With or Without Reservations

Text by Heather Wagner

Hype is a strange thing. In some cases it’s entirely justified, while other times it’s just that – hype. A hollow house of cards painstakingly assembled by lacquered PR professionals intent on luring hapless scenesters to various of-the-moment establishments.

So it was with mild trepidation that I approached the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, recognizing it from constant shout-outs in the type of magazines that chronicle Nicole Richie’s biceps deterioration. But instead of dead-eyed starlets staring wanly from poolside VIP areas, I found a disarmingly stylish and well-appointed hotel with a modern, understated glamour and subtle sense of decadence.

The Roosevelt originally opened in 1927 on Hollywood Boulevard, back when you could say “Tinseltown” without a shred of irony. This stretch of Los Angeles was the epicenter of the burgeoning film industry. Lavish restaurants, jazz clubs and movie palaces echoed young Hollywood’s combustible extravagance, as did modern architecture by the likes of Neutra and Schindler. In subsequent years, industry insiders headed for the hills and the area came to resemble less a golden stretch of creative aspiration than a seamy strip mall turned inside out. The Roosevelt languished but held on to its promise like a past-her-prime screen legend waiting for that proverbial call from Mr. DeMille.

The Roosevelt’s rebirth came not in the form of cinematic divinity, but in that of a hot interior decorator, which in high-end hospitality is essentially the same thing. In 2005, investors struck a deal with Thompson Hotels and brought designer Dodd Mitchell (Dolce, Linq, Voda) on board to renovate and revamp the historic but faltering structure. A reliance on natural materials, a keen sense of sensual lighting and whimsical references to old Hollywood abound, both in the 60 cabana rooms (there are 240 rooms total) and the hotel’s numerous bars and lounges. The palette is dark woods, platinum touches and rich textures like (faux) fur rugs and minimalist poolside fire-pits.

You come to expect LA hotel staff to teeter on the brink between indifference and abject condescension, but the service is friendly and efficient – almost eerily so. The rooms are spacious but not gaudy, and while Teddy’s, the Hot Bar Of The Moment, is no longer under the care of über-hostess Amanda Sherr Demme, the Tropicana Bar still sparkles determinedly.

While no event, place or encounter ever lives up entirely to its hype, the Hollywood Roosevelt comes damn close, and in this day and age that’s close enough.