly standard and obvious way to try to prove someone was at a certain place at a certain time,” said Bob Solomon, a professor of clinical law at UC Irvine. The hotel cannot ignore the request without risking contempt of court, Solomon said, but it could file a motion to quash it.
Solomon said plaintiffs’ lawyers “can ask for anything” — from mundane records of bookings and billings to menus, or even footage from the security cameras positioned along the shady garden paths leading to the bungalows.
Trump’s stays at the Beverly Hills hotel also came up in the account of former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal, who in March detailed an alleged 10-month affair with Trump. McDougal said in a lawsuit that Cohen helped arrange to silence her during the presidential campaign. She said she signed a hush agreement under pressure. The case was settled in April.
McDougal said her first date with Trump was a summer 2006 dinner at the hotel. Her account alleged that Schiller picked her up and drove her to a rear entrance. She said she and Trump had sex in a bungalow — number unknown — after which he offered to pay her. She broke down in tears, she said, on the ride home.
The White House has denied that an affair occurred.
Daniels, who sued Trump in March to release herself from a confidentiality agreement, has said that in 2007, she visited Trump in a bungalow, hoping to land a guest appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice.” She claims she ate swordfish, then settled onto a sofa to watch “Shark Week” with Trump.
Trump has denied Daniels’s allegations.
The “Pink Palace,” as the bubblegum-colored building on Sunset Boulevard is known, has for decades attracted Hollywood elite. Marilyn Monroe rented rooms and posed for photos on its manicured lawns. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned there — repeatedly. The hotel’s back entrance allowed the Beatles to slip in unnoticed, while its red-carpeted front steps welcomed guests to events such as the hotel’s 100th birthday bash that Bill Cosby hosted in 2012.
Trump considered buying the 12-acre property in 1986, according to his memoir “The Art of the Deal.” Since 1996, it has been managed as part of the Dorchester Collection, a chain of five-star hotels run by the Brunei Investment Agency.
Trump said he preferred the hotel to the mansions he owned a short walk away.
“It’s easier because the hotel has everything I could possibly need, and the staff really knows how to take care of a guest,” Trump told Travel+Leisure magazine. “They always make sure to have a room available for me, even if I’m arriving on the night of the Academy Awards.”
The bungalows sit slightly apart from the main building along paths screened by bougainvillea and banana plants.
Porn star Jenna Jameson said she first met Trump at the hotel pool when she was in her “prime” in 2006.
“I was in a bikini and he was so unbelievably respectful,” Jameson tweeted in January, soon after the story broke of Daniels’ alleged encounter with the president. “He told me he thought I was incredibly smart and thought I had an incredible business acumen.”
Jameson scored a cameo “Celebrity Apprentice” appearance.
Trump, who in 2006 was married to his third wife, Melania, had become a father again but showed little enthusiasm for his milestone 60th birthday. “The Apprentice” had enjoyed a successful run, but by its sixth season, ratings were flagging.
Trump moved the show’s filming from New York to Los Angeles, the base for his entertainment division, Trump Productions, headed by former “Apprentice” candidate Andy Dean Litinsky.
Trump, then the owner of the Miss Universe pageant, also moved the beauty contest to the Shrine Auditorium and in 2007 launched his vodka brand at a Hollywood event attended by McDougal and Daniels.
The following year, Trump hosted a casting session in Bungalow 22 for the provocative reality show “The Girls of Hedsor Hall,” modeled on “My Fair Lady.” The concept was that a dozen young American women with unladylike traits would be shipped off to an English country house to learn social graces, from flower arranging to pheasant shooting.
Trump seemed like the “perfect production partner,” said Chris Coelen, who had been tasked with creating an American version of the show to air on MTV.
Trump wanted to help select the modern-day Eliza Doolittles. He held court in Bungalow 22 with Litinsky and a small group of entertainment executives, according to people familiar with the arrangements. Litinsky did not respond to a request for comment.
One by one, the young women came in for evaluation, recalled one attendee, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions. The women had been picked to create dramatic tension rather than for looks, the attendee said, but Trump suggested trying to find more attractive contestants.
A hotel spokesperson declined to discuss Trump or address details described by Zervos about her alleged encounter. The spokesperson also declined to address any records involving Schiller.
But staff remembered Trump as a friendly guest. And after his reality TV career ended, Trump’s politics were embraced by the conservative neighborhood surrounding the hotel. It sits in the only precinct of Los Angeles to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Sellers writes for the Washington Post.